Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Officers and senior officers

Ed Brayton has a post about some soldier in Iraq who was holding some sort of atheist prayer meeting that was disrupted by a nutcase Major doing the work of god.

One of the commenters asked what would have happened if an officer senior to the major had been at the atheist meeting. Personally I think that's just very unlikely, senior officers in the military don't become senior officers by being public atheists, but it reminded me of something that happened long ago when I was in the Navy.

The event that I'm reminded of has nothing to do with atheists or God but does have to do with a mid-level officer and a few more senior officers who thought he was a jerk.

It was 1968, I was an E3, a tincan deck sailor just returned from a WESPAC cruise on the gunline waiting for a military hop from Miramar Marine Air Base (just N. of San Diego) to Memphis Naval Air Station. I was going to Baton Rouge on a leave and was going to take the free military flight to Memphis, then hitchhike to Harrison, Arkansas, where I'd left my car with my parents, then drive to Baton Rouge for a wedding. I was getting married. I was going to drive back to San Diego and my soon to be wife was going to fly out to San Diego a couple of weeks after.

You had to be in uniform to take a military hop, so my status as a tincan sailor recently returned from Vietnam was evident, from a combination of my age (an obvious 19) and the ship insignia and campaign ribbons on my jumper. Military hops to those on leave were made on a space available, with somewhat of a first-come first-serve. There was also an allowance made for a senior rank to bump a junior rank. People with non-leave travel orders also had priority over leave papers.

I'd been waiting for about 6 hours. Another seaman had been waiting about 5 hours. He too was a tincan sailor recently returned from a WESPAC (a different tincan). There was a two-star admiral (08) two 4-stripe captains (06) who'd been waiting a couple of hours. They weren't on leave, they were on business. The plane we were waiting on had 5 seats, we were full.

About 10 minutes before boarding a Lt. Commander (04) arrived with leave papers. He didn't appear to be a sea-going sailor, he had no Vietnam related ribbons on his chest, which was fairly unusual in 1968.

Anyway, he bumped the other seaman. The other 3 more senior officers actually frowned when they saw it.

Once on board there were 4 seats sitting 2x2 facing each other and a 5th seat behind them. I took the odd seat and the 4 officers took the seats together.

The LCDR asked the other 3 if they wanted to play bridge. He had a deck of cards.

The ADM turned to me and said, "Do you play bridge, sailor?"

"No, sir, I don't".

Then he said, "Do you play pinochle?"

"Yes, sir, I do".

He turned to the two Captains and said, "let's play pinochle", the he said to the LCDR, "Why don't you leave the cards here and trade seats with the sailor so we can play some pinochle".

So I spent the flight as the ADM's partner in a pinochle game, nobody ever mentioned the sailor who'd been bumped and left back on the ground in California.

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