“Petty Officer Marcom! Your Fifty Cals are Rusty!”
U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Third Class Daniel J. Mark. Cleared for release by ALBG PAO, LCDR Jeff Bender.
Marco The Sailorman
I had to admit. Yes they were. I had tried so hard to keep ahead of the rust, but here I found myself on the leeward side of the second half of a six-month, ‘round-the-whurl-West Pacific Deployment’, and somewhere just off the coast of Somalia.
Yes, rust was my enemy, certainly never my friend—the machine guns were always mounted while we (The USS Callaghan DDG 994, full cast and crew) were Haze-Gray and Underway.
Yes, always mounted and underway:
Haze-Graying, even then
My Guns were always supposed to be… somewhere upon the sea… this is what they were purchased for…
And subject to rust. Rust Relentless. Relentless She Be: That Sea. That Salt of the Fucking Sea
My Moby Dick-lessness! How could I not keep Rust off my guns?
Freud certainly would have had fun with me
(Sadly, now I know why)
My professional life was to be found somewhere rusting in those machine guns.
And that rust you see, that rust occupied a great deal of my daily routine.
The Navy had a solution though. She had provided canvas covers to cover those guns and make them safe from rust. Alas, those canvas covers had seen better days, probably back when Pearl Harbor was just an ordinary Naval Base that no one had ever heard of.
But rust is relentless and timeless.
While scrubbing the Indian Ocean rust off’n my fifty-cals one morning I hatched a plan. Knowing full well we were soon to pull into Mombasa Kenya, after so many month at sea, I conspired to save my money:
Once in Mombasa, I would smuggle one of the moth infected, salt- digested, jig saw’d, Swiss Cheese, ‘holy’ canvas shards off the ship. I would rent a taxi, find me a young child, show him my smuggled ‘prize’, ask him to direct me somewhere, where I could find and nickel and dime (I did not have much money then, not un-life-like now) find a leather shop in Mombasa, present to the leather-maker my Holy Canvas, My Shroud, My Naval Career, and demand, (for US Dollars), that he make me four such more yet new and brand new.
And This is exactly what I did, and to the amazement and astonishment of my Master Chief Petty Officer and my Department Head (almost a Navy Commander… he kind of looked like JFK, now that I think on it. I did not like particularly like him, but I respected him. Hell, he reminded me of all the things I could have been if I had joined the Nav when I was twelve instead of twenty-eight (Different story. Sorry)
The next time they inspected my Fifty Cals, they were pristine! (They did not take notice nor time to notice that the canvas covers were not exactly Haze-Gray-Naval Gray. No, more like Third-World-Rustic, with just a tiny bit of water buffalo…left over…but Goddamn sure water and sea salt proof.
And I was so desirous that they did NOT notice, but my Master Chief did notice, yet, never ever noticing nor voicing his ‘inner thoughts’ in front of what he referred to as “Shit Birds” — ‘Officers’ — Never let on.
Master Chief never, ever let out his truth thoughts in front of Shit – Birds. This was his genius.
And I should have been cognizant of this, yet I was so somewhat giddy after my .50 Cals had finally passed inspection, that I did not stop to think on that anymore. “Not even Master Chief had seen through my ruse” Yeah, Rite!
I was drunk with my own cleverness and lying back on my back in my rack, curtain drawn, congratulating me.
(Now, you must realize how the Military Mind works. I was my Ship’s Armor All–Armorer– IN Charge of All The Ship’s Small Arms! .225 Cal to .50 Cal. If it took two men to lift, wasn’t mine. But one-man-band? Yep! I was the shit! I was a Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class! Freshly rocked out of SEAL Training (twice now, but who counts these sorts of thing? I suppose I do) and trying to retain what little was left of my pride and my so-fifty-caliber-called-life.)
And I loved and Respected My Master Chief. Did not ever want to become an embarrassment to him, nor to my Fellow Gunner’s Mates who worked on the “Big Guns”. (Those ones what ‘bullets’ took two and a half-men to lift)
And even more important, (anyone who has ever ‘Served’ will know this), the Military is Run On Fear:
Well, as I was lying on my back in my middle rack right before Taps with my little blue ‘privacy’ curtain drawn back when someone jerked that sucker back.
Along with my reverie.
Master Chief Anderson!
MY MASTER CHIEF
“Son, tell me where you found those brand new gun covers.”
Trying to lie on my side and find an elbow to lean to, I half-coughed out, feigning sleepy-eyed ignorance,
“Master Chief, I had them made while we were in Mombasa.”
(There are people one may lie to in life, but, A Master Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy is not one found amongst those people. Not if one wishes life beyond that moment of sweet deception)
“I see”, was all he said, as he yanked my curtain back shut, thus leaving me alone with my various and sundry.
I did not sleep that night. For you see, I knew I had broken Naval Regs by doing something not-in-the Naval-Seaman’s-Bible–The Blue Book–The book, inches thick as a brick, “The Book” I had been made to almost memorize while at Recruit Training Command, i.e. boot camp.
I had broken the rule.
In the Nav, there is a sea sailor preamble, most requisite when one wants to recount a story of ‘when ships were made of wood and men were made of iron’… “Back when Moses was a pup, and this is a no-shitter” This validates and is a ritual never broken. In other words, one never breaks the rule.
Sometime mid-morning the next day, I was summoned to the berth/office of The Department Head of my Division, Lt. Commander ‘Kennedy’.
Shitting bricks is too trite.
I was nervous.
I gave a hearty rap on the bulkhead door as I was trained to do in boot camp…
“Petty Officer 3rd Class Marcom Sir!”
“I know who you are Lance; sit down.”
(What??? Lance??? Sit Down???)
Mouth agape I sat down, speechless
“Son, Master Chief Anderson tells me you went out on your own, designed, commissioned, smuggled off a prototype, and paid for, with your own money, those .50 Cal Gun Covers. Is this true?”
“Yes, uh, yessir,” I stammered.
“Well, that shows some fine initiative. How much did you pay Son?”
“Un Sir. Doesn’t matter…. I just, well, the .50 Cals, you know SIR, cost ten-thousand dollars each, and I thought…rust….an…”
“How much did you pay?!”
“250 Dollars Sir.”
Without saying a word he opened a little three-lock-box (OK; I made that up. It was only a one-lock-box) that he had in a drawer, carefully opened it, and proceeded to hand me two-hundred and fifty bucks.
I sat there, dumb founded, a moment too long, still in shock, looking at the bills in my hand…
“Petty Officer Marcom! “
“Huh…Uh, Huh… Sir?”
Jumping up, knocking my chair over, some tears welling in my eyes,
As I saluted him and abruptly left his quarters, quite in haste.
And thus I had survived yet another day in MY Beloved Navy.
And Just As a Reminder Kids:
Don’t Rain on my Parade: I have enuff Rain for All
*And this just once more a rough draft, full of error, so be kind. Trust me: there is no harsher critic of me than me. I sweat commas.
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
And ‘somewhat’ related: And…Talia Shire Will never, ever look so good.
(That Beret! That Beret! Cabaret!)
And of course, not without saying…
And Michael York.
And… whatever happened to Jimmy Buffett’s hair??? (I did read his book, “a pirate looks at forty” fifty, sixty??. did not glean anything from it ‘cept that he loves ‘boat-planes’– shit! I could have ‘wrote’ a better book. Jes sayin’…)
My tweet (if I ever tweet) to Jimmy:
Dude, stick to music. That is what you do best. Leave the prose to those who have some prose… to share. And no! I ain’t talking ’bout me, but in general speakin’…)
(See way below for the JB bits)
(and, yes: Navy SEALs)
Picks up that conversation:
“Not too much,” I must confess.
“But surely you have touched some lives?”
“Yeah, but mostly in a bad way. I did my best in war zones. I was ‘The antithesis’ of the ‘Bad American.’ Other than that, nope.”
“Perhaps you are being too hard on yourself?”
“You really don’t know me, do you?”
“Well… no. Not exactly. This is just a job to me. Go on.”
“I’d rather not, but hey! Thanks for stopping by.”
“I suppose my ‘work’ here is done. Then?”
“Yeah. You may be excused.”
“Thanks, because I am late for my appointment with J-Law.”
“But you said one thing; got my attention: You said ‘torched’.
“Naw! I said ‘scorched’ There is some difference.”
Or, as Mammy (Hattie McDaniel) said, via ‘Gone With The Wind’:
“It just ain’t fittin'”
(She ‘won’ an Oscar for that. Ya surely know) And in her acceptance speech, she said, and I quote: “I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race.” Can you believe she actually felt compelled to say those words? Well, it was 1940… I suppose.
Lance loves you Mammy (Hattie)
And look up the word ‘class’ in any dictionary. There you will find a photo of Katherine Hepburn.
Oops! I meant Bette Davis (shit! I cannot tell from the vid which one, Kate or Bette–HBO!–help a brother out here. Which one?) Personally, I am gonna go with Kate. After further review, I am going with Bette.
I like things to be linear. So we rejoin our “hero” just after his Denouement… Or perhaps, ‘Epiphany’.
So she led me to a car and we all piled in. I say ‘we all’ simply because there were suddenly three of us. Me, HER, and a smallish blonde. I remember thinking I had seen this movie before, but this time it came with a twist, I guess. I have to guess, as the rest of the evening (early morning?) is fuzzy in my memory.
After about twenty minutes. (I am once again, estimating here; could’ve been an hour or more. Or less.) After about ‘twenty’ minutes we arrived at a house (could have been an apartment). SHE took me inside and led me straight-away to a bed… room. If memory serves, we had sex. Violent sex. (Not ‘violent’ violent. Let’s just call it ‘intense.’) SHE was at least six foot and change and, as I did report earlier, ‘Big-Boned.” I swear, I saw my life’s movie flash as she covered me and had her way. (And of course, me mine)
As we lay there ‘after’ in someone else’s bed, she remarked, “Well, that should keep your self-winding watch going for a few days.”
I had to laugh, just as I drifted off.
The next morning I awoke with the sun singeing my eyes from a casually placed window (What’s wrong with these people?). I could smell bacon. I rolled over and looked at my watch: 0630. I had a start; then realized it was Saturday and I did not have ‘duty’ on my ship. I could go back to sleep, un-worried. But, oh no! SHE was stirring. (So, who was cooking bacon? I remember thinking)
“Oh. You’re awake?” She said.
“Uh, yeah. Kinda,” was all I could muster. Where am I? Who are you? (Not a proper question, I realize, but then, I was hung over and still groggy)
“I am the woman to be named later,” she said, poking me in the ribs. (Which hurt for some reason).
“I see. I rolled over to face her.” She was, indeed: Beautiful. Long dark brown hair, dark eyes, and mystery, too much mystery in fact. I was at this point, all ‘mystery-ied’ out. I was tired. I needed Gidget. Or perhaps Mary Poppins, or even Samantha Stevens…
You don’t remember my name?” She asked after lighting a cigarette.
“To be stupidly honest, no I don’t.”
“No matter. I am called ‘Layla’. Ring any bells?” (I wish I were making this up)
I’m thinking now that I had just fallen into Dante’s Inferno.
“Uh. No. Should bells be ringing?”
“So… You’re a Sailor? Yes?”
“Yes. And what are you? And are you from around here?”
“Not from around here. I’m just visiting my cousin. She is the one cooking breakfast.”
“Yeah. I can smell bacon.”
“Good nose. I like that in a man. Have you an appetite?”
“From some memory of last night, I’d have to say ‘yes’.”
“Hahahahah! Yep. You do, Sailor Man. Yep, you do.”
“So, if you’re not from here. Where are you ‘from’, and what do you do?”
“I’m from Wisconsin. I work as a bartender. I’m also a bouncer, when the need is needed. Oh, and I love to ride Harleys.”
Perfection, I thought. Now what Cowboy? Shit. Here I am again…
I had ‘some leave-days-on-the-books’ and seriously considered at that moment that I needed to take them and head home to Texas to get a re-start on my physic saki… (Well, spelling ain’t never been my thing, but you know what I mean here.)
I mean, I was still re-‘bound’ for glory. But I did have some time, eh? Didn’t I?