USCG Training Center, Cape May, N.J.
October 9, 1952 to February 8, 1953
Reveille: “You can’t get’em up,
“you can’t get’em up,
“you can’t get’em up in the morning!”
The bugle that had sounded so mournful playing taps the night before was now loud and raucous… just the way it was meant to be.
“Reveille!” Walking the aisle between the two rows of bunks, “Reveille!” Clanging a truncheon from bunk to bunk, “Reveille!” Boatswains Mate Third Class Gustand called, “Reveille! Drop your cocks and grab your socks! Reveille!”
Jarred awake. Shove your pee erection back into your two-snap, slightly snug, U.S. Government issue skivvies and, holding your towel and toilet kit in front of your crotch to hide it, rush to the head.
Civilians, the Army and the Air Force have washrooms, bathrooms and toilets. The Navy, Marines and Coast Guard have “heads.”
Stand in front of the communal urinal straining against your full bladder, and as badly as you have to make, it seemes an eternity until, finally, red-faced from straining, you do.
Wait until there’s an opening in the long row of sinks and brush your teeth, wash and shave.
Uniform of the day: dungarees.
Thirty minutes from reveille: “Fall in! Hustle! Fall in outside!”
Slattery, Monroy and Boatswains Mate Third Class Gustand stand at ease, waiting for the formation to form.
Wearing pea coats over their dungarees, caps at precisely two finger-widths above their eyebrows, as they had been taught the day before, the breath of the fifty boots came in white plumes on the early morning, frigid air.
“Tench hup!” Faces, red from the cold, stared straight forward. “Dress right dress! Tench hup!”
“Left, face! Forward, harch! Hup, two, three, four! Hup, two, three, four!”
Drill: “Hup, two, three, four! Left shoulder, arms! Hup….”
Semaphore: “B! No”—not having the sense of humor of Monroy, to Boatswains Mate Third Class Gustand it was—“Lipensky, the right flag is at nine o’clock and the left at six! Okay. Now C. That’s it; right at eleven, left at six.”
The men of Company Seven considered Chief Petty Officer Slattery the personification of the salty Coast Guard lifer, and without realizing, the more impressionable began to take on some of Slattery’s characteristics: the way he held his body; the way he walked; what, and how he smoked.
The “Hava Tampa” is a thin cigar held in a wooden mouthpiece. When lit, the tobacco gives off the sweet odor of chocolate-covered orange peels.
Within a week of first seeing Slattery smoking a Hava Tampa, more than half the men in the barracks were smoking Hava Tampas, and they smoked them held at the far corner of their mouths, with the wooden mouthpiece clamped between their teeth, just as Slattery did, and in barracks 7, the harsh odor of cigarette tobacco had been overcome by the sweet smell of chocolate-covered orange peels.
Drill: “Hup—two—three—four! To the rear, harch! Hup…”
Knots: “Yeah, La’pinsky, over and under, now the running end goes through the loop. Yeah! That’s the way to make a running-bowline.”
Drill: “Hup—two—three—four! Right shoulder, arms! Hup…”
And a week later, KP again.
Drill: “To the rear, harch! Column left, harch! Hup…”
And a week later, guard duty again.
Drill: “To the rear, harch! Left shoulder, arms! Hup—two—three—four! Hup…”
Rowing: “Pull them fuckin’ oars! You’re pullin’ like a bunch’a pussies! Come on, Lippy, give it some muscle! Stroke! Stroke!”
The days occupied his mind… But the nights found him lonely, and in his loneliness his mind went to Susan. Having no outlet for his feelings, finding he had a penchant for poetry, Mitchell became the poet of barracks 7, writing corn-ball poetry for his shipmates to send to their girlfriends or wives… at a dollar a throw.
Drill: “Hup—two—three—four! Hup—two—three—four! Hup…”
Calisthenics: Fifty push-ups… Two laps around the field… “Come on, you can make it up that fuckin’ rope! Use the knots! Use the god-damn knots! You got it! Good work, Lippy.”
Drill: “Right shoulder, arms! Left shoulder, arms! Hup! Hup!”
Morse code: “Dash, dot, dash! Not dot, dash, dot! Come on, Lippy, use your fuckin’ head.”
Drill: “Left oblique, harch! Right oblique, harch! Hup…”
“Drill! Fuckin’ drill! Is that all we ever do around this fuckin’ place? What the fuck are we, the Coast Guard or the fuckin’ infantry?”
Lifeboat drill: “Come on! Even up on them davits! Soboleski, you’re spillin’ the fuckin’ passengers into the fuckin’ ocean! God-damnit, Lippy, even up on that fuckin’ line!”
“Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!”
“Bend them elbows! Straighten them bodies! Come on, you fuckers! You ain’t no bunch’a fuckin’ pussies! You’re the U.S. Coast guard!” And, “Yeah you can do a hundred pushups easy! Damn it, Lippy, get your ass outta the air!”
(A "Becoming" Excerpt)