Bill's Vignettes

This is my story. It will consist of little pictures, snippets, or vignettes, from my past. It is a legacy to my children and grandchildren and those that may come after and hopefully will also be of some interest to the casual reader who doesn't know me from Adam.

My Recruit Training Company Commander

Posted by sundoulos2005 on August 31, 2007

Chief Matthew Fowler, whom I believe was either a Torpedoman or a Quartermaster, was my recruit company commander. I do not know if our company was his first, but I am sure he wished it was his last. In fact, after some weeks of pushing us recruits he came into his office and cleared everything out. “I quit!” he bellowed. I think that was more for effect than anything else.

Chief Fowler was ideal for the job. He looked like the professional sailor he was. He was always immaculately dressed. His weight was proportionate to his height which was, if my memory is correct, around 6 feet. I can recall a number of occasions when he was really ticked off but I do not remember his yelling at us. He had that look about him that let you know you had crossed the line and were in deep trouble.

The first day with him we got a lecture about going AWOL. It seems like every new company had at least one foolish enough to jump the fence and make their way back into “CIVLANT” — Navy lingo for “civilians – Atlantic Fleet.” Everything in the Navy has some term applied to it that only sailors know. I suppose in San Diego it would have been CIVPAC. That night we lost two. One was caught shortly after his escape, the other a few days later. Upon their return they were held up to scorn as examples of what we did not want to do. That was our first incident.

After moving, some weeks later, over to Camp Moffett and a brand new barracks, one of the less brighter lights was goaded into pulling the fire alarm. The Chief was called in from home. As one might expect, he was not at all happy. Things like that merited our being awakened in the middle of the night to spend some time on the grinder — a concrete area used for drill and exercise.

During my first half of boot camp I accumulated so many demerits that there was no way I could work them all off before the company graduated. I spent every night for weeks at the drill hall running laps with my rifle over my head, doing calisthenics, and otherwise experiencing various tortures. Chief Fowler called me into his office one day towards the end of training for what I thought was going to be the news that I was being set back. Instead, he wiped off all my demerits.

Chief Fowler did have a sense of humor. That is not to say I appreciated it. We had graduated, marched in review across Ross Field, received our orders to our first posting and were waiting to be dismissed. Along came the Company Commander with his assistant and formed us up for marching. We proceeded to march to the barber shop where our hair was cut to the nub just like it was the first time we were clipped.

I have not seen my Company Commander since leaving boot camp. I do not even know if he is still alive. I owe him a lot and perhaps this will get back to him and he will know that he did some good to more than one boot during his time at Great Lakes Naval Training Center.

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