“Where can you find pleasure
Search the world for treasure
Learn science, technology
Where can you begin to make your dreams all come true …”
Source: “In the Navy”/”The Village People”
Lt. Barney Greenwald: You’re learning that you don’t work with a captain because you like the way he parts his hair. You work with him because he’s got the job or you’re no good!
Source: “The Caine Mutiny”
“I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
“I served in the United States Navy””
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy
I found my way to the local Navy Recruiters office back in March of ’73. This was a number of years before “The Village People” arrived on the national music scene, or their song featuring the Navy was riding at the number three spot on the pop charts even while it was being “torpedoed” by oversensitive (Naval) top brass, from being used as a recruiting tool. However, the “learning science (and) technology, … begin to make dreams come true” angles of their song, would be more then a little applicable to me. Aside from the song, getting out of suburbia, seeing the world, and striking out on my own, would also be right up there.
I was still in the last few months of my senior year of high school, and a month away from my eighteenth birthday. My parents signed the paperwork, and on a spring day in April of 1973, found myself in the Navy’s Delayed Enlisted Program, with the following August 4th, being the day I would head off to Basic Training.
Fast forward to late September. Now a recruit, doing my time in “Company 295” at Great Lakes Naval Recruit Command, aka “Boot Camp” .
“The Company Commander” ; A short, stocky Petty Officer who has done time out in the fleet, and is now imparting his wisdom, knowledge, and experience with his first “solo” Company of Recruits.
“The Recruit on Watch” ; A young man fresh from the burbs of Chicago, in pretty good shape physically, but not quite as on top of either common sense or wit as he sometimes thinks he is. (Much like most young men of his age.)
The scene: One of the barracks housing a company of Navy recruits. They are in their final weeks of training. Currently, they have a few minutes to themselves before it is off to afternoon chow. The Company Commander (The Navy’s version of a Marine Corp DI) is not in the spaces at the moment. At the entrance to this berthing area, home to some 50 Sailors, is a young man, he is the posted “Watch”. This recruit is wearing a crisp clean uniform, with his rifle (his ‘piece”) at his side. He is standing at the position of “Parade Rest”, facing toward the entrance (the “hatch”} of said spaces.
The Company Commander approaches, and enters the spaces.
Recruit on watch: “ATTENTION ON DECK”
Recruit comes to “Attention” at the same time as shouting out the above command. He is also bringing his rifle up to the position of Attention as well … unfortunately in the process of doing so, said rifle was brought up “backwards”, the sight at the end of the rifle facing toward the bridge of the recruits nose.
Upon entering the spaces the Company Commander, with what appears to be a smile on his face, proceeds directly to the Watch, “palms” the end of the “wrong way rifle” barrel, sending the “sight” smacking into the upper lip of the Watch.
Company Commander: (now leaning/getting into to the Recruit’s face) “what in the FUCK do you call that? Is that supposed to be “The Position of Attention”? You’ve been in Basic Training HOW LONG, and you fuck up this up?!?!?” (While this tirade is going on the Company Commander is advancing on the Recruit, while the Recruit is backpeddling, and then bending over backwards when he comes to a table located against the bulkhead [that’s a wall to you landlubbers].) “Put your piece under the mail box, get into my office, assume push up position, and stay that way until I get in there and tell you otherwise… IS THAT CLEAR??”
Recruit: (while placing rifle on the deck under the company “mail box”) “SIR, AYE AYE SIR!!” (Much the same as “Sir YES SIR!” is used in the Marines and other branches of service.)
Company Commander (to the rest of the Company of Recruits in the barracks, who are all paying complete attention to the drama playing out in front of them): “All right you assholes, assemble out on the grinder, in formation. RPOC (Recruit Petty Officer in Charge) march them to chow! Now MOVE!! ON THE DOUBLE!!!”
While the Company Commander is directing the Company of Recruits, the Recruit of the Watch is “at push up position” in the Company Commander’s office. He has been there for between 5-10 minutes. And though he is not physically exhausted, the adrenal rush of having had the Company Commander’s “personal attention”, along with the pool of blood from his lip and the sweat from his brow forming a pool just south of his nose, on the deck, as given him a slight case of the shakes. In any case he awaits the arrival of the Company Commander, to see what fate has in store for him.
Company Commander (arriving in his office, after the company has gone to chow) : “Get up off my deck, go to the head clean yourself up. Then get back here and clean your mess off my deck!”
Recruit: (standing up and coming back to “Attention”) “Sir, Aye Aye Sir!”
The Recruit goes and cleans his face, brings applicable cleaning gear to get rid of the puddle on the Company Commander’s deck, returns the cleaning gear to it’s proper place, and returns to the office, assuming the position of “Attention”.)
Company Commander: (Looking at the cut on the Recruits lip, wondering if the Recruit is going to pass on the events of the day to the folks back home in his next letter home, along with insuring his Recruit has not sustained more “damage” then what appears to be the case.) “Stand at Parade Rest. You going to be okay, Recruit?”
Recruit: “Sir, Yes Sir.”
Company Commander: “Come to Attention!” (Recruit does so) “What are “The Eleven General Orders?” (Recruit recites them correctly, from memory.) “What is your Chain of Command?” (Recruit recites that correctly.)
“Okay, go and get your piece, and return to this office!”
Recruit: “Sir, Aye Aye Sir!” (Recruit does so. Returns and assumes the Position of Attention … CORRECTLY this time.}
Company Commander: “Okay Recruit, assume “Parade Rest”. (Recruit does so) “Eight count manual arms … Begin!” (Recruit does so, with out missing a beat, correctly.) “Sixteen count manual arms… begin!!” (Recruit does this correctly, as well.) “Go and secure your piece in its proper place Recruit, and return to my office!”
Recruit: “Sir, Aye Aye Sir!” (Recruit does as instructed, and returns to the office, assuming “The Position of Attention”.)
Company Commander: “What in the hell is your problem? You executed all the commands I gave you correctly, you answered all the questions correctly with no hesitation … what have you got to say for yourself?”
Recruit: “Sir, I don’t know. I have no excuse for what happened. But once it did, and I realized it was wrong, it was too late to change it. And in any case it wouldn’t have mattered if I did or not, once the mistake was made, I couldn’t undo it, so I stayed the way I was. I knew I would have been chewed out regardless. Sir”
Company Commander: “That is true enough Recruit. We both know this is not going to happen again, is it?”
Recruit: “Sir, NO SIR!”
Company Commander: “Very well then. The Company is through with chow, change out of the uniform of the day, get in to your working uniform. Then go ahead and double time to where the Company is now.” (Hands the Recruit, a pass to allow him to travel “unescorted” to where the Company is at.) “Attention!” (Recruit comes to attention) “Dismissed!!” (Recruit exits smartly from the office, and quickly goes about his business.)
The above incident is true. The names have been changed to protect the stupid (that would be “The Recruit”, for all you sensitive progressive types out there). It happened just about 37 years ago, but seems almost as recent as yesterday. Some “rites of passage” are never forgotten.