Monday, September 18, 2017

Sky Pilots

"Sky pilots" is an old slang term for members of the military chaplain corps.

Chaplains were usually received direct commissions and were sent to Officer Indoctrination School. They berthed on the upper floor of King Hall in Newport, RI, over the floors assigned to OCS. OIS was pretty funny, as the students there marched in formation. They wore the ranks that they were commissioned into, ranging from ensigns to lieutenant commanders. When they marched, whoever was ordering the formation about (slang term was "driver") was under orders to salute all officers. It usually boggled the minds of the ensigns at Baby SWOS to receive salutes from lieutenants and lieutenant commanders, but that's the way it was.

Chaplains afloat were found on ships the size of cruisers and above, including tenders. They had one or two sailors to assist them, who were yeomen or personnelmen with the sub-designation of "chaplain's assistant". They got their own rate of "religious personnelman" (RP) in the late `70s, then became "religious programs specialist", or some shit like that. Navy chaplains also served the Marine Corps.

Chaplains weren't assigned to frigates and destroyers. Sometimes, a deploying task group would have a chaplain assigned to minister to all of the tin cans. That chaplain was supposed to spend a month or on each ship. On Sundays, if nothing overly intensive was going on, the chaplain would be ferried from ship to ship by the "Holy Helo", often a SH-2 or SH-3 that was on one of those ships. Those helo-ridering chaplains were typically sent out without RPs.

Chaplains were supposed to minister to all comers. Which meant that if there were a few Jews on a ship and Passover was coming up, it was the caplain's job to make it happen. On smaller ships without a chaplain, the senior person of each faith was given the collateral job of "lay religious leader" for that faith.

This is no shit: I was the Jewish lay leader for a ship. I was the only Jew aboard. So I had the word passed that "Services for the Jewish Sabbath will be held in Main Control." The XO went batshit. The CO thought it was funny.

This is also no shit: One of the helo-riding chaplains was such a worthless piece of shit that the first ship to host him got stuck with him, as none of the other ships would take him.Nobody on the first ship was very pleased about that. But they had to suck it up.

That ship was in port in Naples, Italy one fine summer afternoon. The chaplain was given a teletype radio message with his next set of orders. The orders were to the Marine Recruit Training Center in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

He was not pleased by the orders. He was less pleased at lunchtime when he walked into the wardroom; every officer stood up and began singing the Marine Corps Hymn.

The chaplain went to the navy base early the following morning to place a call to Washington to talk to his detailer. The detailer told him that the orders would not be changed, and that if he wanted to resign his commission, he was free to do so. The story was that he'd talk to his superiors in the church hierarchy, and was told that if he did resign his commission, he would be sent to a church that would make Camp Lejeune looks like New York City, in comparison.

He accepted his orders. Nobody that I knew of ever saw him again. We assumed that he was fragged and dumped in the swamp, somewhere.

Which was fine with everyone, for reasons that I'll tell another time.

Monday, May 15, 2017

"I'm So Proud Of My Spousal Unit."

So there is this person I know who is not in the naval service, but in one of those lesser services that aren't specifically named in the Constitution. That individual got an officer's commission and was recently promoted to first lieutenant. Said officer's spousal unit sent out online correspondence bragging about the promotion and "how proud I am of, etc, etc."

I don't know how it works over there, but in the Navy, being promoted to lieutenant, junior grade is damn near automatic. They did cut the time as an O-1 down to 18 months, at least for that service. It was 2 years back in the day and may still be for the Navy. One really had to fuck up to not make JG.

On my first tour, I was reviewing the records of a sailor who had just reported into my division. He had come straight from A school. The papers, from the recruitment station, we signed by an ensign who was in my OCS class.  The date of his signature was two months after he should've been promoted to JG. I guessed that he had to have done something especially henious in order not to be promoted (not to mention being kicked off his ship), but I didn't contact him to find out what it was.

Be proud of your spousal unit, but know that a promotion from O-1 to O-2 is basically the equivalent of a participation trophy. Spousal unit gets a little more money and is no longer a "butter bar," but that's about it.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Anchor Pool

An anchor pool was a form of a lottery. The organizer would take two sheets of paper that had grids of sixty boxes printed on them. On one sheet, he'd place a number in each box, from 00 to 59, as randomly as possible. He'd lay a sheet of carbon paper over that, and then fasten a sheet with blank boxes on top. One would often use a lot of staples or tape to ensure that nobody could wee the bottom sheet.

Then he'd sell the boxes, maybe a buck a box or, for high rollers, five or ten bucks a box.

The winner was determined by the time the ship dropped its anchor or passed over the first line or got underway. The winning number was the minute of the time that whatever event took place was entered in the Deck Log. The winner got half of the take. Those who had the numbers on either side got a quarter of the take.

They were called "anchor pools", but it could be any event that merited logging. Including the relief of a particularly hated commanding officer.

Anchor pools, of course, were gambling and were supposedly forbidden. But wise XOs turned a blind eye, so long as nobody was making a profit from them and the promotion of the individual anchor pool wasn't too blatant. Sometimes, official anchor pools were run to raise money for a charity such as Navy Relief. In that event, the charity got a piece of the action.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Nine Years In

Some of the posts (see the links in the menu to the left) seem to have been very popular at ISPs which are associated with training commands and such.

Not much else to say.