Shore duty for a sailor is a just reward for years at sea, and instructor duty is a desirable tour for a Chief Petty Officer. I was on my second tour of shore duty, teaching in San Pedro, California. Chiefs had a twenty-four hour watch on the base every thirty days, and I had made arrangements with my neighbor in Navy housing to baby-sit my five-year-old daughter overnight.
I arrived at the administration building before 8:00 A.M. and asked the Chief on duty, that I was relieving, how it was going. He said, "Not good! The men went out to hold colors, and some damn fool ran a sheet up the flagpole with 'NAVY SUCKS' written in big letters on it. You can see it all over the base. The bastard jammed the pulley, cut the rope, and greased the pole with petroleum jelly. The Commanding Officer is so mad, he can't talk."
He continued, "I called for a helicopter to yank it down." The Chief looked a little pale, and I sympathized with him, but I hesitated to relieve the watch. The helicopter arrived, and a young sailor leaned out the door, ready to capture the homemade flag. The pilot approached the top of the sixty-foot pole and eased closer, when the chopper blade hit the top of the pole and went out of control. The pilot was barely able to set the damaged machine down on the base softball field. The Commanding Officer's face was livid, and I thought I saw a tear coming down the Chief's cheek. I said, "I guess we'd better see if we can get a cherry picker over here." Still trying to keep my composure I said, "I relieve the watch, Chief." It took all morning to get the offensive sheet off the pole, the lines replaced, and the normal color returned to the C.O.'s face, after we had the stars and stripes flying.
That afternoon I went to Receiving and Outfitting where the new recruits were arriving. The Chief in charge said to me, "I want you to read something", and he handed me a questionnaire the new recruits must fill out. One of the questions was: Is there any position you cannot assume? One of the new recruits had answered; I cannot bend over and kiss my own ass. The Chief looked at me and said, "What do you think?" I said, "Get rid of the question."
That evening, things were going smooth when the Master At Arms walked in the office and said, "I need you to sign this report slip." I inquired about the offense, and he said, "I caught a sailor and wave in a trash dumpster, doing it. I said, "Damn! Can't we handle it at this level?" He said, "The paper work is already in the mill." I shook my head and signed the report slip. The following morning the C.O. asked, "How do you think I should handle this, Chief?" and I replied, "Maybe I could loan the sailor enough money for a motel room." The C.O. smiled and said, "Spoken like a real Navy Chief. I'll give them a little extra duty."
After I was relieved and arrived at home, my daughter, Michelle inquired, "What do you do when you have this duty, Dad?" I told her, "I just solve problems at the base." She then asked, "Did you have any problems yesterday?" I answered, "No, it was just routine."
© 2002 Maurice D. Karst
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