Chronicles of Chris Ch. 10-5

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At the end of Aviation Electronic School we were to get our orders on the day after graduation. I had done very well in the school. I was at the top or near the top of every one of my courses.

A Personnel Chief went through the room handing out packets. Once everyone had their packet we were permitted to open them. I ripped mine open and I saw right away that there was a problem with my orders.

(I know I keep reminding everyone that this was the seventies, but the fact that this took place in the seventies is germane to what happened. Enlistment was at an all-time low for the American military in the seventies. The result of that was that recruiters were empowered to make any kind of deal that they could with their recruits. The deal was then written into a contract between, in my case, the Navy and the recruit. I had asked for something very specific and my contract reflected that request. The contract was a legally binding contract and if the Navy didn’t fulfill it, then the Navy either had to find an acceptable solution for the recruit or give the recruit an honorable discharge.)

I was ordered to be, of all things, an instructor at the Air Side of Millington, the base across the street. While that was cool and all, I had joined the Navy to work on planes. My contract stated that I was to be assigned to a squadron in order to do just that. I pointed out the problem to the Personnel Chief and he told me to report to Personnel in the morning.

In the morning, they told me they had researched the screw-up and I had to make some choices. There would not be a billet to a squadron, anywhere, for at least three months. I could wait, but I would be back in the galley for that time. That was what the Navy preferred because the Electronics School was the most expensive for the Navy and they did not want to waste the training. That was the first decision I had to make and it was a no thank you for me. I wasn’t going to be in the galley any more than I had to.

The second choice was to pick a different school and then be assigned to a squadron at the end of the school.

The last choice was to take the honorable discharge. If I had been thinking with anything but an eighteen year old brain, I would have realized that I possessed an education for which the private sector would pay me huge money. I had received the education courtesy of Uncle Sam and was now free to walk away. If I had that decision to make today, it would be a no brainer. However, all I could think about was working on planes.

So, I sat down with the career choice book and looked through it, making the most informed, rational, strategic choice for my future that I could… I chose the shortest school at Millington so I would not have to move and be out the quickest.

I stayed at Millington for another four months and learned hydraulics and sheet metal for airplanes. I continued to see Marianne for the rest of my time there.

Once again, at the end of school I ripped open my orders. This time, I was assigned to a squadron in Boston. I was happy, I was going to work on planes and I would be near the ocean.

I said goodbye to Marianne and the last I heard she was happily fucking her way through a new set of recruits every six months.

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