OFFICER PACKAGE AND DRB; LAST DAYS OF APRIL 2004
The Navy had a program called ‘STA-21’ whereby enlisted men can catapult themselves to the officer ranks. They are required to file paperwork and submit themselves to a rigorous interview process. It’s the Navy equivalent to a lottery and if applicants are extremely lucky, they will be accepted into the program.
Realistically, only a small percentage of guys actually got accepted, but many sailors considered submitting a package a viable alternative to the servitude of enlisted life. I was one of the many.
Becoming an an officer was something I dreamed about since boot camp. I was attracted to the respect officers garnered — not to mention the fact that they don’t have to clean a goddamn thing. If there was one thing that I hated most about the Navy was all the bullshit cleaning projects that enlisted men were required to perform; Field Days and Focused After-Watch Cleanups. A commission was my ticket out of it all.
When a sailor reports for submarine duty he is immediately delinquent in your qualifications. He gets DINQ study and if far enough behind, like I was, he is subject to a Disciplinary Review Board. My DRB went horribly. The COB chewed my ass for about a half-hour and I immediately went back to my barracks room to pound whiskey on the verge of tears. It was my lunch, but I had very little intention of ever going back to that fuck-hole of a boat. When I did make it back to the boat — solidly intoxicated — I resumed painting the deck underneath the evaporator with Darko. He had an odd, but welcome sense of humor, so we shot-the-shit which lifted my spirits, but in the end, the damage had been done…
The next day, April 30th, I went to the career counselor and told him to pull my officer package. I felt that I didn’t have the full support of the command. It ended up being just another trail marker in my journey down the spiral into an enlisted-man’s despair. I had hoped things would get better, but the opposite happened. They seldom do…
I’d hit true rock-bottom for the first time, but no the last….
QUALIFIED SRW, MADE E-5, PLAYED A LOT OF GOLF
On Cinco de Mayo, the XO came over the 1MC and began to read the promotions. He got to the dudes that were being promoted to E-5 and I was only half-paying attention. I think I was reading the Plan-Of-the-Day when…
My name was announced!!
A few of the senior RC-Div guys were standing in the vicinity, cheering on their buddies who had just made rank. When I heard my name, I threw up my fist and shouted
The boys in RC-Div did the same in unison — immediately followed by looks of astonishment.
Assassin was the only other new guy that made E-5. He and I had made PO2 before all the rest of our NUB brethren, and we congratulated each other like brothers. I was on my way to being an actual useful body on the boat and it felt amazing!
I had stood my first Roving Watch just three days earlier. It was a big deal when you reached the point in your career where you were able to support the division by standing in-port watches. Your buddies could now leave the boat, get shitfaced and fuck some randoms while you were doing the job you were trained to do.
But in the Navy, things always turned into a shit-hill and pulled me back down to reality. That Saturday, I skipped DINQ study to go play golf at Turtle Bay for the EDMC’s birthday. I had a blasty-blast but found myself in deep shit come Monday morning for not showing at DINQ study. The EDMC, came up from behind me while I was enjoying a couple of slurps from the water fountain. He jammed his right fist right into my kidney… HARD!
It hurt like a bastard. Our EDMC at the time wasn’t a menacing man by any strectch. He didn’t look like the quintessential Navy Master Chief — but he had these bony little fucking hands that could pierce a kidney — and then you’d be pissing blood for a week after.
The next day, Tuesday, May 11, I put on my second-class crow and it was slight turn North in my Southern spiral in the Navy. Soon, I would be able to move out of the barracks and rent a place of my own.
That. Was. Huge!
I would be allowed to collect $1,400 in extra, tax-free pay specifically for housing. I was now able to exploit an opportunity to separate myself from the boat and form a semblance of a normal life.
This was a blessing yet a curse in disguise. While it was nice to kick it after work, physically removed from the Submarine Base, it also made it harder to commit myself to the job. I was more tempted to engage in behavior that the command frowned upon…