Petty Officer Chris McClintic is smart enough to teach lessons about the Navy's big guns, but as CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports, that didn't keep him from ruining his personal finances using so-called payday lenders.
Payday lenders offer tempting short-term loans for a fee, due on payday. What McClintic and a growing number of military borrowers don't foresee is how fast those loans and fees add up.
"It seems like it should be simple, but once you take out the $500 loan, you need $575 extra in a payday to pay it off," McClintic says. "Nobody has that."
So what ends up happening is, "You kept taking out the loan and repaying it."
McClintic and his wife ended up owing fees amounting to 390 percent at an annual rate on five separate payday loans due at once.
Today, he's trying to navigate his way out of debt.
"I called them and I said, 'Look, there is no way I can pay all these loans this payday," says McClintic.
Virginia's "Hampton Roads' area is a magnet for payday lenders. The world's largest naval base offers up an endless supply of young sailors with tight budgets and steady paychecks.
But payday lenders reject critics claims that they're "legal loansharks". They insist they help people on active duty stretch their paychecks in a pinch.
Lyndsey Medsker, spokeswoman of Community of Financial Services Association, says payday lenders provide a service to the people who find themselves in financial need.
"At the end of the day it's their choice," she says. "They weigh their options. It can be a bounced check, a reconnected utility fee, whatever it may be, they look at their options and they are making the choice."
Payday lenders may find easy targets among young troops, and the top brass worries debt could be distracting or turn them into security risks who could be compromised by terrorists or spies.
"It's the ability of that young man or woman to resist all those temptations," says Navy Adm. Steve Turcotte. "The ability of that young man or woman to fully focus and work on his job."
The Navy is pushing for stricter laws governing payday lenders and offers financial counseling and other relief for sailors like McClintic.
McClintic is confident he'll get out of debt, though he says, "In time. It may take a while."
He blames himself, not the payday lenders, but admits he never would have gotten all those loans if it hadn't been so easy.