bill_schubert

First Lieutenant

I was 26 years old when I graduated from OCS and was commissioned an Ensign.  Much like Ensign Pulver in 'Mr. Roberts' I was sent to a Reserve ship.  In my case it was not a support ship but was a World War II destroyer, USS McKean, DD 784.  Guns fore and aft and really a relic.  I was First Lieutenant, in charge of the deck force, the Boatswain Mates.  Swabbies.  We didn't talk a lot about Yeats and Sartre.  But that's a different story.  This one is about my first day.

I reported to the ship and was taken to the Executive Officer who gave me my first collateral assignment.  Officers typically have three or four collateral assignments in addition to their primary duties (in my case the primary was maintaining the exterior of a 45 year old ship, maintaining good order and discipline in the ranks of the sailors assigned, etc).  I was collateral duty legal officer having been through a two week school teaching the Unified Code of Military Justice.  Two weeks is plenty to be a lawyer, right?  I  was also in charge of tracking drug offenses and rehabilitation.  And, since I was the junior Ensign, I was in charge of setting up the projector for the evening's movie.  As we didn't get underway much this was not a huge thing to worry about.  Until we got underway.  Then it was a nightly chore.

But my first day the XO pulled me aside and told me that there had been an incident on the ship and I was responsible to follow up on the remediation.  The ship was moored at pier 91 in Seattle.  Pier 90 was where the Toyota car carrier came in and offloaded onto a parking lot the size of several football fields a huge inventory of cars.  Turns out the wind blows north to south some days.  Such as the day when someone decided it would be good to spray paint the hull.  One of the people in my division, in fact.  The small particles of Haze Gray paint created specifically for the Navy to adhere and coat and be part of the ship's skin for a year in foul weather also floated very well on the wind.

There was an army of summer employment kids whose job it was to ferry the cars from the end of the parking lot where so very many of them had received small barely noticeable dots of the Navy's finest Haze Gray paint to the area where their exteriors would be cleaned of the gray dots.  I was supposed to be sure that this operation actually happened and that Uncle Sam's money was properly utilized.  Which meant my walking over there in my brand new Ensign uniform and inspecting the operation.

Fortunately it went well.  The kids were happy to be employed and the rest of the port workers had seen a lot of things, pretty much shrugged their shoulders and just patted me on the head.  Fortunately it was the beginning of the Regan era and even Seattle was supportive of the Navy.

Personally I think they should have sold the Haze Gray speckled version of the Toyota Corolla as a high end specialty item.  Limited edition.  But they didn't ask my opinion.

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