it fit in my seabag

Reading Linda’s (mainepaperpusher‘s  Everyone Else Has the Best Titles) recent blog post of everything she has collected over the years,  I have not -so-fond memories of the random hobbies and collections I had up until I joined the Navy at 18.   Fortuitously, I had Navy training at an age before I had my own home and a place to fill with random things.   As any Sailor can attest,  there was a time that a green canvas seabag contained everything that we would need for the foreseeable future.  it had straps affixed to it so we carried it when we moved.  And it weighed a ton.    We were not provided wheeled luggage nor a handcart.  One bag is what we were allotted.

Amazing things, seabags.  Going back forty years –  I imagine today there are focus groups and management training ( a result of a decade of liberal tinkering with a military) that have minimized how much a Sailor actually has to carry.    I recall as young recruits  you were alternately told to get “your shit in one sock”.  or that “your mama” or “your girlfriend” was “not issued to you in your seabag” so you had better “suck it up!”    Getting excrement in one sock always makes me laugh.  But then I have encountered more than I can count on two hands, people who couldn’t get their “shit” together. Period.   But for those curious souls,  here’s a recent official listing of a Navy seabag’s contents:

Male:  ( item,  quantity)
All-Weather Coat, Blue 1
Bag, Duffel 1
Belt, Web, Black, W/Silver Clip 2
Belt, Web, White, W/Silver Clip 3
Buckle, Silver 2
Cap, Ball 2
Cap, Knit 1
Coveralls (Navy), Blue 2
Gloves, Leather, Black 1 pr.
Group Rate Mark, Black 3
Group Rate Mark, White 4
Hat, White 3
Jacket, Blue Working 1
Jumper, Blue Dress 1
Jumper, White Dress 2
Neckerchief 1
Necktie, Black 1
Peacoat 1
Shirt, Winter Blue 2
Shirt, Navy Working Uniform 4
Shirt, White Short Sleeve 2
Shoes, Dress Black 1 pr.
Shoes, Safety Chukka 1 pr.
Sock, Cotton/Nylon, Black 6 pr.
Sweater, Pullover Jersey 1
Towel, Bath 4
Trouser, Broadfall, Blue 1 pr.
Trousers, Poly/Wool, Dress Blue 2 pr.
Trousers, Navy Working Uniform 4 pr.
Trousers, White 2 pr.
Trousers, White Jumper (CNT) 2 pr.
Undershirts, White 8
Undershirts, Blue 8
Undershorts, White 8
Yellow PT Shirt 2
Blue PT Shorts 2
Gym Shoes 1 pr.

That seabag held everything the Navy required you to have.   And “properly stowed”, it all would fit aboard ship in your “coffin locker”, the small storage that made up part of your rack.    Of course, as we got more seasoned, traveled to different ports, gained some rank and privileges, we tended to stuff various equipment cabinets, voids, lockers of Sailors on leave, and our workspaces — especially if darkened –  with our crap:  counterfeit perfumes from the Middle East, persian rugs, leather goods, soapstone chess sets, inlaid mother of pearl wood, carvings and so on.   Sometimes we replaced – that is, shipped home,  a lot of the stuff that we weren’t wearing, so we could stow the other stuff.    And every so often,  one of the senior officers would pull a “uniform inspection” particularly if more than a few Sailors didn’t have the “prescribed Uniform of the Day” but did have several hammocks,  knockoff women’s purses, a few brass knuckles, or a hookah stuffed in his coffin locker.

I learned that if I couldn’t carry it,  I didn’t need it.   And everytime  I transferred from one ship to another,  if it didn’t fit in my car, I probably didn’t need it.   Boxes and boxes of books were donated to the local library (loading dock) when I left that town.

A decade later,  I still have several complete uniforms, with ribbons and name tags hanging in the back of my closet.   I’m still too fat to wear them on the prescribed annual holidays.    My soldier son can have my foreign trinkets.  But he will have a sufficient number of socks stuffed already.   And I imagine that my younger sons won’t have a lot of stuff to go through when I’m gone.

Maybe they’ll find my old seabag.  And try to figure out how, since it is clearly impossible, why the old Chief always said you were never issued  “a wife in your seabag”.

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