The Navy is its own world; with unwritten rules, it’s own language and culture, and a way of keeping everyone in line; I guess you can call it “Navy Karma,” but it works, teaching folks the hard way that we all have to get along.
I was introduced to the Navy’s idea of Karma early on in Damage Control “A” school. There were three women in my class; myself, a very quiet gal, and then this loopy red haired chick who couldn’t keep her big mouth shut. She had to constantly one-up the instructors, as well as endlessly argue with the rest of us, and class was constantly being interrupted on her behalf. The instructors stopped several times daily to try and respectfully explain things to her, as well as knock-home what a huge waste it was for everyone to have to coddle her, but as the weeks wore on she didn’t take the hints nicely. It wore everyone around this gal ragged, and I knew the instructors were just as sick of her as we were.
Unknown to her and all of us, but she was about to underhandedly experience retribution, Navy style. The instructors had put their heads together, and were going to make her pay, and they finally had their chance.
Coming into the 6th week of school we were learning about chemical, biological, and radiological or CBR, and the instructors gave us a taste of what all was to come. Competent knowledge of all toxins, nuclear bombs, various equipment, as well as proper terminology were just a small group of things on a huge list that were going to be expected of us. That was no biggie; all of that stuff was simple studying and memorization. No – what made that week really nerve-wracking was the painful simulation we had to look forward to at the end of it.
We had to go through the gas chamber where we were exposed to a strong version of CS tear gas, which in theory became stronger coming to the “last row”, which, the instructors announced, was the row specifically reserved for the class screw-offs. Everyone has to go through a gas chamber in boot camp, but this is Damage Control school; the CS gas is much stronger to knock home confidence in the gas masks we had to use and teach everyone about in the fleet.
At one point I made a smart-assed joke in class, and the instructors made a huge point of putting my name on the board under the “last row” list. I was petrified for the next few days, wondering how bad this was going to hurt. We had seen all the other classes go through the gas chamber, and the last row always had to do jumping jacks, sing “Anchor’s Away” in entirety, as well as do 8-count body builders, or whatever the instructors feel like making them do. So I was not looking forward to that at all, especially in that painful environment.
Finally, the day before the gas chamber, Big Mouth chick went drama-queen on the instructors again. The ass-chewing she received was outstanding; and the best part was the big deal the instructors made erasing my name and printing hers under the list, and telling me I was now on first row. I sat stunned, wondering if this whole deal had just a been a show the whole time, and that this was the way they had to deal with this female, being she was the kind to call “discrimination” on anything.
I remember the look on her face, and the color she turned, as she realized she had finally gotten her cake and was expected to eat it too. After that week she was a little more down-Earth and kept her mouth shut more. The instructors had gotten the point across.
Out in the fleet it was even more merciless.
There was a guy I dated who was a who was a Machinist’s Mate or MM, on the USS Tarawa (LHA1), and he told me a hilarious story. MM’s are a part of the group of folks known as “Snipes” or Engineers, which are the folks whose job it is to take care of all equipment down in the main engine spaces aka “the hole”. There they work on both auxiliary (AC’s, reefers, desalinators) and propulsion, including boilers. They work in some ungodly conditions, with long thankless hours, so when they get time off to relax it’s a huge deal.
The guys use to hang out in the closest berthing to where they worked, which was a much nicer place with a lounge area and a TV than their own sleeping quarters. This was also an “Airdale” area where the folks who worked on airplanes up on the flight deck lived. These folks came down into their berthing and were pissed off seeing all these engineering guys already there, and they got into a huge fight kicking the Snipes out.
The Snipes all made it clear the Airdales were going to be sorry. And indeed, they found the hot water valves and secured them, which meant no more hot showers for the Airdales. It took a long week of cold showers before the Airdales sucked up their pride and went to their officer, the Air Boss, and asked him to go have a chat with the Chief Engineer, or CHENG. Air Boss found CHENG and told him that his guys were sorry, that the Snipes could hang out in their berthing anytime, just please turn their hot water back on!
Yeah, that’s the Navy. That’s all how shit rolls when everyone has to actually get along.
The moral of the above stories are: shut your mouth and don’t mess with anyone who knows more than you!