Gitmo Two

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

Life in Gitmo

Gitmo Two


As a junior officer when dad was promoted to Ensign, he had many duties assigned to him. Pobably because because Gitmo was such a small base. It may have been small in square footage but it location was muy importante as we later found out. Guantanamo Bay Naval Station was the key to the gate in the Caribbean, guarding the entrance to the Panama Canal.


In addition to being the Assistant Administration Officer, Dad was the Postal Officer and the Barracks Officer. He was also the Discipline Officer. One of his duties involved screening violations of men put on report for infractions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice known as the UCMJ, like drinking on duty, falling asleep on watch or fighting in the barracks. Before violations can be assigned for a court-martial they must first go in front of a Captain’s Mast to see if stricter punishment is warranted.


Minor infractions that are not deemed severe enough for a Captain’s Mast could be dismissed with the completion of extra duties. Dad always had a warm spot in his heart for enlisted men. He was raised as a snipe or what they called a “Blackshoe.” A blackshoe is someone that serves aboard a ship usually below decks. Old Navy. An “Airedale'' is someone who is in the modern day aviation ranks.  A lot of Reserves were Airedales. Reserves, officers and enlisted were usually lax about the rules of the UCMJ.


Dad now wore a star on his sleeve. He was a line officer which meant he could command a ship. He demanded respect from those who served under him. If a man was a hard worker, Dad did his best to look out for him. In light of serving duty on such a small base, finding extra duty chores presented a problem. Sometimes he got creative in assigning extra duties. Instead of scraping paint or picking up butts, these new extra duty assignments meant babysitting chores for us, while he and Mom went to the Officer’s Club. “Smitty, Ski, Tommy, Blackie” were all nicknames, but everyone had a nickname, like Plaza the Pollock. I remember Mascowski. Ski always kept an unlit cigarette tucked behind his ear.  Bucky always kept a pair of dice in his pocket while Smitty and Tommy (for Thompson) always seemed interested in Mom’s “reserves” that she kept in the cabinet under the bar. 


We owe a lot to these guys. They came by after work to babysit. They showed us the ropes. Opportunities came to me first as the eldest. The things I learned I shared with my brothers. Wherever I went, the other two were right behind. If I was taught swear words then my brothers learned them too. If I could field dress a Navy issue Colt .45, so could they.  Dad always called us his striker’s but I think we earned our “crow.”


While our parents enjoyed a night out, our living room became a stage. Pretending we were manning .50 caliber anti-aircraft guns we reenacted World War II engagements just like we were there.  Whether it was Japanese Zeroes or planes from the German Luftwaffe, we shot ‘em down. 


 “Brrrrrroooow, brrrrooow.”  We would crawl through the upside down rattan furniture like it was a bamboo forest, sneaking up on a Japanese sentry, with a bayonet between our teeth. 


One minute we’re fighting hand to hand in the jungle, the next minute we were pretending to be in the conning tower of a sub, “Prepare to dive, Ahoooga!  Secure the hatch. Ahoooga.  Dive, dive, dive.  Up periscope.”


Each of these guys played a part in who I am today. You might think that having a male babysitter is strange but we never knew any different.  From the first night on, I knew that my brothers and I were in for a treat.


First and most important, we learned that in order to get along in the Navy you had to have thick skin. Like cussing, sometimes it was every other word. We learned to curse back. Since there weren’t any scheduled TV programs to pass the time, our new found friends would teach us things they thought we would need to know. 


Everyone needs to know how to field dress a Navy issue Colt .45, right? Weapons were commonplace in Gitmo. Not everyone carried a weapon but it wasn’t unusual to see a buckled holster or a rifle carried on a sling. One of the first things we were taught was how to disassemble and reassemble a .45 automatic. Nine pieces total including the clip. We would sit on our knees laying the parts in order in front of us. The barrel bushing is the first piece off and the last piece back on. Don’t forget the spring. Make sure that you don’t lose it. After we got good at it, someone would turn out the lights and we would learn to do it in the dark.


I was young, so were my brothers, but we were attentive learners. You could say that we soaked it up like a sponge. Some nights we would pretend we were sending signals with ping pong paddles to a landing plane on a flight deck practicing touch and goes. Some nights we practiced hand to hand combat using techniques that were taught to us by Smitty or Tommy, Ski or Blackie. Military brats,that’s what we were. There were some days that we were called a lot worse, deservedly so, but it was all part of growing up in turbulent times.

Submitted: April 15, 2021

© Copyright 2022 mike frailey. All rights reserved.

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mike frailey

I wish I could understand why the paragraphs took a mind of their own. I copied from Google Docs but it printed astray.

Fri, April 16th, 2021 1:41am

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