You’re in the Navy Now~Part 1

24 Jul

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

No. 7 Blogger

No. 7 Blogger

1When I was a senior in high school my best friend Bud talked me into joining the U.S. Navy Reserve.  The idea behind this brilliant move was to get the attention of girls.  You see, we lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico where there were two U.S. Air Force bases and we had grown up seeing guys in Air Force uniforms everywhere we went.So, we figured, what better way to attract the attention of girls than to be able to drive up and down Central Avenue dressed up in those unusual Navy uniforms once a month.  Of course, once we joined up and got those uniforms, things didn’t actually turn out the way we planned.

Back then there was none of this “I don’t like this, I want out” business.  Once you 2signed up, you were in for the duration.  The worse thing was, by the time we got out of our evening meetings and got to the drive-in, most of the girls had already been picked up by some Air Force guy, or gone home to do their homework.

The first few monthly meetings were a real adjustment for me.  Each meeting 3started with us having to report to the reserve unit doctor for a series of shots.  We were inoculated against every disease known to man, so the Navy could send us anywhere in the world and we would be protected.  I couldn’t believe how many shots that entailed.

While we were still stinging from the shots, it was “All personnel report to the parade ground for close order 4drill.”  That was the “grinder” where they taught how to salute every officer we ever encountered, how to handle our M1 rifle, march in straight lines, all the while looking smart so our company commander would look good to any big shots during divisional presentations.

Each year all reservists were required to participate in a “Summer Cruise.”  That sounded like fun, until I discovered the Summer Cruise for all first time reservists was “Boot Camp” at the U.S. Naval Training Center in San Diego.  I don’t think the drill instructors were very happy to see us by the way they treated us, but I was glad to see reservists from other states there, and to know I wasn’t the only one having to go through all this degrading punishment.

Even though I had worked at various jobs since I was fourteen, nothing of those 5had prepared me for the challenges of boot camp.  We did learn some interesting things while at boot camp, like how to tie every knot the Navy had used since the beginning of time, and survival swimming, a must for use after the ship you are on is torpedoed at sea and sinks, and all you have left to make a float with is your trousers.

Then there was how to properly fight those scary shipboard compartment fires with nothing but water, and the one I disliked the most, the gas mask training.  6They have you put on a gas mask, walk you into a building full of tear gas, and let you stand there to see how effective the mask is.  Then, they tell you to remove your mask.  Of 7course, you hold your breath as long as you can, but you don’t think to close your eyes.  The next thing you know, your eyes are burning like crazy and you have to breath, and that’s when you get the full force of what that gas can do to a person.  Let me tell you, that episode made a real believer out of me, because that tear gas they use is really nasty stuff.

But, mostly it was a 24-hour test to see if you could keep up with marching 8everywhere we went, exercising with our rifles until we thought our arms would fall off, drill until we thought we would wear the soles off our shoes, clean the barrack until a bug wouldn’t dare show it’s face in the place, and learn how to wash our clothes by hand with a bar of Ivory soap.

Luckily it only lasted two weeks.  Then, when it was over, I actually felt cheated that the only ship I had been on through all that, was the USS Recruit (TDE-1), which turned out to be a giant “ship simulator” sitting in the middle of one of the training center parade grounds.


—–To Be Continued—–


2 Responses to “You’re in the Navy Now~Part 1”

  1. dlites2013 July 24, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    This piece is incredible! It’s funny, wry, and highly descriptive. I love, love, love it and I’m passionate about the man who wrote it, too.



  1. Why I Joined the Navy | Old Things R New - December 28, 2016

    […] get it over with. And that is about the jest of this story. You’ll have to read the blog series, “You’re In The Navy Now”  for the rest of the story of where this foolish idea led […]


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