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Going farther … part 3 by thadeusz
This story is fictional, it is also the third part of "Going farther …”. The author strongly advise the reader to read part 1 and 2 first.
In part one, the young Frank Harmon joins, for the fun of it, the Naval Military Preparation (NMP) as a cadet as soon as he is 16 year olds. Unluckily for him, the Minister of defense decides to mobilize for 5 years all the NMP cadets. Since he is too young, he is first sent for a year to the Naval Apprentice School (NAS), and since he mentions that he does not like it, he does not receive a regular induction cut, but a "special cut” which is painful and leaves him with an awful head partially completely shorn and partially with irregular stubbles.
In part two, Frank Harmon describes his life in the NAS, the efforts he made to become a good Seaman and then the possibility he got to study further and get a high school diploma. Eventually, pushed by his Commanding Officer, he applies to the Navy NCO Academy and his rejected by the officers who forced him to serve the Navy despite his very young age, and that in the very beginning.
We find him here reacting to that non deserved punishment.
I did exactly what I had been ordered to do except for one detail: I asked LT Perel with whom I had always had good contacts to bring me personally to the brig and to be the officer who would lock me in, as an "au revoir”. The LT did what I had asked him to do, but before he closed the door of my temporary cell, he told me:
"Harmon, you don't deserve what's happening to you. I expect you to excel and to come back as an officer.”
I spent the rest of the day and the night in this cell and was transported early in the morning, handcuffed for no reasons, by two PO I did not know. They brought me to … the brig of the Arsenal. There, CWO Bartley, whom I had met during my forced enlistment, let me very rapidly free. He barked, as usually, his orders:
"Go immediately to the clothing warehouse and get a proper SR uniform. Immediately after that you will go to the barber and report to CPO Borkheimer who has special instructions for your haircut. PO Pollet will lead you where you have to go.”
I knew that I had no choice and obeyed these orders. A set of SR uniforms was already waiting for me, since they had all my measurements. I gave back my SA uniform and put on rapidly my new one, not really different except for the lack of signs placed on it, which showed clearly that I was a Seaman Recruit. It is thus dressed in this way that I reported to CPO Borkheimer, lead by a PO since I was "brig meat”.
I went to the barber shop and introduced myself to CPO Borkheimer, who had butchered my induction haircut, as "Seaman Recruit Mle 185.726/4 Harmon Frank”. The CPO reacted by saying:
"So that's the SA who has not been able to make Seaman after three years in the NAS ! Well you deserve a special haircut given by me. How was your haircut in the NAS, SR ?” (he used SR as an abbreviation for "Seaman Recruit”)
"Chief, on the basis of an order given by CAPT Quilton, this SR had his head completely shaved every week, Chief.” I was careful not to say "Sir” to a CPO !
"It was done by CPO Welnez ?”
"Chief, YES, Chief”
"And always completely and equally shaved on all parts of your head ?”
"Chief, NO, Chief. If this SR had misbehaved or studied badly, he automatically got an irregular and uncomfortable haircut, Chief.”
"And how come that your head is NOT completely shaven NOW ?”
"Chief, when this SR, who was then a plain SA, started his third year in the NAS, CDR Telnet instructed CPO Welnez to give this SR only a weekly short but not shorn haircut, Chief.”
In fact I knew what to expect from CPO Borkheimer, but I nevertheless tried to make as good an impression as possible.
"Well,” replied CPO Borkheimer, "apparently your behavior was not satisfactory when you appeared in front of the Jury and CAPT Quiltoçn gave the order to give you from now on an irregular haircut. Be seated SR Harmon, I will take care of it myself.”
CPO Borkheimer did what he had announced. He turned the barber's chair so that I could see every step of his nasty work. He took his clippers, pushed my head forward and started to shave parts of it. He then briskly turned my head and shaved more, but without guard. For other parts of my head he only used the scissors. He did all that slowly, except for the brisk moves he imposed to my head. He stopped from time to time, move one or two steps behind and asked a helper to give his advice about the disgusting battlefield my head was becoming. From time to time he asked me:
"SR Harmon, do you think this is the haircut CAPT Quilton had in mind?”
And I constantly replied:
"Chief, this SR is not able to know. He is only able to obey your orders, Chief.” This seemed to please the brute and after a certain time, about half an hour (but I still did not have a watch) CPO Borkheimer stopped his little game and told me to go where I belonged: to the brig, where I should remain until I was ordered to join other Seaman Recruits for my instruction. He nevertheless added that I had to come and pay him a visit every week, and that the cost of this haircut would be deducted from my pay.
As soon as I had received this disastrous haircut, bringing me 3 years back in time, PO Pollet brought me back to the brig where I was once again locked in a cell as punishment for a sin I had not committed, but I started to get used to this treatment in the Arsenal. It was the end of June, immediately after the NAS graduation.
I had to stay in the brig till the end of July, doing all kind of chores, waiting for my new comrades the "really new” SRs ! During that period of time I went every week, lead by PO Pollet, to the barber and CPO Borkheimer gave me a "special haircut”. In fact, I managed to behave as politely and as Navy like as possible. I always approved the stupid comments made by CPO Borkheimer who at the end stopped giving me a disastrous haircut, but simply a dreadfully short, really clean, induction haircut.
When the other SRs were inducted, I joined them. I was not yet 19 (two months short) and this was the average age for most of them. We trained during a period of 3 months. They had to adapt to Navy life and did not understand how I could possibly do it so naturally and easily, I did not explain. So nobody knew that I had spent three years in the NAS and that I had two high school diplomas. During that period I voluntarily kept visiting every week CPO Borkheimer who at the end became a friend.
When the graduation of our group of SRs came, we knew that some of us were not good enough and would be sent to a ship as SR. Nearly all the others expected to make the grade and become Seaman, which had the advantage of a higher pay scale. To our great surprise, I was one the "failing ones” and was thus sent "for my own sake” to my future ship as SR and not more. Nevermind, I had some money now and some days for a short leave which enabled me to visit my parents, buy a cellphone and a watch, in that order.
Two weeks later I reported to my ship where I expected to be reunited with my friend Peter. Peter was indeed present on the deck when I arrived, but he was now PO. He made it very clear that there could be no friendly relationship between him and "a failure like you” who after 3 years in the NAS and 3 months in basic training was still a simple SR. He showed me my sleeping place on the ship. He told me what my duties as deck SR would be and gave me the order to keep shaving my head every week "as suggested by CAPT Quilton” (the word CAPTAIN took, when pronounced by him, the flavor of ‘God Almighty').
I rapidly made good friends among the other crew members, at least among those who were SR or Seamen. You cannot do otherwise when you live 100% of the time in a tiny space, when you share the same small common room. They noticed that my routine as seaman was solid, that I knew the rules and applied them well. One of them asked me what crime I had committed during Basic to be still SR and not Seaman like most of them. He also asked me why I had to shave every week and then let PO Kemper (Peter's name) inspect my head and uniform. I decided to tell the whole truth to all the members of my group: it was not possible to keep living together otherwise.
PO Kemper (my unfriendly "friend” Peter) was very strict and kept punishing what he considered the "bad members of the crew”. Strangely enough, I was punished much more often than the others. PO Kemper sent me twice to what served as brig on a military ship: a very small cell placed at the very bottom of the hold of the ship. It was not a dreadful place and one did not have to work there. The seaman (or SR in my case) sent to this cell received only bread and water during his stay. The major disadvantage was that, according to some very old Navy security rule, a seaman sent to the brig had to wear a chain on his wrists and on his ankles, and this chain had to be attached to the wall of the cell.
Each punishment given by Peter Kemper was accompanied by a report transmitted by this PO to the ship commanding officer (CO). The reports concerning me kept mentioning that my behavior was bad and that I should remain SR or even that I should been sent, for my own good, to the Arsenal to start Basics again. I could not care less: I knew that I had a total of 9 years to serve, that the Navy had made me promises which were not kept, so my only aim was to reach the end of my contract and be able to leave the navy a free man.
After about 5 months of this regime, I was called to the CO's office and lead there by PO Kemper, my "friend” Peter, who seemed to be rather pleased. I expected a special punishment caused by Peter's nasty reports. When we arrived in the CO's office, we were surprised to see there another officer. PO Kemper did not know this CAPT, but I recognized immediately CDR Telnet, now promoted to the higher rank.
CAPT Telnet and the Commanding Officer of our ship were seated. I saluted both of them and started to introduce me as I had to, but the Commanding Officer of our ship stopped me saying:
"Harmon and Kemper, we know you both. At ease both of you.”
CAPT Telnet started to speak looking at me only:
"I am now commanding the NAS and the Arsenal. Harmon, I knew you when you were in the NAS. Since you arrived here you have been punished at least once a week. There is a short period during which you have not been punished at all, this corresponds to a leave of PO Kemper who was your friend in high school. This led your CO to review the situation. He asked other officers and POs to observe you during your work and all concluded that you work well and that you obey orders.” Then CAPT Telnet turned his head briskly and unexpectedly towards Kemper and went on: " So why has SR Harmon been punished so much by you, PO Kemper ?”
Peter did not know what to say and remained silent. Nobody said a word and after a few minutes Peter said:
"Sir, it was because this SR is not a good seaman, Sir. This SR tries to sabotage the work he is doing.”
"That's a lie”, interfered the CO, "and you know it. You have purposely made false accusations against SR Harmon. Why did you do that ?”
After a long time, Peter answered:
"Because I don't like Harmon”, and a long time after came the usual, "Sir”.
"Why don't you like this SR ?” asked CAPT Telnet.
"Sir, because he was always better than me at school. He did not want to join the Navy but I pushed him to go to the NMP”, then came a silence, "and I had heard that there were plans to pressgang all NMP cadets into the Navy, Sir”
"Did you want to join the Navy, Kemper ?” continued CAPT Telnet.
"Sir, YES Sir”, another silence, "and I thought it would be a good way to join”, another silence, "and it would teach a good lesson to that arrogant Harmon, Sir.”
I thought that Peter had really been a very strange friend, pushing someone who had helped him at school in direction that person did not want. But the questioning went on.
"Are these the reasons why you gave him all these punishments and made all these negative reports about him ?” asked the CO.
"Sir, YES Sir. And the fact that despite having to join the NAS as SA, he succeeded to get a high school diploma which I did not get. Not only one but two diplomas, Sir.”
CAPT Telnet spoke then very solemnly:
"Kemper, this proves that you are not worthy to be a PO. Those who promoted you made a mistake. It is my duty to suspend you with immediate effect. You will be treated as of now as SR and will be be detained in the ship's brig until you are brought back to the Arsenal where you will be formally judged. You will probably have to serve time in the Arsenal prison. Then you will start Basics from the very beginning and if your behavior is impeccable during what is left of your contract, or the extension the Military Court might impose, you might be allowed to reenlist, but that is not very probable. Go now to the brig but before that, have your head completely shaved like that of Harmon.”
Kemper saluted and left. He stood straight but it was clear that he was ready to cry. I saluted also, assuming everything was over now, and I turned in order to leave the CO's office and resume my work as SR. But the CO shouted:
"Harmon, you stay here. Nobody gave you the order to leave.”
So I turned again, wondering what would happen now.
CAPT Telnet asked me a very serious question:
"SR Harmon, you did not want to join the Navy at the start. How do you feel now ?”
Without hesitation I replied: "Sir, I am in the Navy for about 9 more years, so I decided that I would love it, Sir.”
"Good”, said CAPT Telnet, "prepare your things, you come back with me to the Arsenal and go as soon as possible to the NCO Academy. By the way, you are no longer SR but Seaman Harmon, with the pay grade associated with this rank. GO now.”
I did as I had been told. I stayed during a few months in the Arsenal where I had to work with the recruits, helping these SRs become good Seamen. Every week, I paid a visit to CPO Borkheimer who chose to give me personally a very decent haircut, and I always asked for a very short one. At the beginning of September, I started the NCO Academy courses. After 8 months, I graduated as best student. Marvin, who was now Warrant Officer Selnik, my real friend, gave me my stripes.
Marvin and I, both WO now, had two weeks leave and I used this time to visit my parents who received Marvin as if he was also their son. Marvin was dreadfully happy. When our leave ended, we reported back to the Arsenal. Marvin went to his ship and I reported to CAPT Telnet as ordered: he was supposed to give me my first assignment.
For the first time, and to my great pleasure, I introduced myself as "WO class 1 Mle 185.726/4 Harmon Frank” expecting to hear that I was assigned to a ship ready to leave. The projects of CAPT Telnet were rather different:
"Harmon, you will serve until the beginning of next school year as Assistant Teacher in the NAS. You helped very well your comrades when you were there, especially Selnik who would have remained Seaman or PO until the end of his career without your help. If you work well as Assistant Teacher you will then move to the Officer School: I made you study ‘Pure Sciences' for that precise purpose. You will have a room in the NAS, but there you know your way. LT Perel will explain you the ropes. Now GO!”
I went, I helped LT Perel as far as discipline and learning was concerned. I was working most of my time with young SAs aged 16 who simply wanted to become Seamen. I believe I did well, but it took most of my time. During my rare hours of liberty, I discovered the town in a totally new way. I met a girl there, Juanita, and we discovered that we loved each other, but for the time being I could not spend much time with her. Every week I paid a non forced visit to CPO Welnez who gave me a very short induction cut and my best beloved liked it.
In September, I was ordered to go to the Officers School and after three years of hard studies, at the age of 23, I became Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG). Both my parents came for the pinning ceremony. My friend Marvin was also present: he was now WO-class 2 for the Navy and a happily married man in his private life. This is also the day I proposed to my best beloved and she accepted. Of course, for that occasion, I had a fresh haircut made by CPO Welnez personally. CPO Borkheimer had accepted to honor me and be present during the ceremony.
I never heard details about the rest of my former friend Peter's Navy career. I only know that he was sentenced to 6 months Navy prison (not the brig, the real prison) and then sent back to Basic training. His first years as Seaman were canceled from his record and he had to serve as SR and then as Seaman during 5 years. More than that, I do not know.
Now I think that I really went much farther than anything my parents had expected for me.