Another story from Monterey. The missed inspection.
At one point, I was roommates with Hartung. I can't remember his
first name but his last name was Hartung and that is what everyone
Hartung was a disagreeable fellow. He drank every night and came in
wasted and always woke hung over. Through some strange occurrence, he
often didn't have to get up when everyone else did in the morning.
One morning, when there was an inspection, I had stayed up until
something like 0300 sewing rank insignia on a uniform so I would pass
inspection in the morning. After I passed out in exhaustion, Hartung
came in. He didn't have to go to the inspection and he didn't want to
wake up in the morning so he kindly unset MY alarm clock. As in,
intentionally, physically manipulated my alarm clock so the alarm was
no longer active.
Muster and inspection was at 0720. I woke up at 0730, shot up in bed
and looked out the window as my window overlooked the muster grounds.
There was everyone lined up on the muster grounds being
inspected. I think I put on my uniform and sought out my next in
command after the inspection. I'm not really sure and it doesn't bear
on the story. Obviously, I was in a lot of trouble for missing a
muster and missing an inspection.
Now, we introduce the XO (executive officer). The XO is the second in
command next to the CO (commanding officer). It is the XO's job to be
a real bastard so the CO doesn't have to. The XO is responsible for
maintaining discipline in the command. Our XO in Monterey was known
for being really mean. He would scream at people when they went in
for disciplinary action. I mean, he screamed at everyone. Usually
for a long time. People down the hall could hear him. People in the
next building could hear him. He tore every single swinging dick that
came his way an asshole so big an aircraft carrier could sail though
The next morning, I report to the XO's office for my ass chewing. "So
you missed an inspection. What happened?" "No excuse sir." And
then, the unheard of happened. He assigned me corrective duty and let
me go, without ever, not one single time, raising his voice. Everyone
was stunned. No one could believe it. People stared at me in the
halls. I had done the impossible. I face the XO without any yelling.
I swear, until this day, about an hour ago, it had never once occurred
to me how I escaped the wrath of the XO. In addition to being
hard-asses, XO's are supposed to be prescient. The should know
everything that happens in the command. It occurs to me today, that
he knew Hartung had reset my clock. He was prepared to chew me out
for blaming my problems on someone else. I suppose most people would
have. But I didn't claim a defense. It was my fault I didn't make
it. Hartung interfered with my plans but I could have planned better.
I could have asked someone to check on me or gotten more sleep. I
relied on the unreliable and took responsibility for my fuck up. I
see, now, that I was something rare, in the military and otherwise. I
had character. It is so rare, we barely recognize it, especially in
ourselves. When faced with character, the XO let me go. I already
had what he meant to instill.
My punishment was to stand for inspection twice a day (0800 and 2000)
over a four day weekend. Again, I made it into a game. I found out
just how close I could cut it getting from my girlfriends barracks in
civilian clothes to my uniform to the watch floor. By the time the
weekend was over, I had it down to tens of seconds.
Now, having made the character statement, I also recognize what my
company commander saw in boot camp. When all the leadership in the
company was called into the office and made to do push-ups as they
came in. I did four push-ups when one of the company commanders said,
"now, that is character," and had me stop. I've pondered that
statement for two decades. What did he see? I didn't see it. I
couldn't see the difference.
Now, I know. When I was told to do push-ups, I did them. I didn't
question it. I didn't ask why or whinge or complain. I didn't slouch
or huff. I just did the push-ups. Everyone else, as they came in,
resented the push-ups. They wanted to know why or what they had done.
To me, push-ups were part of why I was in boot camp. To everyone
else, they were a punishment and here they were a punishment
undeserved and thus resented. It has taken me 20 years to understand
that statement by my commander.
The question becomes, do I still have character? Can I display it in
this time of my adversity? I don't know. Can character be lost?
Have I lost it?