'Is That Some Sort of Joke?'
Talking with one of the Navy's elite underwater commandoes
April 19, 2007
On April 13, CNN reported on how the U.S. Navy was showing off one
of its special underwater anti-terror commando units to the media. As
part of that publicity tour, we were able to interview a member of that
elite unit about both her comrades in arms and navy life in general:
MAUI TIME WEEKLY: Sitting next to me is Petty Officer 3rd Class Nani. Now did I say that name correctly?
NANI: That is correct.
MTW: Okay. Now how long have you been with the unit in question?
NANI: Oh, I've been with the Naval base at Point Loma for about 12 years now.
MTW: Twelve years? That's pretty good. Now, for the benefit of our
listening audience, I should probably point out—you obviously can't see
Petty Officer Nani like I can—but you're a dolphin, is that correct?
NANI: That is correct.
MTW: A bottlenose dolphin?
NANI: Yes, I'm actually Tursiops truncatus, Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin. I'm about 14 years old, about nine feet and a slime 460 pounds.
MTW: Four hun—that's actually pretty slim for a dolphin.
NANI: I keep myself active.
MTW: Excellent. So do you want to tell a little bit about yourself?
NANI: Well, I come from the waters just off of San Diego—actually, out of Mission Bay.
MTW: Oh, a California girl.
NANI: Yeah, that's right. My mother passed away when I was about two
years old, and I became kind of a bad juvenile. I was hanging with the
wrong tuna crowd-
NANI: -And the Navy recruited me, and really made my life much better. Much higher quality.
MTW: Tell me a little bit about being with the Navy. Is that a lot of work? Is that pretty difficult?
NANI: Oh, no, not at all. It's pretty cake, actually. Good health
benefits, they feed us well, I still socialize with some of my genus,
and it's a pretty good gig.
MTW: Nice, nice, very nice. Do you have to go through a lot of training for this?
NANI: Well, a lot of the initial training had to do with the whole
communication breakdown between you humans and us dolphins, but we
worked it out.
MTW: It's not like at Sea World where we just dangle a fish at you and you go jump through a hoop?
NANI: Yeah, that's funny. No, actually, it's a lot more serious
work, having to do with categorization and finding or detecting the
presence or absence of objects, things like that.
MTW: Oh. I've heard about that. Now the story that ran on CNN the
other day, April 13, mentions that there are 100 people in the unit, 25
of which are sea lions. Now what's it like working with them?
NANI: Yeah, um… It's pretty good. They're… they're smart… animals.
But their breath is kinda bad and they do make a lot of noise.
MTW: Now this is kind of an uncomfortable question—I'm not used to asking people this question—but have you ever killed anybody?
NANI: Come on. No. That's not what our work is all about.
MTW: Oh. It's more like finding mines or undersea stuff or just watching… for things?
NANI: Well, yeah. It's kind of important work. Actually my first gig
with the Navy was during the 1996 San Diego Republican Party National
Convention. We patrolled the bay in San Diego, trying to look for
unwelcome swimmers, who were perhaps trying to plant a bomb that could
kill all you humans. It's some pretty serious work.
MTW: I see. I imagine it also would be tough for you to throw a hand grenade with flippers.
NANI: Is that some sort of joke?
MTW: Well, I personally feel much safer knowing that you're out there, making sure that we're going to be safe.
NANI: Well, thank you. You should.
You can hear the complete, unedited interview at www.mauitime.com/podcast.aspx. MTW
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