Watch standing can be a tedious duty on a Naval vessel. There are hundreds of watches on a Navy ship, most of them of a professional or technical nature.

In port or underway, the Security Watch is of prime importance. This watch is stood to prevent sabotage, protect property from damage or theft, prevent access to restricted areas by unauthorized persons, and to protect the crew from fire, flooding and sometimes each other.

Because of the important duties that go with “standing security,” these watch standers are picked for their maturity and professionalism. They are very are well trained. All watch standers are taught to memorize “The 11 General Orders” as early as boot camp. They are drilled into you and form the cornerstone of discipline that makes a US Sailor or Marine what they are. They are called “General Orders” because they come from the highest military authority and they are always in effect, cannot be countermanded, and everyone is accountable for obeying them.

The foundation of the US Armed Forces is the 11 General Orders. I don’t think anyone even knows how old they really are. Here is the last one. General Order 11:

“Be especially watchful at night and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post, and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.”


On Monday night at 2310 hrs, Jeffrey Tyrone Savage drove his Freightliner up to the gate at Norfolk Naval Station and presented his Transportation Worker ID card. He then drove to Pier #1 and passed that security checkpoint as well. When he reached the brow of the Mahan and ascended it to the Quarterdeck, he was challenged by the Petty Officer of the Watch. In the altercation that followed (scuttlebutt is that it was over a Mahan crewman who was seeing Savage’s girlfriend), Savage managed to strip the POOW of her sidearm and knock her to the ground.

The Chief of the Watch PO2 Mark Mayo, seeing his shipmate in peril and about to be shot, threw himself on top of her to protect her from the gunfire. In doing do, PO2 Mayo was killed by Savage. In the brief exchange of gun fire that followed, the Roving Security Watch killed Savage.


Now, there will be plenty of recriminations that will come out of the investigation into what happened. Savage was past the time of day that his authorization to enter the base should have been good. Savage was a felon who did time in federal prison for dealing crack and voluntary manslaughter. If a convicted felon can get on a military base, who can’t?

The Navy will look at the type of holster used by the POOW and argue over whether that is the best kind to carry for force protection work.

There will be debate over whether the Navy should reinstitute Small Arms and Qualifications Training in boot camp again, and make everyone pass Cat II or Bravo to graduate. It was one of the few high points while at boot camp in Great Lakes (in Winter) for me back in the early 1980s. There will also be questions about whether commands are “gundecking” their weapons quals for Sailors in that rating and giving them personal defense training.

And there will be debate anew over the role of women in the military in ratings that require a high degree of physical strength to ensure they are not disarmed by a perpetrator, and live to see the Chief of the Watch killed trying to shield them with his own body.

But I think this is important first: Petty Officer Mayo was an outstanding Sailor. As Chief of the Watch on the First Watch (2000 to 0000), he must have been squared away professionally and dependable. And no one can expect anything more from a service member than he come to the aid of a comrade in peril.


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Read Next: Officer on duty during Fitzgerald collision enters guilty plea, likely to testify against commander is about Special Operations Forces, but in the military there is a thread that connects the Mess Specialist to the Navy SEAL, the Clerk typist to the Green Beret, the Cable Dawgs to the PJs, and that is duty. A duty to protect, a duty to serve and, when called upon, to sacrifice greatly, even to the point of one’s own life.

We should all be grateful that our country still produces young men and women mindful of a sense of that duty, men like Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark A. Mayo, even as we thank God that he had the watch that day when duty called him to his last and ultimate sacrifice for his ship and shipmates.


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