"We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God." James Madison

Monday, March 05, 2007

March 5th, 1979

Exactly 28 years ago today, Monday, March 05, 1979; I began my adventure in the United States Navy. By 1:00PM (1300 hrs), I was “Nut to Butt” with 84 other recruits waiting to have every hair on our heads removed.
While sitting in the barber chair, the man running the clippers asked if I wanted my sideburns. Thinking that a little individuality would be nice, I said sure. So he gave them to me in a plastic baggy.

Sometime about week 3-7, we were all feeling a little proud of our recent accomplishments, and we were outside on the ‘pad’ doing every manner of busy work. Since my shoes were polished, letters to my girlfriend written, and my bunk ship shape ready for inspection, I thought I’d just lower my cover over my eyes and take a little 'cat nap'. Now for those who have never had the opportunity to experience the thrills of ‘boot camp’, allow me to shed some light on the subject.

Our Company Commanders (drill instructors for other branches) would take a look at the new recruits, and based on age and maturity, they would select a few and appoint them to positions of leadership within the company. The top recruit was known as the 'RCPO' or Recruit Chief Petty Officer. There is also 'RPO1' or Recruit Petty Officer 1st Class. These two individuals have a great deal of responsibility as well as a lot of stroke.

Well, on this warm, sunny Sunday afternoon, while resting my tired little eyes, RCPO walked over and addressed me. He said “seaman Recruit __Gawfer__, you need to sit up and polish your shoes.” I said “RCPO, my shoes are polished 4-0.” He said “then sit up and write your letters to home.” Feeling very proud that I had already accomplished my assigned tasks, I said “RCPO, all my letters have been written.” He said “then just sit up.” Hmmm. Not catching the hint, but knowing it was absolutely necessary to obey, I said “RCPO, you suck.” The next thing that came out of his mouth sent chills down my spine. He said “Seaman Recruit __Gawfer__, come with me.”

The next few moments are etched so deeply into the tablets of my heart, if I succumb to Alzheimer’s, I will never forget. I followed him to the Company Commander’s office where PO1 Davis, a real Gunner’s Mate 1st class who served aboard Destroyers was busy writing reports of some sort. RCPO requested permission to speak, and after a moment, it was granted. He proceeded to tell PO1 Davis the conversation that had just occurred between RCPO and me, and was diligent to not leave out any details. Without lifting his head, PO1 Davis (who seemed to be about 6’-20” or bigger) quietly asked “is that true Recruit __Gawfer__ , do you think RCPO sucks?”

Faced with choice of telling the truth or trying to lie my way out of this life threatening situation, I elected to tell the truth… “Yes Petty Officer Davis, I said RCPO sucks.”

With a fury I have yet to witness again, his head appeared to grow 6 times its original size, saliva glands working full speed and blood shot eyes bulging from his eye sockets, he threw his writing utensil across the room bouncing it off my chest, and striking a chair with the back of his hand causing it to become airborne and land on my shoeless feet, ( I was in Bath Slippers). He began yelling at such a volume, the entire RTC San Diego new my deepest feelings about RCPO. Somewhere in his rant he asked the question “do you think I suck Seaman Recruit __Gawfer__? Because I appointed RCPO to his post, if you think he sucks then you must think that I suck! Is that true?!?!?” The only sound that could be mustered from my skinny little 17 year old body was “no petty Officer Davis, I don’t think you suck”. Punishment ensued, but it was nothing compared to the humiliation I had just endured, and doesn’t even warrant being shared.