by Bob ‘Dex’ Armstrong
Remember those old raggedy-ass Chiefs? One of those fellows who bunked in the goat locker, forward of the alley… One of those guys who ‘butt polished’ the mess deck benches and drank coffee during an ‘All hands, turn to…’ And from time to time, moved about to check on the after battery slaves to make sure:
(A) They were not parked on an after battery head, reading a dog-eared Playboy.
(B) They had not found a dark upper bunk in the forward room and sacked out.
(C) Had not hidden in the pump room, sonar shack or dry stores room.
They were one of the old ‘Dick Tracys’, who knew that the great unwashed animal pack was prone to hide bottles of illegal consumables in the maneuvering room cubicle, outboard engines one and two, behind the Navol monitor, and in the pit log well.
Being a Chief is a form of cannibalism… You return to make meals out of your own kind. After battery rats hear stories like,
“Hell, you should ‘a known ol’ Dutch back in ’52… We rode the USS Charley Tuna out of San Diego… Back then, the sonuvabitch was half nuts. One night, we were tossing off shots of Tequila and some fellow called ol’ Dutch a sewer pipe sailor and Dutch bounced him off a cinderblock wall and put him through a plate glass window…”
Dutch? The Dutch we knew drank a lot of coffee… Was the guy the exec sent to talk to you after you and two other members of the deck force had gone on liberty, ran out of money, climbed palm trees and peed on the Key West cop when invited to return to Earth.
The Dutch we knew could not have been related to the fellow who in 1955, rode down the main street of a village in Venezuela, buck naked on the back of a dairy cow, singing “I’m back in the saddle again…” They may have looked a lot alike but there was no way they could have been kin.
No sir, they remove all the hell raising genes from you before they make you a Master Chief.
But they are good folks to know when the local constabulary delivers you to the quarterdeck in a straw hat, your skivvies and flip flops, and you can’t remember which house of horizontal refreshment you left your whites hanging up in… And you need an advocate to translate your gibberish into some kind of believable bullshit the exec will buy.
Chief Petty Officers… Make that submarine qualified Chief Petty Officers, can turn bullshit into gold at a rate that would even amaze Bill Clinton. That’s basically what they do.
One of the questions on the Chief’s exam reads:
“You are in Guam… You are called to a local whorehouse where you find five non rated members of your crew holding off twenty members of the Air Force police with a high pressure fire hose. How do you convince the Air Force major that what these lads are engaged in, is in the best interest of the security of the United States?”
You have two minutes. You cannot use mind altering drugs or hand puppets.
When you’re out, you look back and remember the times you were dead ass broke and some raggedy-assed Chief slipped you enough for a couple of pitchers at Bells. Times when the cab driver dumped you next to a salvage air connection forward of the conning tower fairwater and the Chief paid him… Told you what an idiot you were… Walked you aft and dumped you down the after battery hatch.
If God had not created CPOs, the guys in Hogan’s Alley would have been forced to invent them. Many times, the only thing between you and ‘Walking the Plank’ was a Chief who had taken a buck naked ride on a bovine creature long ago in the South Atlantic.