• TT&W Team

An Army-Navy Rivalry, Soviet Style


Chipp and Jenna's dad in Zaporizhzhia
Chipp and Jenna's dad in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine

As a Marine Corps officer commissioned out of the Naval Academy, Chipp basically kicked off his service in the deep end: 


What semester do Mids cover their short game at Annapolis Country Club? 


When do you learn about proper yachting attire? 


What do Mids spend more time doing - sailing or playing croquet? 


Yep, Chipp will be the first to admit that a certain aura of arrogance/pretentiousness/entitlement surrounds many recent Navy grads - leading to some much deserved flak from fellow Marines - so it’s fitting that this would translate into some trans-Atlantic military ribbing from his father-in-law, too.  


West Point, Novosibirsk Edition 


For background, Jenna’s dad also did the service academy thing - just in a little bit of a different context.  Growing up in Zaporizhzhia (where Jenna’s folks raised her, as well), he ended up attending the Soviet Union’s roughly-analogous-to-West-Point military academy, a spartan institution in Novosibirsk - and four-day train ride from Zaporizhzhia into the heart of Russia. 


But, whereas Chipp (and his parents) enjoyed time off strolling through beautiful downtown Annapolis, Novosibirsk in central Russia doesn’t offer the same, well, “finer side” of life.  


Here are a few examples that just reinforced Chipp’s relative softness.  Setting - looking through old family pictures with Jenna’s folks:


Chipp, looking at a picture of Jenna’s dad as a cadet in the snow: “Did you guys have to cross-country ski at school?” 

Jenna’s dad: “Every winter - training with our rifles.” 

Chipp, looking at the ‘skis’ in the picture: “Are those plywood planks?”

Jenna’s dad: “Yep.” 

Chipp, thinking: “Sometimes it rained in Annapolis.”


Chipp, looking at a picture of a bunch of guys with race bibs on: “So how often did you guys have to run these races, once a month?”

Jenna’s dad, thinking that to be a silly question: “Every day - five kilometers in the morning - except for Sundays.” 

Chipp: “They let you rest on Sundays?” 

Jenna’s dad, smiling: “No, Sunday’s were ‘sports holidays,’ so we got to run ten kilometers.” 

Chipp, thinking: “The walk from our chow hall to the library takes about 15 minutes, which is basically like running a 5k.”  


Yep, relative to Chipp’s “country club” time in Annapolis, Jenna’s dad basically walked to school 10 miles every day… In the snow… Uphill both ways.  


The English (Soviet?) Patient - Kind Of

Jenna's mom and dad in Ukraine
Jenna's mom and dad in Ukraine

Here’s a little more context - not necessarily related to Jenna’s dad making fun of Chipp - but just a fascinating story.  


In a wild quirk of fate/history/life-in-general, Jenna’s dad and Chipp both served in Afghanistan - just 30 years apart, with one fighting for the Soviets and the other under NATO’s umbrella (at one point in time actually on the same base).  


As a young lieutenant in Afghanistan, Jenna’s dad was shot during a mission and needed to be evacuated out of the country.  After some interim stops at different military hospitals for urgent care, he ended up convalescing at a hospital back in Zaporizhzhia.  And, Jenna’s mom just so happened to be a young nurse at this hospital.  Three months later, they were engaged.   


American, Soviet, or anything else, that’s a pretty awesome story.  It’s basically the English patient, but with a far happier ending.  


Comfy Robes and Soft Midshipmen 


Bringing it back to making fun of Chipp… 

Some of Chipp's "really hard" Navy training
Some of Chipp's "really hard" Navy training

While we were looking through pictures, Jenna started scrolling through some holiday pictures from back in the States, landing on one of Chipp’s dad relaxing in his attire-of-choice for home (and sometimes away from home) - a super comfortable (in reality and appearance) fleece robe with the Naval Academy crest on it.  


Jenna’s dad: “They issue you robes at Navy?”

Chipp, taking this for a face-value question: “No of course not - I bought this for my dad from the gift shop for Christmas one year.”  

Jenna’s dad, smiling

Chipp, realizing he’d just been made fun of as a soft Naval Academy grad: “I see what you did there.”  


While every Naval Academy class (and West Point, for that matter), makes ridiculous claims about having the hardest tenure ever, Chipp’s pretty certain that he had it pretty good at the “Annapolis Boat School” relative to life in Novosibirsk.  


Afghanistan’s the Worst - Soviet or American 


Good hearted humor aside, it’s hard to ask for a better father-in-law.  


And, despite serving in different - and adversarial - armed forces, we could both agree: serving in Afghanistan is the worst, as a Soviet or American; it’s a war fought by young men and women at the behest of politicians who fail to define any real purpose for being there.


Will take a shot to that. 

Here's that shot
Here's that shot

Wrapping up on a lighter note: after a fair amount of vodka one night - and a lot of laughter - Chipp asked, 30 years ago, did you ever think you’d be hanging out and drinking vodka with a US Marine? 


Jenna’s dad, through laughter: “Only in my nightmares.”   


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