For Rich Bishop, reporting to basic training for the US Navy was reminiscent of Dorothy leaving Kansas and ending up in Oz. The transition from civilian to navy life overwhelmed Bishop. In Nuts to Butts, he narrates excerpts of his twenty-two-year career-from basic training to retirement.
In this memoir, Bishop tells of meeting a wide assortment of people and the problems they brought with them. He shares the good and not-so-good times of serving in the fleet, including dealing with the loss of privacy, becoming a team member, and keeping US warships in mission-ready condition and the crews in shape to play the mental games required in an examination- and deployment-laden schedule. Nuts to Butts describes living through basic training, working in the scullery of an aircraft carrier, serving duty as shore patrol, visiting exotic ports of call for liberty, climbing a plateau with shear vertical sides in Sri Lanka, living on the naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and making night dives among the sharks.
Bishop provides keen insight into the life of a sailor, delivered with humor. He not only fondly remembers his service, but preserves the stories for all.
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.50(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Nuts to ButtsAnecdotes from a Career in the US Navy
By R. W. Bishop
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 R. W. Bishop, USN (Ret)
All right reserved.
Chapter One"We're not in Kansas anymore."
Oath of Enlistment
I,_____, do solemnly swear(or affirm)that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God. (Military.com, 2011)
My navy career really began on Thursday, August 7, 1969. That is the date my mother drove me the sixty-some miles from Pinckney, Michigan, to Fort Wayne in Detroit to get my enlistment physical and sign even more papers. We had to be at the fort by five in the morning. We had to get up and out of the house by zero dark thirty to make the deadline, which I now know to be "oh five hundred hours." I had no idea what to expect and did not want to be late and piss them off on the very first day. After all, I had copies of my official orders in my possession. The orders I had were signed by representatives of the president of the United States. Richard M. Nixon held that position that summer. Surely these were nothing to sneeze at. National defense was probably at stake, and if I was late I would miss the boat. Mom had the situation under control, and I got there with time to spare. Was she trying to get rid of me? She parked the car along the curb a short distance from the entry point that I was supposed to use, and I got out. I showed my official orders to the Military Policeman, the MP, at the gate and was admitted onto US government property for the first time.
As I reflect back on the day of my physical, I remember that Fort Wayne was not in the most secure area of Detroit. While I was jumping through hoops set up by the examining board, which included bending over and spreading my cheeks (did I really see them use a flashlight), my mother had the unenviable task of waiting in her car on the street all by herself. She was the only person waiting along the curb. Throughout the day my mind kept returning to wondering about her safety. My day at the fort was going to be from six to eight hours. She would spend that entire time reading a book in the car, and in the middle of an August heat wave. Though I did not know it at the time, my worries were taken care of when the MP at the gate walked over to our car and invited her to park next to the gate house in the Official Vehicle spot. He told her he would feel more comfortable with her nearer him than down the street where he could not keep a good eye out for her. He must have left his post to do that. I do not know who that guy was, or whether he was a marine or a soldier. As I made it through my career I built a list in my mind of people who have done something that has helped me in some way without reward. I have silently thanked them from the bottom of my heart and on too numerous of occasions for being there and doing what they did without asking for a favor in return. That unknown MP on the gate at Fort Wayne, Detroit, was the first person on my "Thank God for Being There" list. There would be more.
The day of my examination was the first glimpse I had that I was not in Kansas anymore, or in my case Pinckney, Michigan. I had been in the high school locker room plenty of times and had seen and showered with naked guys before. This was a different scene, however. I had never seen so many different races, ethnicities, and international heritages or backgrounds. This was also the day I learned the painful truth, that I was not as well-endowed as I had always thought. Toto, we were definitely not in Kansas, anymore. During the day I acted in my very best Silent Cal mode, referring to President Calvin Coolidge (1923–29). My interaction with the masses around me was limited by some advice given to me by a friend of my older brother who had served in the navy. His advice was to keep your mouth shut, pay attention to people around you, and do not trust anyone until you know them well enough, and then still be very cautious. That was good advice that I have used many times in my life since then, and it has never let me down.
Another learning experience happened when we were taken to the chow hall to eat lunch or chow down, slop grits, fill the old pie hole, or any number of other euphemisms. Remember that it was a hot day outside. It was pretty hot inside the chow hall too. Large fans with blades that had to be at least three feet across were located strategically around all the tables in the hall. These fans were just blowing up a storm while we were trying to eat what I think were fish patties. Only one per person, please. The lesson I speak of came after I sat at my assigned seat. I was trying to keep my napkin from flying off the table when, I swear this to be true, my fish patty actually flipped over on my tray. Luckily it stayed on the tray, although I would have probably eaten it anywhere it landed. The lesson here was be prepared for anything in a military chow hall. That does not actually apply to air force dining facilities. That is right; I did not call it a chow hall. Air force dining facilities are in a league of their own. If you ever get the opportunity to dine at one, do not pass it up.
In the future I would be reminded of this fish patty incident on those occasions when the ship served meals on the helicopter landing deck (helo deck). They called it a steel beach picnic. It was usually held on a Sunday afternoon. Crew members could wear pretty much what they wanted, for instance, cutoffs and T-shirts. Many guys brought up their boom boxes for music. Some played basketball or tossed a ball, among other activities. The ship's cooks grilled burgers and dogs along with the appropriate condiments. It all sounds like fun, and it was a nice gesture by the ship to try and bring the beach party feel to midocean. However, it is very hard to eat outside with what seemed like a 40-knot wind across the deck. The local sea life got its fair share of potato chips on these days. Paper plates, plastic utensils, napkins, and lettuce never had a chance. Like the fish patty in the chow hall, everything loose blew over the side.
At some point during the day we were given hearing tests. These tests are probably fairly standard around the nation. Eight to ten people are placed in a big soundproof box with four to five stations on each side. Everybody in the box sits at a station and dons a headset. Various tones are fed to each person through the earphones, and they react as directed when the sound starts and stops. When you first hear a tone you push a handheld button and hold it until the sound disappears, and then you let up on the button, signaling an end to that cycle. The tones continue to come and go in each ear until all testing tones are done. When the hearing test is complete you are removed from the box, and another group goes in. It is all done with military precision.
Once you are out of the box the corpsman does a cursory look at the computer card that represents your hearing test graph, and if it looks good he places it in your file, hands the file to you, and off you go to the next physical indignity. If there are any problems with the card or if you appear to have a hearing deficiency, then you are returned to the box for a retest using the same card with a different color ink to make the second graph. The guy next to me had such a problem. He had been through the test before me, with me, and then was going after me. There would be at least three different colors of graphs on his card. After he was in the booth for the third time and we moved to the next part of the physical, I thought I would not see him again.
I could not have been more wrong, however. Since some tests are time sensitive, he would pop in and out of our group in between hearing tests. Every time I saw him again he had additional colors on his card. At the time I figured he was just stupid, and it was cracking me up. But having spent many years not in Kansas anymore, I realize that he may have been trying to fail the physical because he had been drafted. Being from Pinckney, I was naive enough to think we were all there voluntarily. But, Vietnam was going hot and heavy at that time, and draftees would most likely go to the Southeast Asian paradise. I look back from a present-day vantage point, and I do not blame him.
It turned out to be an interesting day, all-in-all. I had been physically examined twenty-six ways from Sunday. I now knew what it was like standing naked in a roomful of men from all walks of life and morals. Certainly there were men with criminal pasts. Most people have heard stories of judges giving an option at sentencing of military service or jail. It seemed apparent to me that a few of the guys in line were there because they opted out of a jail lifestyle. A number of them had what I thought were gang tattoos. Some congregated in small groups, talking among themselves and cautiously watching the others around them. If there had been a clique that I fit into, I would have joined them in a heartbeat.
Personal hygiene was not at the top of the things-to-do list for quite a few of my fellow enlistees. That would probably change dramatically when they got to basic training. As I looked around at the group I wondered how some of these guys would make it in the military. I also wondered how some of them got that far in the first place. Included in this mass of people were those with many differing temperaments. Talk about a wide range of mental acuity, there were guys who were talking to themselves, and sometimes having arguments. Others were wide-eyed and appeared as though they would "go postal" at the drop of a hat. I mean no disrespect to the employees of the United States Postal Service; they do a fine job, in my opinion. However, there has been enough trouble at post offices nationwide by postal employees that the phrase "go postal" has taken on a definition of its own. So, I use it here to make a point.
On the other end of the personality spectrum, some guys looked as though they had just been delivered by the family chauffeur and were all dressed up in their Sunday best. Clearly some of these men were from well-to-do families. It was like a Hollywood film featuring the young rich kid sitting next to the homicidal maniac who is waiting for a chance to beat or kill someone for the guys back home. And, of course, there were the types like myself. I was pretty close to perfect (of course, that is my take on it) but lacking in some respects. They had come from nameless little villages in Michigan, Ohio, or other locales in the Great Lakes area.
After the first day's events we were sent home to await orders directing us to report. On the way home mom and I discussed what I had been through that day and what the future held for me. She was glad I had joined the US Navy because the odds of going to Vietnam were slimmer than they would have been if I had joined the US Army. Although the conversation was light, the fact that I was leaving home for good weighed on both of us. I am sure she was worried that one of her babies was leaving the nest. As for me, I was just plain worried. I wondered if I had made the right decision in entering military service. Would I have what it takes to make it? Fear of the unknown was eating at the two of us. We went home and returned to our daily lives and waited. The weather was perfect that year from the day of my physical until the day I reported for basic training. It was like having two separate summers to me.
During the period between the physical and the report-for-active-duty date, I conducted a lot of self-reflection on my life. Where was I coming from, where was I going, what were my goals? At the ripe old age of eighteen I really had no goals to speak of. The last two years of high school were not my most stellar. My folks were divorcing, we made a major move from Southern California to Michigan, and, to be truthful, I was the typical teenager who thought he knew everything. Of course, I really did know more than most people. These were tumultuous years for me, and I needed to get away from it all. So, in the summer of 1969 I made the fateful decision to join the navy. Trust me when I say that joining the US Navy certainly got me away from it all.
Going for a college degree was never an option for me in those days. To be certain, there was no money for that type of expenditure. However, given the last two dismal school years I had just completed, additional schooling would have been a waste of time and resources. I was definitely not interested in any more schooling. Imagine how surprised I was when the first thing the US Navy did after I completed basic training was to send me to an "A" school in Great Lakes, Illinois. Each rating, in my case Electrician's Mate, has schooling available. Class "A" school would be the beginners in that rate. Class "B" and Class "C" schools are follow-up classes for the more knowledgeable sailors from the fleet. I would eventually get a college degree, but that would have to wait until I retired from the navy.
The choice of armed forces branch to select was never a question for me. My father spent time on the submarine USS Seahorse (SS-304) in the South Pacific during World War II, and my brothers and I got a good dose of navy stories while growing up. I have developed a few sea stories during my own career to tell my descendants too. In addition to my father's service, two of my uncles had also served in the navy during the war, and another uncle flew with the Army Air Corps until he was shot down and ended up spending time as a prisoner of war (POW) with the Germans. I can only guess what that must have been like. My older brother before me had attempted to join the military a few times but was not approved due to health issues. Joining up and serving the country was almost a rite of passage for me. Later my younger brother would serve a few years too.
On the November day we actually departed for basic training in Great Lakes, Illinois (GLakes), the weather across the area was clear and very cold. Again my mother had to get me to Fort Wayne at some ungodly hour in the morning. On this trip, however, my two brothers were with us. There would be no need for mom to stay that day. In the predawn darkness I said my good-byes to the family, got out of the car, and started walking toward the gate. As an afterthought I turned around and told mom to "have supper ready when I get home." I guess it must have sounded pretty cool at the time. There I was leaving home for the first time, and I probably thought a flippant remark would seem macho. It was not macho I was feeling in the pit of my stomach. Just so you know, supper was ready for me when I returned from boot camp. Actually it was a big party with all the fixings. The "hero from boot camp" had come home.
After that brief remark I turned and, without looking back, walked through the gate. The minute I was on post I started to get another uncomfortable feeling in my belly. What was I getting myself into? Everything I could see from the gatehouse was cold, dark, and unwelcoming. The family that I had felt, as a teenager, I no longer needed, had gone. I was now alone to make it or break it on my own. I had no idea what the future held, but I was facing it on my own terms.
Excerpted from Nuts to Butts by R. W. Bishop Copyright © 2012 by R. W. Bishop, USN (Ret). Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. "We're not in Kansas anymore."....................1
2. "You're STUPID!"....................16
3. "Your nose to the hose."....................27
4. "They're such pussies!"....................35
5. "Stay in the shop."....................41
6. "Not another paint job!"....................51
7. "Someone has to stay and serve on the East Coast."....................54
8. "Bishop, canary suit, pronto!"....................59
9. "I could snap your neck ... no one could stop me!"....................63
10. "Hey, I stepped on his Corfams!"....................69
11. "Bees? You've got to be kidding me. How big are they?"....................76
12. "I think we should get out of here, tho'."....................81
13. "Onboard, on duty."....................89
14. "You've got the handcuffs on upside down!"....................94
15. "The navy only made you an E-7 ..."....................99
16. "Ya know how to make a shark disappear?"....................108
17. "I have the technology; I've just chosen not to use it!"....................117
18. "No, ma'am, they didn't. We can eat anythingon the table."....................122
19. "Hey, Bishop's got mail!"....................128
20. "Those Chiefs are going to kill me ..."....................136
21. "Now there's an odd duck, if I've ever seen one."....................139
22. "You won't have Dick Bishop to kick around anymore!"....................148
My favorite verse from the "Navy Hymn"....................153
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was great, enjoyed the humor and learning the other side of the story. S. Crawford
This is a great read, chuck full of similar memories from my own navy career. Nice to remember all the good and not so good times of one’s military life that this book brought back for me. This is great reflection of one’s service to his country and way to pay homage to all those women / men that have done the same. Richard super job “BZ”. Bob Bullen LT /SWO /USN Ret.