Friday, August 16, 2013

Boat School Sea Story - "Sir"


When Barker jumped to his feet and assumed a position of attention, so did I. There was no need to look behind me for the danger that had just entered his room on 4-0. To do so would have exhibited a lack of discipline, and a questioning of Barker’s judgment.

“Sir, Midshipman Fourth Class Phillips, nine two five seven eight seven, Twenty-Third Company, First Platoon, Third Squad, Beat Army, Sir!” I yelled in near unison with Barker’s own ‘sounding off.’

“Mr Barker, how are you?” I heard in a distinctive southern drawl. I knew from the voice that Marine Corps First Sergeant Halifax was in our midst. The first sergeant was our Battalion Senior Enlisted Advisor, and guided the entire Plebe Regiment through drill during Plebe Summer.

Now it was fall, we were approaching our first set of finals and Barker and I were already sinking. Halifax cared for not just all Plebes, but all midshipmen within the Brigade, but he especially looked out for prior enlisted Marines like Barker. My classmate spent a few years in fleet before coming to Annapolis, much of it as part of the Marine Corps detachment onboard the battleship USS New Jersey.

Prior enlisted mids definitely had a leg up on their peers, especially military-wise. I had made a plastic model of the New Jersey as a kid. Barker had served on the iconic ship. But now we were in the same boat academically. Somehow Halifax knew this...the way all senior enlisted know what is going on with their charges.

“Really? Everything is copacetic with you two?” he said now including me in the conversation.

We are both struggling with grades, First Sergeant,” Barker admitted. “We are trying to prep for finals and are both sweating it.”

“You are going to do fine. I know you are taking all the right steps to succeed, extra instruction and all that. Hell, you are here on a Saturday afternoon to put in the needed will make it.”

“I will, First Sergeant, but sometimes I think I will be ranked dead last,” Barker said dejectedly.

“That may be, Mr. Barker, but do you know what they call the last man to graduate in each Naval Academy class?”

No, First Sergeant.”

“They call him, ‘Sir.’”

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