Basic blues

While going through basic training in mid-1954 at Bainbridge Naval Training Center, Md., our company commander, Gunner's Mate Chief Petty Officer Laurence Cruthirds, quietly awakened two of us in the middle of the night. After we dressed, he issued us a broomstick and two Coke bottles. He then marched us out to a nearby dumpster, where he posted me with the two soda bottles in the trash to watch for the enemy and challenge all who approached, and told the other man to take his "weapon" at right shoulder arms and walk around the dumpster "in a military manner."

After graduation, a few weeks later, I questioned the chief as to the purpose of that exercise.

"If I could trust you to do that ridiculous chore, I could then trust you to diligently watch over your sleeping shipmates when the danger was real," he said.

That is a lesson I have retained throughout my life.

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