I was 18 years old when I joined the Navy.
I shipped out from my hometown in Pennsylvania and landed in the Windy City, the training command at Great Lakes, Illinois, to be exact.
From a small town kid to an airman apprentice in the world’s largest nuclear Navy’s boot camp. It was July 1974.
I had never felt heat like this and I certainly was not expecting desert-like heat in Chicago. It was unbearable at times. Some days the commanding officers would not let us go outside because the heat was so oppressive. I’d seen guys come back from Happy Hour dripping with sweat, and they’d be talking about how awful it was. I had yet to experience a Happy Hour, and from the looks of it, I didn’t want to. Fortunately, I was the type to do my work and mind my business, until one day, the slob in the bunk beneath mine got careless with his belongings.
It was standard operating procedure to have barracks inspections. They check to make sure lockers are in order, bunks are made up, and you know, they really do bounce a quarter on the bunks to make sure that the sheets and blankets are pulled tight. They also make sure the corners are a perfect 45 degree angle at the folds.
What an annoyance that was. Often when we returned from marching and physical training, we would find our barracks an awful wreck. The inspectors seemed to love turning over bunks and lockers if they find even one little thing out of place or done incorrectly.
One day in particular after inspections, I was called to the company commander’s office. I rapped three times on his door and at his command, I entered. I stood at attention in front of his desk.
“Reporting as commanded, sir,” I said.
“Airman Apprentice Fosse, you had gear adrift found in today’s inspection. Your dental floss was found in the unsecured area of your locker. You will report to Happy Hour after you secure from operations today,” the commander told me.
“Sir, my dental floss was in my locked drawer, in my toiletry bag,” I said.
“Everyone needs a night at Happy Hour, Fosse,” he said. “Dismissed.”
As it turned out, Happy Hour wasn’t all that bad.
Reach Kathleen Guill at 580-379-0588, ext. 2602.