In 1977, I got off the bus from the airport at 0430 at Recruit Training Command, Naval Training Center, San Diego. And my life has never been the same since.
Regardless of service, I believe all military members recall their bootcamp NCO. I certainly remember my Company Commander vividly. Robert W Walsh, ABE1, from north Florida. Don Rickles might have modeled CPO Sharkey after him. It is funny now to think how I was “Polack” to the CC, and every other time some training command or support CPO would call out, ” Ssss—–” I knew they were refering to me. ” it’s SA-RET-Skiii, sir!”
In bootcamp we were taught to call everyone “Sir” and if it moved, salute it. But after we graduated and became, Seaman Apprentice, or Fireman or Airman, you would rather be stuck dumb and blind than call a Chief, “sir”. There was always a colorful epithet attached to his retort (his, this was 1977)
“MY PARENTS were married, @#$@!”
“I WORK for a living, @#$@! !”
“DO YOU SEE BARS on my collar? @#$@!!”
And heaven help me, with my nearsightedness, if I saw two khaki-clad men approaching, I was supposed to discern which, if either, had the insignia of a commissioned officer – on their cap or collar. And that had to occur by a certain range as I was expected to salute.
I only screwed up in my first few weeks. With a Master Chief and a Lieutenant Commander. The Master Chief’s response was far more “interesting”. But with the officer, it was because I had NOT saluted. He got over it.
The stride and bearing of a Chief, then as now, easily identifies my Mess Brothers and Sisters from an Officer at any distance. And CPO Sharkey? From this first episode, it brings back the memories of my formative days in the Navy. He finds it ridiculous that sailors get bunks, mattresses and curtains. And there is a part in this show when Sharkey is in disbelief that women might soon serve on ships. In reality, about that time women had just entered the Naval Academy. Then, in the 1980s, auxiliary support ships, tenders and others were integrated (genders). And warships? when female crew were first assigned to the USS PETERSON in the early 1990s, I talked with a few of the Snipes about the prospect. Once I proposed the idea in relation to more generously balancing each rating’s sea -shore rotation assignments, my shipmates became all for the idea!
As for bunks and curtains? I sure sounded like Sharkey when I heard about the redesigned berthing compartments, larger mattresses, lighting and space on our newest ships. Has the Navy gone soft?!