Old Coot Recollects

Wandering the Web I found a message board post I left nine years ago.  One of the many memories that emerges from time to time but soon disappears until whatever nudges the innards to make it come to the forefront again.

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And here it is:

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Not all events were scary, exciting, sweat-inducing, etc. Some were just plain comical and/or weird.

During this night when sleep eludes me…. when memories keep welling up I present to you:

A Love of Cheeseburgers
It is hard on a sailor to report aboard a ship when it is overseas. Being the new guy after a crew has already congealed into a working whole can be tough, especially on a small ship with a crew of only 240. If the newly-aboard sailor is also a boot (new to the Navy) and the ship he is reporting to is his first ship the difficulties are at their maximum. Perhaps that explains the guy’s eventual behavior.

Nobody was mean to the chap. He received the typical hazing that all new guys experience but nothing cruel or unusual. He seemed to handle it well but, everyone agreed he was rather “odd” though we couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was that set him apart.

A couple months after his arrival we were tied up to the dock in Subic Bay, Philippines. Liberty call had sounded a couple hours earlier leaving the duty section and those not desirous of liberty left aboard. I was standing the roving-patrol watch when the word was passed over the MC-5, the ship’s internal and external loudspeakers, “Roving patrol, lay to the missile deck.” Acckkk!!! What the heck, I wondered. To inform you landlubbers, the roving patrol watch was mainly concerned with ship’s security. Packing a .45 pistol and 30-rounds of ammo we were the “front line” of defense and security and were supposed to stop or slow any attacks so that other crew members could arm themselves and join in the fray. Roving patrol was a great watch to have, we were left alone to roam the ship at will and were seldom called upon. Thus, hearing the call I was somewhat surprised and concerned.

Rushing topside (anywhere outside the interior of the ship, out in the fresh air) I sped up the ladders, reaching the missile deck where a small crowd was assembled. Things appeared calm so I quit worrying. But, the situation was abnormal. Reporting to the most senior officer present I inquired as to the call. The officer said nothing, he just pointed above. Following his finger my eyes climbed the mast that soared 40-feet above the deck. There, perched on a radar support was the new guy.

Cool!!!! That was a sight one didn’t see everyday. It was a dangerous place to be. A rotating radar could knock you down to the steel deck far below or the high-frequency radio waves emanating from the radar could burn or even kill. Luckily for the new guy the radars were shut down, though they do operate in-port occasionally for maintenance and security reasons.

Looking up, the officer shouted the order for the sailor to climb down. The guy ignored him. He appeared preoccupied, looking off into the distance. The officer shouted again, louder this time. Nope, that didn’t work. The officer yelled out again, this time giving the guy a direct order. That got the chap’s attention. In a clear voice a “darn you,” filtered down.
As the officer pondered his next tactic the executive officer ( XO, 2nd in command below the captain) appeared, curious as to the call for me, the roving patrol, to “lay to the missile deck.” The XO talked to the officer who repeated his skyward finger pointing. Looking up the XO exclaimed “Holy smokes.”

With the voice of authority, the XO shouted upwards for the sailor to get down NOW!!!!! All except the XO stifled a chuckle as the darn you,” rolled down. That response angered the XO, we could see it in his face and hear it in his voice. Again, he ordered the sailor down. This time, the “darn you” was accompanied by a statement demanding he be released from the Navy and sent home. Ah hah!!!!! So that’s why he was up there. The XO and the chap started arguing back and forth, shouting and ordering and demanding and, from aloft “no way.”

After a few minutes of shouting with no results the XO tried a different tactic. Shouting up he asked the sailor what it would take for him to come down. The demand to get out of the Navy was re-shouted. The XO agreed to that, assuring the guy that he was likely on the way out one way or the other. Still, the guy didn’t move, he stayed perched high above looking down at us. The XO asked why he wasn’t coming down yet. “Because you’ll hit me,” he shouted. The XO assured him he wouldn’t be hit but still, there he stayed. Tiring of the affair, the XO shouted out what would it take for him to finally climb down. After a pause the sailor said he’d come down if there was a cheeseburger awaiting him.

This time, we couldn’t contain the built-up chuckle factor. All of us, except the XO, roared with laughter!!! A few guys cheered the demand. Some thought he should hold out for a burger and fries. The XO was not amused. Approaching a nearby sailor the XO whispered and that sailor sped off. Shouting upwards, the XO declared he sent orders for a cheeseburger to be cooked and that it would arrive shortly. In a few minutes the whispered-to sailor appeared, carrying a paper bag, handing it to the XO. “Here’s your cheeseburger,” he shouted and, with that, the lofty lad climbed down to the deck. As he bent over to grab the bag (that was empty!!!) the master-at-arms ( sorta’ like a shipboard cop) grabbed his arms and slapped handcuffs on the guy. The manacled guy screamed his lungs out!!!! “I want my cheeseburger, you promised me a cheeseburger, I want my cheeseburger….” he yelled continuously as he was led away.

Shortly, the base ambulance appeared and he was led away, never to be seen by us again. As he entered the ambulance, still handcuffed, we could here his muffled sobs, “They promised me a cheeseburger. I didn’t get my cheeseburger and they promised me………..”

The assembled crowd roared when the XO exclaimed, “I didn’t think the food aboard was that good!!!”

Just another day aboard an American warship, far from home, manned by a crew with an average age of 19 or so. The dregs of American society. But, we were proud dregs.

*****end*****

I copied and pasted and did not check for spelling or grammar errors.

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