They say power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is truth in that. It usually refers to political leaders and rulers of nations. But I can attest that it refers to much less lofty positions. In Navy Boot Camp, there were some recruits given positions of authority over the rest within the company.
These men were, in descending order: Recruit Chief Petty Office (RCPO), Recruit First Class Petty Officer (RPO1), Recruit Master of Arms (RMA) and Company Yeoman. They were given emblems of office. In descending order, these were: a saber, a bayonet, a baton (billy club), a clipboard.
The RCPO was a short, slightly rotund, guy who had served a hitch in the Army previously. The CC (Company Commander Mullin) chose him for the position because of that. Why not being able to function outside the military and not rising above E-4 (corporal) while in was qualification to be in charge of the company in the CC's absence escaped me but it wasn't my choice to make. He tended to strut more than march or walk. I had this image in my mind of him with epaulets on his shoulders, a crosswise hat, and an old style military jacket. Something out of the "H.M.S. Pinafore".
The RPO1 main qualification seemed to be he was a big guy. Tall, in good shape, a california boy. He was happy to be second in command. He wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, however. He was held back about 4 weeks before graduation when, after sharpening his ceremonial bayonet on the concrete steps, he got blood poisoning from cutting his finger on the newly honed edge.
The RMA was a Guamanian. Nice guy, pretty much. Apparently picked because he looked tough enough to whip anyone's butt. He probably could, too. Rang my bell once when we sparred in a slap fight. He was the stable one of the group. I liked him but he was no leader, just muscle.
The Yeoman was a smart guy with a chip on his shoulder and his nose in the air. He was picked because he had some college under his belt. His demeanor brought some Nazi bureaucrat to mind. All he needed were pince-nez glasses or a monocle instead of his horn-rimmed glasses. Tall, slender, a perpetual disdainful look on his face.
Mostly, the rest of us just ignored these guys as much as possible. Well, there were times we couldn't. Such as when they decided to drill us for a couple of hours on marching one Saturday afternoon. I ended up with swollen ankles which sent me to sick bay and gave me a few days of light duty. It also created a number of blisters on others. The CC decided they would no longer run these impromptu drills.
The real stink came when our resident Puerto Rican recruit, Julio, who spoke very little English, got sick. I mean real sick; strong fever, couldn't hold food down. He went to Herr Yeoman to request a pass for sick bay. Herr Yeoman told him he couldn't go until later, after breakfast. Julio apparently thought he would not be able to go even then, that Herr Yeoman did not think he was sick enough. So Julio took his rifle, placed his hand on the concrete step of the barracks, and slammed the butt into the fingers of his left hand.
The CC made an announcement later that morning that anyone who feels the need to go to sick bay will be allowed to. Immediately. Period.
I understood just how Julio felt. We had spent our two week "week" of mess duty (KP for you non-Navy types) in what is called the Garbage Locker. This was January and it had some cold mornings. Two of us would scrub out large serving pans using steam heated water (about 160 deg F) in large deep sinks while the two guys behind us would initially wash out the remnants of whatever had been in them using pressure hoses with not nearly so hot water. These guys sprayed the water around pretty good and managed to fill our rubber boots with water. About the time were were soaked and our faces are being steamed from the water in front of us, someone would open the big door so the garbage (slop) in the big 55 gallon drums could be rolled out to the trucks picking it up.
So, forty degree air would blow in against our very wet backs. We got sick. Quite sick. But not enough for light duty. Only enough to get APCs (aspirin) and GI Gin (cough medicine). We could trade the latter for cookies mailed to another recruit.
I'd like tell you about the seabag inspection. The seabag inspection is a sort of ritual. You lay out all your clean clothes on your bunk, in a certain order, neatly folded. Then a CPO you never saw before comes in and tosses everything on the floor as he shouts "not folded right!", "sloppy!" After he leaves, the CC announces his heartfelt disappointment and gives us a piece by piece lesson in the proper folding of each item of clothing.
First, he has us remove our jackets and fold them. He reinforces the lesson by having us execute 50 4 count jumping jacks. He then has us remove our shirts, again followed by 50 jumping jacks. We then go through each item of clothing until we are all down to our birthday suits. One last set of jumping jacks and we are permitted to get dressed. That last set was tough. It's not easy to do jumping jacks while restraining gut busting laughter.
A real male bonding incident.
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago