The author recalls the joys of ……




By Jerold Wanek



During the late "50"s and early "60"s the Coast Guard had few if any schools for the aviation rates. Those going into Aviation Electronics were sent to NATTC (Naval Air Technical Training Command) Memphis.


When a student first checked in he or she was assigned to Yard Bos'n detail. That usually meant, if you were lucky, at least a couple of months scraping and painting before you were assigned to school. We Coasties had a scuttlebutt network that would make Ma Bell look sick.

The Coast Guard was paying the Navy for our education so of course the CG wanted us to start class as soon as possible usually within the first few days.  We had a Coast Guard YN2 who worked in personnel that had more pull than a Four Star Admiral.  If we got assigned to Yard Bos'n when we checked in, the scuttlebutt line would inform us to go see the YN2. After visiting the YN2 we were assigned to start class the next week.


We in the CG had the old steel toe boondockers.  The Navy boondockers had no steel toe, so we would spit shine ours while the Navy's were always wrinkled in the toe. A CPO stopped me in the hallway and proceeded to "Chew me out" about my boondockers, and not being in uniform.  I told him they were issued gear, to which he replied, "I've been in the Navy 22 years and I have never seen boondockers like those Etc Etc." When I told him I wasn't in the Navy but the Coast Guard all he could do was sputter. I could hear him mumbling under his breath as he walked down the hall, "Damn Hooligan Navy".   


We also found we could get away with wearing the most outlandish belt buckles we could find, (within reason of course). The Navy had to wear their plain brass polished buckles while we wore buckles usually with some type of CG markings on them. We got away with it by telling the

Navy the uniform manual for the Coast Guard didn't have anything in it about regulations for belt buckles.  No one in the Navy ever took the time to check it out. 


We Coasties always tried to find our way into "Zero Duty" status.  We did that by getting jobs such as mailman, "Flying Rifles Drill Team,” base choir, you name it.  If "Zero Duty" went with the job we took it. I had "Zero Duty" thanks to being in the choir.


I lost my "Zero Duty" for a few months as a result of a poor grade on a test. The short period I lost my "Zero" status was in the dead of winter. The Navy assigned watchstanders to nearly every building on the base.  It was outdoors duty, cold, wet, and miserable. A Chief and his Marine driver would play "games" with us. They drove down the road slow enough so we would be required to challenge them. They did it in front of every building so it got to be "old" after a while. One night the guy across the street and I saw the pickup coming down the road a few blocks away. We knew the drill. The pickup would be

Challenged. The  Chief or Marine duty driver would be ordered out of the truck to be asked a few questions, usually off their ID card, after answering correctly they would normally be allowed to proceed. It would take them about 30 minutes to go two or three blocks because they were challenged by every watchstander in front of every building. The sailor across the street hollered at me, " Watch this!"  When the pickup got in front of our buildings the watchstander across the street challenged them and got the Chief out of the truck. He then proceeded to ask the Chief different things on the Chiefs ID card. The Chief of course having been through the "Drill" before knew every dot and crossed "T" on his ID card.  At least he thought he did. How many of us remembered the serial number of the card it's self. The chief had left his jacket in the warm cab of the truck. The watchstander made the Chief stand in the cold drizzle for nearly 20 minutes before he released him. Just as quick as the Chief got into the warm cab of the truck, I did the same thing with the Marine driver. From then on, every time the pickup drove slow and was challenged by the watchstanders down the road. They sped up when passing our post so they wouldn’t be challenged.   


When it came to chow, the Coast Guard was paying the Navy for our meals so we ate with the Ship's Company instead of the students. As there were only about 20 Coasties on base, we "liberated" a couple of tables near the door as "Coast Guard only" tables.


Pity the poor Navy "Newbee" that sat at our tables. He was completely ignored in our conversations and nobody would pass him the salt. He soon got the Idea when one of us would pull out a miniature CG flag and put it in the center of the table.


The Navy frowned on dogs on the base, but there were two dogs that used to show up near the door during chow time. The dogs had learned that the Coast Guard table near the door always threw scraps of food to them. The Navy served canned hamburger to us once. I swear it was left over from the Civil War. We threw the dogs some of the hamburger. They sniffed at it and walked away without eating it. Those two dogs didn’t come back for three days.  


Navy Memphis was a lot of fun, especially when we 20 or so Coasties found ways to torment those thousands of Navy personnel and get away with it.  



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