May 13th, 1994 – US Navy Recruit Training Center – Great Lakes, IL
The Chief Petty Officer slowly sauntered down the freshly buffed deck of the barracks between 2 rows of Navy recruits on our first full day of basic training. He was a shade over 6 feet tall, with light blond hair, a wispy mustache, glasses, and a cocky, shit-eating grin on his face. He wasn’t our Company Commander, but he was clearly supposed to be an intimidating presence brought in to scare some sense into us. He looked at each recruit as he methodically made his way to the rear of the barracks. He was in no hurry and clearly relished the opportunity to antagonize and intimidate 80 clueless and scared recruits.
“First, I don’t give a goddamn if you’re offended by foul language, this is the fucking United States Navy and I’m gonna fucking swear if I fucking feel like it. You are a sad, pathetic group of shitheads who don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground and who’ve been sucking off your mama’s tit all your lives. I assure you we will break your asses down and make you a United States Sailor in the next 2 months.”
He walked by me and I, in my feeble attempt to stand at “attention” and keep my vision straight ahead, looked him smack dab in the eyes. He stopped dead in his tracks and turned to me.
“Are you looking at me boy?”
“Don’t you fucking call me sir, goddamn it. I’m a Chief Petty Officer, I work for a living. Now, I’ll ask you again. Were you looking at me?”
“No, s-, I mean, no.”
“Are you a liar? I think you’re a fucking liar and I won’t tolerate liars in my Navy. Now I’m going to ask you one more time…were you looking at me?”
There was no way out of this. “Yes, s-, yes Chief Petty Officer.”
“Ohhhh, so you were looking at me. What are you, a fucking faggot? Do you think I’m pretty?”
“No, Chief Petty Officer.”
“So, you think I’m ugly?”
“Yes, Chief Petty Officer.”
So began my 9 years in the United States Navy. Basic training was a bizarre experience that, looking back, conjures up an incredible range of emotions: pride, fear, humor, anger, humility, togetherness, loneliness, confusion, and, ultimately, a sense of achievement. Oh, and the stories are pretty damn funny. Stay tuned for Part 2 coming shortly. We’ve only just begun…