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Jeff Zahratka

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Military Memoir
by Jeff Zahratka   

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Publisher:  Dogear Publiushing ISBN-10:  1598586770 Type: 


Copyright:  July 28, 2008 ISBN-13:  9781598586770

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Sweepers Sweepers Man Your Brooms; Dogear Publishing

From the author

What compelled this old salt to write a memoir about my twenty- six years of naval service? After all, minus a few accidents I was never really in harm’s way. My personal saga pales in comparison to the perils of the many heroes you often read of on this site and others. In the beginning I created my book Sweepers Sweepers Man Your Brooms in order to educate those who chose other pursuits, and to inform the young of what our accomplishments entailed in the last quarter century prior to this new Twitter-paced millennium. Yes that is certainly factual, but what actually developed in the process was an overwhelming desire to pay tribute, a lasting salute if you will to my peers and mentors, those wonderful people that made my career such a personably enjoyable journey.

One can’t go from high school drop-out to command master chief of a navy man of war without a tremendous number of kicks in the …. Or shall I say mentoring; and mentoring evolved as the underlying theme of this story. The book seizes moments at every turn to commend those who mould, demand, and discipline. In my book I referred to those efforts as calibration. All too often I found myself in need of timely calibration, and I discovered an A list of experts throughout my entire career.

Sweepers Sweepers Man Your Brooms is a light hearted tale. I left writing of heroics and the spectacular explosions to those much better qualified than I. Mine is a memoir laced with humor that commences on an airplane ride to Great Lakes in 1972, sails the reader on descriptive adventures throughout the world, and culminates with a retirement ceremony blasting the Pittsburgh Steelers Polka through Norfolk’s pier twenty-one waterfront twenty-six years later.

As the back cover advertises Sweepers Sweepers Man Your Brooms has the right amount of history to educate and enough political opinion to cause debate, but above all it reminds Americans of why they love sailors while reminding sailors of why they love the navy.

The humor and innocence of the United States Navy Sailor is captured in the unique and sportive tales of a salty master chief set in the final quarter of the twentieth century.

Sweepers sweepers man your brooms is a phrase readily recognized by any Sailor who ever woke up on a United States Navy ship. In his Navy memoirs Retired Navy Master Chief Jeff Zahratka, a twenty six year veteran chronicles rich adventures that carry the reader to exotic settings from Karachi Pakistan to Severmorsk Russia. Sweepers Sweepers is a colorful story with uncanny notice of the odd occurrences that take place between the life lines of Navy ships and isolated shore establishments- not a story about bombs, battles, or spectacular explosions, Sweepers Sweepers Man Your Brooms is his story about how people of great diversity coexist in eighty-man bedrooms while living out of devices known as coffin lockers.

Consistently found in the effectuation of extraordinary events, the
ubiquitous American Sailor may be found crawling through garbage in an equatorial Shellback initiation or baring their derrieres at a Soviet aircraft carrier while traversing the Cape of Good Hope. He may be discovered in hand to hand combat, not with a human enemy manned up at a fire control console on an Aegis cruiser, but with a toilet brush in a Greek hotel room, fighting to the death with a mutated species of an ancient Hellenic centipede.

The author fails miserably at camouflaging his affection for the city of Pittsburgh and his long time devotion to their high powered sports teams. He provides many insightful moments relating to being a fan from afar through some of the greatest years in Steeler and Pirate sports history.

The story is a rich and historically accurate account of a caste of
characters from seaman recruits with attitudes honed on tough urban streets, to brown juice spitting good ole boys that learned to love the sea. There are associations and first hand opinions on the actions of young naval officers who today are among the top ranking leaders of the force.

Sweepers Sweepers Man Your Brooms is a tapestry of the social morays, historical events, and military technologies that define the character of the Navy for the last thirty years. The reader will experience sufficient history to educate, and an infusion of personal opinion which will serve as a catalyst for debate. Above all; however, the story will remind Americans why they love Sailors, and remind old Sailors of why they love the Navy.


Every retiring Sailor must pursue a new direction in life and I found it appealing to either write a book or start a sports bar catering to fellow Pittsburgh Steeler fans. The idea of a bar is great when the Steelers win, but oh shit; what if they go 6-10? What if the Franchise, BenRoethlisburger smacks that windshield with the top of his head instead of his jaw? Speaking of jaw; “God forbid what if the Jaw retires?” With a book all you lose is ink, the time, and the humility of no one wanting to read your thoughts. But an empty sports bar; I shudder with the lugubrious fear of sheer financial catastrophe. If the Steelers were having a bad year, I could never be traitorous and start a Bengal’s bar. I would have to make it a gay bar. “Whoa tiger; Just kidding Cincinnati.” So its book, not bar, I have chose to pursue; a lucid decision in the end- the attempt is not to be random. This book is about the United States Navy. It’s not about fiery battles or the technology of the ships; although a little of that may enter. This book is an enlisted man’s trip through the ranks and the accompanying experiences of the 70’s, 80’s, and the 90’s. I know all lives have some moments of unhappiness. I conveniently skipped whatever personal unhappiness I lived through because this book was written to give you a lighthearted moment or two. Although it is primarily based on the author’s experiences, it could well be about anyone who ever wore the uniform.

Sailors in general are similar to mongrel dogs. They are faithful, lovable, playful, and smart. But at times they are very guilty of non-cerebral activity. On occasion, these faithful friends will commit underachievement as relational chaos, or to more nautically express that, “crap on the deck.” When that occurs you just may have what old mariners refer to as a sea story. Is this book primarily for that group of “Old Salts” gathering at the local VFW or the Fleet Reserve Association? Absolutely, but if you are truly interested in human behavior then this should give you a chuckle or two; regardless of personal acumen. In short, this story is about all of us who served in the three decades that completed the twentieth century. The sitcoms may star different characters, but in many ways this is a microcosm of all those wonderful men and women whom we call Sailors.

If you ever noticed, the most compelling talker around the bar or the hunting camp is quite often an ex -Sailor. So many extraordinary events take place in a Sailor’s tour that he is often compelled to share them. They are without doubt the world’s most accomplished bullshit artists. Of course this is especially true whenever beer is involved. A Sailor may go to extraordinary lengths to punctuate a good joke. As an example, a now deceased uncle, Bill, was a Navy veteran and a hunter. One hunting season he got lucky, taking down a large 12 point buck in the deep forests of northern Pennsylvania. When the old salt brought the deer into the local tavern dressed in a red plaid outdoorsman jacket, a ball cap on his head, a lit cigarette hanging in his mouth; all the while shielding his dead eyes from the bar lights, (courtesy of nifty dark sunglasses), all thought it amusing. When the dead buck laughed hysterically at the tipsy swab’s jokes it was a home run, and brought down the house. The factitious laughing device, surgically implanted in the antlered guest’s chest was brilliant, and executed in the highest traditions of naval service. There is nothing more entertaining and socially addicting than a 22 ounce frosted mug of an unadvertised local brew in a room full of “Old Farts” swapping sea stories in a cozy tavern, in a town called “(Insert name here).” Sailors are correctly stereotyped for having a learned ability to keep the conversation flowing in neighborhood taverns. They cause patrons to hang around for more beer, and they are directly linked to expanding waistlines in America.

Professional Reviews
Sweepers Sweepers Man Your Brooms
By Jeff Zahratka

(291 pages)

Reviewer: Bernie Ditter

Overall Rating: Three Stars: Recommended. A solid effort.

Retired Master Chief Zahratka recounts his "twenty-six" in this entertaining and informative book. For one who is considering a career in the Navy it should be a must read as it chronicles an almost perfect progression of assignments, schools, mentors, teachers and opportunities that resulted in a picture perfect career: all that a a wife and two children.

Were it not for the absence of war and chase scenes it might be considered for a screen play.

The chief put his time in during the last 26 years of the twentieth century and, while there were no war stories, his was a time of technological marvels as he moved from Adams Class to Arleigh Burke Class to the daunting Yorktown and in between two tours on the Yellowstone, a battle tender.

For the most part we are introduced to hundreds of enlisted men and women and officers who the Chief encountered during his naval career. Some recollections were significant as lifelong friendships were established while some were, as we all know about, just some one of the "80 plus who shared your bedroom".

Highlights of his ports of call are very interesting especially the visit to the former USSR following its collapse. The up close and personal contacts in Severmorsk, Russia are a look into communism that few Americans have ever seen. If anything, the chief is a good story teller.

Life in the Navy will be better understood by someone not in the service and will bring a smile to the face of those who have.

The most inspirational aspect of this book is the seamless and almost effortless way that the chief managed his career for those 26 years giving credit always to someone besides himself. I am certain that he is remembered with favor by many of those he wrote about.

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