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.

Service Week

Posted by sundoulos2005 on September 1, 2007

Boot Camp in 1964 was divided into three sections: basic, service week, and advanced. I made it through the basic four weeks (somehow) and qualified to enter service week. During service week our standard company training was suspended and we were each given different assignments. I expected to get assigned to mess duty, working at peeling potatoes and washing dishes, because I was not one of the company’s best sailors. I was therefore surprised — pleasantly so — when I was assigned to stand guard outside the Administration Building in Camp Barry. Camp Barry, for those who have not read my earlier posts, is where recruits initially muster in and form into a training company.

All recruits are (or were) required to wear leggings, or spats. These canvas-colored items were given to us with our initial uniform issue and were worn throughout our time at Boot Camp. There were a select few who were able to trade their canvass spats for white ones. Administration Building guards were among those. When I started Service Week I was required to wear the white leggings along with a white web belt. These items I was allowed to keep when I proceeded to the last four weeks of advanced boot camp.

White leggings gave special privileges. No longer did I have to run when alone. I not only did not have to run anymore, but I was also allowed to form other recruits into a marching unit and march them to wherever they wanted or needed to go. I was in heaven, I thought.

Most of the recruits were assigned tasks that kept them busy from early morning until late in the afternoon, or even into the evening. Those assigned as mess cooks, for instance, had to be on the job around 4 A.M. in order to assist the cooks in preparing breakfast. My guard duties consisted of standing at parade rest, coming to attention to salute, outside the Administration Building for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. The rest of the time I was free to do whatever I desired. How or why I got this job I do not know, but I sure liked it.

What to do with all that time off? I spent a lot of time at the receiving barracks assisting with the processing of incoming recruits. While there a recruit arrived that I knew from Rochester, NY. For some reason he did not catch on real fast that the Navy is serious business. One afternoon, while the majority of the recruits were out doing whatever they were assigned, this young man unhooked all the inner metal connecting support pins under the mattress of an upper bunk. That evening, the bunk’s occupant returned and took a leap and a lunge for his bunk, hitting it right smack dab in the middle. He landed squarely on his mattress which, no longer being supported, fell through and landed on top of the recruit in the lower bunk. While all the recruits, except the ones under and on the mattress thought this to be hilarious, the senior petty officers in charge of the unit did not. My friend quickly learned that actions have consequences.

Upon the completion of Service Week we were allowed our one day of liberty in Chicago. In order to take advantage of this privilege we had to stand for uniform inspection, were lectured on how to behave and the serious consequences of not making it back on time. Recruits were forbidden to drink alcoholic beverages while assigned to the training command, and that was duly impressed upon us. On the appointed day we boarded the Chicago & Northern Railroad and proceeded to the big city of Chicago.

I roamed the town with a few of my buddies, ending up at the USO. There I entered a competition with a man who was playing eighteen or nineteen games of chess simultaneously. I was dumbstruck by how quickly he could make his moves as he went from player to player, hardly pausing to look at the board. He had no trouble defeating me.

This was supposed to be the only liberty that we got, but we were in boot camp on the 4th of July, a Saturday. We were given another liberty to travel to Milwaukee for the parade, again with the usual admonitions to refrain from drinking — a real temptation for many because the Schlitz brewery gave beer away along the parade route.

On both occasions we all managed to make it back in time, sober, and went on to continue our training

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