GROTON, Conn. – When Chief Engineman Bradley Bruns brought Navy Diver 1st Class Travis Arneson the splinter-ridden remains of the captain’s suggestion box, neither Sailor realized just what a work of art it would be when they were finished rebuilding it.
Every command in the Navy has a suggestion box which serves as an anonymous direct line to the commanding officer or officer in charge. Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London’s suggestion box was in poor shape and Command Master Chief Raj Sodhi put Bruns in charge of repairing it. Bruns turned to Arneson for assistance due to his history of woodworking.
“It was in pieces when [Bruns] brought it to me and the pieces themselves were in shambles,” said Arneson. “It was just a very basic box which is pretty normal, but he’s seen some of the things I’ve built and asked if I would contribute some of my skills to build something unique and special. I do a lot of woodworking on the side and specialty gifts for Sailors. One thing led to another and now we have the CO’s suggestion box sitting in the stairwell there.”
At Arneson’s workshop he and Bruns began by compiling together parts and pieces they wanted to incorporate into the new suggestion box and got working from there.
“I wanted to do a lot of nautical things, make it something recognizable to Sailors,” said Arneson. “We built it out of wormwood cherry. It looks warn, but it’s very strong. Slowly but surely we were able to incorporate things we set aside to use for it. We plugged the fasteners with lead much the way you would with anchor chain detachable links. He brought in some marlinspike to hold up the sign, a cleat and a couple other things. I had some brass we ended up using.”
The result was an eye-catching box that incorporates iconic motifs of Navy tradition as well as some small historical artifacts.
“There are a lot of artifacts, little pieces of Navy heritage on there,” said Arneson. “The silver chain on there actually came from a Sailor who served in the Navy during the 1930s. That came with his sea bag. A lot of the stuff on there is scavenged bits of heritage, old Navy parts.”
Sodhi said he was impressed with the outcome of the redesigned box and explained why the command needed a new one.
“I love the box. We wanted a nice box in a private location because feedback builds trust and unit cohesion,” said Sodhi. “The finished product is everything that is right with the Navy!”
Arneson and Bruns presented the final product o SUBASE New London Commanding Officer Capt. Todd Moore, who was astounded by the box’s beauty and quality construction.
“At long last, SUBASE now has the world’s most impressive CO’s Suggestion Box!” declared Moore.
Moore maintains the key to the lock, and stated that he will read all comments. He noted that unless the author states a wish for the comment to be private, or the comment card contains personal information, he will share the suggestions and comments with the command as well as any departments and personnel that will be involved in follow on actions.
“All comments and response actions will help our continuing effort to be the best base, Sailors, and Navy community we can be,” said Moore.
The suggestion box may be found in building 86, Ramage Hall, where it is located on the mid-level flight of stairs between the Navy Operational Support Center and the SUBASE NLON Command Suite. Sailors can also make suggestions online by going to: https://ice.disa.mil/index.cfm?fa=card&sp=143375.