Tuesday, November 25, 2008


As I moved through the weeks at boot camp, the first glimpses of what a veteran is started to seep in. Every task, each lesson, all athletic competition, was geared to mold us into sailors, promoting responsibility, good conduct, manners and morals.

We studied the UCMJ, and the principles of the Geneva Convention.

We had classes on fire fighting on ships and ashore. We learned about the responsible use and handling of fire arms, gunnery and ordinance, and how to defend against ABC warfare.

There were classes on leadership, knot tying, self improvement and advancement. We learned how to catch VD. Errr, no. We learned how to avoid contracting venereal disease. Team work was the emphasis at every juncture. Well except for venereal disease; for that you were on your own. But if you did get the dreaded drip or worse, your obligation to the rest of your shipmates was stressed: get immediate treatment!

Sailors are expected to present themselves in a clean cut manner with shined shoes, and a well fitted, pressed uniform. In special circumstances and with a superior's permission, a beard and or mustache could be allowed, but routinely, a clean shave, and short, neatly trimmed hair was the norm.

One of the ways uniform cleanliness and proper appearance was taught was at daily inspections:

Because the guidon (flag carrier) has to hold the flag, his cap is inverted on the fore finger of his left hand while the thumb of his right hand has hooked under an inverted the t-shirt collar. The rest of the squad places their hats over the barrel of their rifle (M1) and turn out their t-shirt with their left thumb. The inspectors are looking for grime, dirt and or sweat stains. Any thing but a bleached white appearance earned you and the company a "hit" or demerit. Believe me you could put on a perfectly clean white cap and shirt in the morning and by inspection time an hour or so later there would be some stain, especially if you were blessed with an oily complexion. We used to wear our t-shirts inside out to breakfast and line our cap's edges with toilet paper until just before marching to the grinder for inspection. We always returned to the barracks after breakfast and before turn out for inspection.

One of the exercises during ABC warfare class was to experience gas warfare. Commonly the gas used was tear gas. Any and everyone who'd gone through this before you had all sorts of hints on how to minimize the exposure and thereby the unpleasant effects. Too bad too sad Charlie. The DI's knew all those tricks and how to subvert them. You donned your gas mask outside the building where the tear gas was to be set off. You were strongly encouraged by your instructor to ensure a perfect fit before entering the building. Most everyone paid close attention to this demonstration of how to apply and fit properly, one's gas mask. Your group of twenty to thirty recruits enters the building, the door is closed and in a few minutes the tear gas pellets are set off inside and you can see the room filling up with a foggy mist. If you've properly applied your mask you still breath without difficulty or discomfort. If you have a poor fit, God have mercy on your soul. Once the room is sufficiently full of gas to satisfy the DI's, everyone is ordered to remove their mask. Of course before removing your mask you take a big deep breath and close your eyes. Mask off, and you're thinking cool man, I've got this beat. The door to the building does not open for egress for two minutes. It takes another two to three minutes to completely evacuate the building. Oh, did I forget to mention, you have to say your name rank and service number to the DI before you can leave the building. How long can you hold your breath?

Tomorrow: The two most import tests of my life. Not only for the Navy but for my entire future.

No silly, sit-ups isn't one of them!

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Blogger paisley said...

that gas chamber thing sounds cruel.. do they still do that i wonder... i guess it is something that you just might have to know,,, but dang......

2:43 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

I'm impressed and truly believe all of these things can save lives. The inspections are respect for the uniform and unit. I'm guessing every move has meaning.


3:28 PM  
Blogger willow said...

Gas chamber? Yikes!

4:36 PM  
Blogger Churlita said...

That gas thing sounds harsh. It would not jive well with my suffocation complex at all.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Bob Boyd USN 1981-1988 said...

The military still makes recruits go through the "tear-gas" room. It trains you be able to properly "don"(put on)a gas mask under stressful conditions.

9:57 AM  

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