Punishment Deserved Escaped…Mid Summer 1965
After I had flunked out of electronics school, which is why I was at Treasure Island to begin with, since that’s where the electronics and radar schools were, I still had to be assigned by the Navy to something or some ship. I’d been volunteering for sea duty and Vietnam for months whenever the subject had come up so I was reasonably certain that wherever I went, it would be on a ship bound for Vietnam. Meanwhile, I was assigned to a duty barracks on the base.
The best thing about the duty barracks was that I knew the routine a little when I got there. I’d been at Treasure Island the year before and I’d shot up my hand immediately when, during my first muster, the CO had asked for volunteers who knew how to type. I’d taken a year of high school typing and knew that any job where you had to type had to be easy. I was half right because I spent a few weeks as the office typist for the base PX, the grocery store. Unfortunately, though being the main office worker was fine, I still had to join everyone out in the store and help with inventories at odd hours. And the first inventory was so badly done, we had to do it again. Not fun.
Anyhow, since I knew how the duty barracks worked, whereas most people there didn’t, I felt pretty secure when, the first muster after I’d been assigned there, when the PO’s asked for volunteers for various duties all over the base, I kept silent. Eventually, groups of people who had volunteered for various duties, like mess decks, or road work or the like, (another reason I didn’t volunteer this time was that there weren’t any good sounding jobs), would be called up as a group to give their names. I’d just hang back and sort of stand near them while the PO’s would be writing stuff down on their clip boards. Eventually, the group would march back up into the barracks to get ready for their work day. I’d just follow them inside and up the stairs to our dorms. I’d hang around for a few minutes, maybe change clothes, usually into my dress blues so it would look like I was heading off to a dental appointment or something, then I’d walk downstairs and out the back door. Since I wasn’t assigned to any work detail, I’d have the whole day free. I’d wander around the base, and since I was usually in my dress blues I wouldn’t get bothered too often, enjoying myself. Since I was still an official member of the drill team, I had a great place to hang out if I wanted. The drill team building was private, I had a key, there was a nice couch to nap on, magazines, coffee machine, TV but daytime TV wasn’t my favorite thing. I did spend time practicing my drills. It was like a vacation. I skated out of duty so often that I did get noticed by one of the guys, he called me ‘Super Skate’ because I got away with it every day. One evening he mentioned that he’d told some other guys about it and that I was famous. I wasn’t too happy about so many people knowing about what I was doing but couldn’t do much about it. Anyway, the next day, I followed my regular routine and drifted off to nowhere. That evening, as I walked into the barracks, the CPO behind the counter, asked me where I’d been all day. I’d made sure that I talked to lots of guys in the barracks about their assignments so I had many logical answers ready for him. He was a guy that seemed to spend more time sloshed then sober, and he’d usually start around 4 in the afternoon so it wasn’t that hard to convince him that I had been working on such-and-such a work detail. He told me that he would be watching me carefully from then on but I wasn’t that worried. When I went up to my rack, I railed on the guy, who, coincidentally also had the last name Morgan, that had told people about my ‘talent’ but he insisted that everyone respected what I was getting away with and no one would rat me out. I decided to lay low, so after the weekend I followed him on his work detail for a few days. Eventually, I grew tired of working so on Thursday, I skated off and hung out at the drill team barracks all day. When I passed the CPO’s office that night, he again called me over and read me the riot act for being missing. I had a ready excuse and logical explanation of where I’d been so he backed off after threatening to give me a Captains Mast. Then he tells me that he’d taken the liberty of assigning me to a mess deck detail the next day. I hated the mess decks. To hot, to much work, to many hours, to many jackasses ordering you around.
The next day, I muster out with everyone, I’m called by name up to the mess deck detail group and off I go as ordered upstairs to get ready. I’m determined to be a good boy that day and get all ready to actually go and work at the mess deck, much as I hate the idea. I do hold back and let everyone else that is assigned mess duty to wander off without me. I knew how much time I had and used every minute to screw off.
Finally, I wander up the stairs and into the back of the kitchen. There is a red cross truck parked there with it’s back door open and racks of donuts just sitting there. Oh, yeah, I remember something about a blood drive that weekend so this must be part of it. So, I decide to go ahead, take a chance, and skip out of work anyway. I grab a bag of donuts just as a PO walks out of the kitchen. He immediately asks me what the hell I’m doing. I answer that I’d been over at the blood drive, the officer in charge (and I used an officers name here) had gotten tired of waiting for the donut truck to arrive so had sent me over to get a bag while he waited for the truck. The guy looked at me suspiciously, asked me a couple more questions, seemed satisfied with the answers and hands me another couple bags of donuts. Why he didn’t just call the blood drive people I’ll never know. But he didn’t so I walked out of there with 3 bags of donuts. I headed over to the drill team barracks, made some coffee, enjoyed a few donuts and took a nap on the couch.
That evening, I started to think about the possibility of getting in trouble so I headed back to the mess deck and tried to go to work. The CPO asked me where I’d been and I told him I’d been helping with the blood drive as ordered. He seemed to think that was cool so I finished my shift at the mess deck by setting up the tables for the evening meal.
After the shift was over, I headed back to the barracks and as soon as I walked in the CPO spotted me and started yelling at me, telling me he knew I hadn’t been at the mess decks working as ordered, hadn’t been to the blood drive as I claimed, etc., etc. I knew the jig was up and that I’d probably end up in the brig for disobeying a direct order from a superior officer and all. Little beads of sweat formed on my head as he was screaming at me for what seemed like an hour. Finally, a glimmer of hope…he is still yelling at me but says something that I catch, “…and if you hadn’t gotten your orders today, you’d be heading for the brig right now!”. YES! My orders came in! The CPO had been in Korea during the Korean war and knew I was heading to Vietnam so decided to go easy on me. Even after I’d screwed with the system while he was watching. He had every right to send my ass to the brig. I had shown a whole lack of respect for military orders.
But this time, he was going to let me go, there would be a taxi waiting for me after I packed, he says, so, he tells me, go get packed and be back down here in 30 minutes. I ran upstairs, changed quickly, and stuffed my stuff into my duffel bag. All ready to go, I head downstairs and thank him for letting me off. I didn’t exactly confess to what he’d accused me of, but kind of. I had to respect him for taking a chance and letting me go. That’s when he tells me that my orders put me in Vietnam by January and he didn’t want me to have to go to jail for a few weeks over skipping out of mess deck duty when I was heading to war. My respect for him skyrocketed.
The military taxi arrives and I walk out into the rain and get in the cab for the ride to the airport…mentally exhausted from telling so many lies that day. It’s hard being a ‘Super Skate’, and I decided then and there to use my talents for better things.