USCG Training Center, Cape May, N.J.
October 9, 1952 to February 8, 1953
A handsome man, well over six feet tall, at thirty-nine years of age, Chief Petty Officer John Flattery had prematurely gray hair, light blue eyes, a ruddy complexion and, unless crossed, an extremely likeable disposition… and he immediately became the father figure to a number of the new recruits.
“I’m the boss here! But when I’m not around,” jerking his thumb towards the man in the jeans, “this is Gunners Mate Second Class Monroy, and he’s the boss.” Tapping the edges of the thirteen envelopes on the palm of his hand, he studied the ragtag line of men from one end to the other, then, “Carry on, Gunny.” Turning, allowing the door to slam shut behind him, Slattery went into the barracks.
“Like the man said, I’m Gunners Mate Monroy…” Tall, with a deep commanding voice, “and for the next sixteen weeks I’m going to be your training office. While here on base, when you talk to me you’ll address me as Sir. If you should run into me ashore, my name is Monroy. Remember that! The Chief, to you boots, is always Sir… We know you haven’t eaten since last night, so we’re going to get some chow now, then you’ll draw your gear.” Jerking his thumb over his shoulder, “Stow your bags on whatever empty bunk you find. Permanent berths will be assigned later.”
If not for the white, rather than olive-colored blankets, the interior of this barracks was almost exactly as Mitchell remembered Camp McCoy.
“Hustle it! Fall in!”
The group was marched, more or less, to the mess hall where they had fresh orange juice, scrambled or sunny-side-up eggs, pork sausage or bacon, toast, a choice of three jellies, and coffee or milk… Very unlike what Mitchell remembered of Camp McCoy.
Finished eating, the thirteen were marched, more or less, back to the barracks where they were issued bunks that had not been assigned to the recruits that had arrived on the previous day, that at this time were in the field doing drill.
Noticing the name printed on the adhesive tape on the frame of the bunk next to his: Schwartz, Michael J. Could be Jewish, Mitchell thought. That would be nice.
Motioning to the open space between the foot end of the two long rows of bunks, “Fall in! As of now,” Monroy said, “and for the term of your enlistment, civilian time is officially over. From now on you will run on Coast Guard time only! And when I say fall in I mean drop whatever the fuck you’re doing and fall the fuck in!”
The military disease, the “fuck” disease, as Mitchell well remembered of Camp McCoy, also ran rampant at the U.S. Training Facility: Cape May, New Jersey.
The balance of the morning was spent at the quartermasters.
Mitchell was issued six sets of underwear: T-shirts and boxer shorts—that he had always hated because, used to the snug feel of Jockeys, boxers always made him feel as though his penis were dangling—six pairs each of black and white socks, ten handkerchiefs—that felt as though they were made of stainless steel—the large, silky, black neckerchief that was to be worn with winter and summer dress uniforms, one set of dress blues and one set of dress whites—the bib front, 13-button, bell-bottom trousers had been out of issue for years, but were allowed and could be worn once out of boot camp, if one were willing to pay a civilian supply house—three sets of denim jeans and chambray work shirts, one pair each of black, dress, and work shoes, blue and white web belts with plain black buckles—brass buckles with the Coast guard emblem could be purchased at the Post Exchange and were allowed to be worn—a white sailors cap, a blue knit watch cap, a pea coat, a white ditty-bag to hold dirty laundry, and a large, blue sea-bag to hold everything.
The clothing, unless the recruit knew his sizes—Mitchell had still relied on his mother to buy, at least, his underwear—was issued through the practiced eye of the Quartermaster.
Later, as he began to wear his issued clothing—except for the boxer shorts, which were slightly snug in the waist—Mitchell was surprised at just how well everything fit.
At the end of the line a stencil was made with his name—last name first—and his serial number.
In barracks 7 again, Gunners Mate Second Class Monroy was showing the men how their gear was to be stenciled—in indelible white ink on the dark clothing and indelible black ink on the white clothing—when the original thirty-seven men of Company Seven, wearing watch caps, jeans, chambray shirts and pea coats, each carrying a Garand, M1 rifle, marching from the drill field at 1145 hours, was led into the barracks by a thin, pockmarked sailor with one red chevron on his sleeve.
“Tench-hupp!” Monroy called the company to attention.
The day-old recruits, plus Mitchell—having prior military training—“snapped to.” The twelve others sluggishly came to attention.
“For you new men, this here’s Boatswains Mate Third Class Gustand, and he’s my assistant. You can call him Sir, or you can call him Boats, Sir.”
Gustand nodded his head at the new men.
“In case you’re wondering,” Monroy went on, “about ‘siring’ and saluting non-commissioned officers; it’s only for the duration of your training here. Once you’re out of camp you don’t salute us,” nodding towards Gustand, “and you don’t ‘sir’ us! But while you are here, anyone that’s got more on his sleeve than you rates a sir and a salute. And you’ll notice that none’a you fuckers got shit on your sleeves. To make things real easy for you,” looking at the new men, “just remember that you fuckers are lower’n whale shit, and you all know where you find whale shit!” Now looking at the men that had arrived from the field, “don’t you?”
“Yes, Sir, Gunners Mate, Monroy, Sir!” the thirty-seven “old timers” yelled in unison. “At the bottom of the ocean, Sir!”
“And there’s nothin’ lower’n whale shit! Is there!?”
“No, Sir, Gunners Mate, Monroy, Sir!”
“You’re right! … Fall in for chow!”
(A "Becoming" Excerpt)