For my first 6 years in the Navy, I worked as a radar electronics technician but I was not really interested in the rating (navy job title), so I just did my job during the day and then taught taekwondo and judo classes at night. While stationed in Keflavik, Iceland, I was doing the same thing: doing my job during the day and teaching martial arts every night. My main concern was the martial arts and I did not concern myself much with studying for navy promotion tests.
Along with the martial arts classes, I also taught a police tactics course for a local college. One night, during a class break, I was talking with one of my students, MAC (Master-at-Arms Chief Petty Officer) Oglesby (master-at-arms is the traditional name for navy’s law enforcement job rating). As we talked, the chief casually mentioned that, with my interest in law enforcement, I should convert from the electronics technician rating to the master-at-arms rating.
After the conversation, that statement kept creeping into my thinking so I started to take action. I started college classes and earned an associate of arts degree in criminal justice. I completed every navy correspondence course that was related to law enforcement. I requested to convert from the electronics technician rating to the master-at-arms rating. The request was disapproved due to the time and money the navy had invested in my training (2 years of electronics training).
I kept completing navy correspondence courses, kept going to college for a BA degree, and (due to the transfer of airfield radar repair responsibilities from the navy to Icelandic civilians) I was able to transfer to the base police department. I excelled while with the department and submitted another change of rating request. With the support of my superiors and the large volume of law enforcement training I had completed, the Navy relented and allowed me to change ratings.
From that point forward, I excelled at every job position, was promoted at every promotion point, earned a BA degree and an MA degree, was awarded many navy commendations, and retired from the Navy at the highest enlisted rank. All this was set in motion by my casual conversation with Chief Oglesby. He was not giving me advice or trying to recruit me into the master-at-arms rating, he just made a casual comment during a class break.
From this experience, I learned that just a few casual words can affect the entire life of another person. In this case, the words had a good effect, but words may also have a bad effect. Other people are always listening to what you say or they may overhear something you say, so you had better be saying the right things, since your words may affect the rest of their lives.