Saturday, July 18, 2020

Corpsman Chronicles XXXV: Super RBOC, I think I love you (part iv)

What's the difference between a fairy tale and a sea-story? A fairy tale begins, "Once upon a time..." A sea story begins, "This is no shit!"

I try to be careful to change names, but to the best of my recollection the events and locations are substantially correct. Of course I can only describe events from my perspective, so there's that. Readers who were present will doubtless have different recollections of any particular event. This is what it was like to serve in my tiny slice of the U.S. Navy between the late 1970's and early 1990's. It really was an adventure.

Here's part four of the Super RBOC saga.


This is no shit!


The big red numerals on my alarm clock changed from 3:59 to 4:00. I'd been staring at them for five minutes now. I'd been exhausted after snarfing down a pizza in front of the television and hit the rack early. Tired or not, I'd tossed and turned all night. The previous day had been a complex and multifaceted adventure and during the night a kaleidoscope review of the day ran unbidden and uninterrupted on the inside of my eyelids.


Fuck it. Laying in bed until the radio snapped on at 0430 wasn't going to gain me anymore sleep.

I got up and dressed in my favorite ratty running clothes; Reeboks, UDT shorts, and a faded and sleeveless NACCS t-shirt so worn and thin it was nearly transparent. In a parachute bag I threw spare flight suits, working whites, flight boots, underwear, towels, uniform accouterments, and my travelling dopp kit. Today would be my second day back at work at the NAS Oceana Branch Medical Clinic following my return from deployment. I needed to stock my clinic lockers properly. Among other things.

Weighing heavily on my mind was the fact that I had a running date set for zero-five with a delightfully beautiful corpsman named Rebecca, who I'd met for the very first time yesterday. Crazy.

I had a big pile of other stuff on my plate too. My clinic work assignment was in the ER, or emergency room. I was an E-5 or HM2, trained as a paramedic and with a good bit of experience under my belt. I was supposed to meet with LCDR Chin, the ER department head just before morning quarters at 0645. More specifically, both Rebecca and myself had been directed to meet with Dr. Chin. Crazy.

What the often cryptic Dr. Chin wanted with the two of us was anyone's guess. I suspected he wanted to tap me for an unofficial mentorship in the ER. He'd made some noises like that when I'd in-briefed with him yesterday, saying crypto-specifically that it was time for me to pick up my game. If that was to be my fate, well and good. I rather liked the idea, in fact. But I'd also tasted a hint of odd and somewhat alarming political/turf games going on in the clinic. My snap assessment, based on experience and observation over time, was that there was some bureaucratic overreach going on behind the scenes with the clinic's nurses -- who I thought of as The Gang Of Three -- trying to grab control. The nurses were officers, so the situation was properly officer shit. But it also carried the potential of splattering me and my enlisted swine brethren and sistren, which could make things unpleasant for us, and more importantly, adversely impact our ability to execute the mission properly. How I was supposed to navigate these rocks and shoals I had no idea. Crazy.

I made sure the house was locked, walked through to the garage, tossed my parachute bag in the Mustang's passenger seat and climbed in. I pressed the remote on the visor and the garage door magically wound open. What a cool and crazy thing! I fired up the V-8 motor and while it warmed I wondered for the umpteenth time what I was doing paying for a $35,000 three-bedroom house that I only lived in perhaps three or four months of the year. I backed out into the driveway, pressed the magic button, and grinned all over again. Stupid house. I loved it but owning it and being absent most of the time was stupid. Story of my life. Crazy.

As I drove toward the clinic the eastern horizon was just beginning to be not-night. It was a slightly chilly but very pretty spring morning. I puzzled over this new thing I was experiencing with Rebecca. It was a very odd thing. My standard and well practiced approach to pretty girls who I was attracted to was to joyfully flirt and see what delightful things might develop. I really, really like pretty girls and I liked exploring boy-girl stuff with them, but it was always easy come, easy go. Just bilateral fun and friendship with no strings expected or desired. With Rebecca that wasn't going to work, and I'd been blindsided by that realization. Something was very different. My standard operating procedure would be exactly wrong. What to do? I was very confused. Crazy.


As I rolled into the clinic parking lot a pretty girl in a pretty red car followed me in. I parked and yanked my parachute bag out of the Mustang. The pretty girl was dressed for running too, and the shorts and t-shirt she sported along with a million watt smile made for a spectacular vision.

At 0455 we were stretching, and at 0500 we set out. The course we took was the first leg of my more-or-less usual five-miler. I had permission to run on the golf course so long as I did it early before the duffers showed up. It was a great place to run, and this morning it was just right. I guesstimated the distance but gee-mapz tells me it was spot on.

Rebecca was breathing hard before we got out of the parking lot, but she hung in there for the whole buck and a half. I tried to set an appropriate pace for her but of course it's impossible to get it just right. Nevertheless, she gutted it out and stayed with me even for the slightly uphill sprint around a sand trap and across a warm-up area.

"Oh that sucks!", she gasped, hands on knees and puffing like a steam locomotive.

"Hell, Rebecca," I replied, "you're ready for the run. That was only 13 minutes!. Lets walk it out and cool down. You up to sit ups and push ups?"

"Yeah," she puffed as she wobbled along beside me, "just lemme catch my breath. You do this shit every morning?"

"Every morning," I replied. "Well, almost every morning. It's a good bad habit."

"Stupid habit!", she exclaimed with feeling.

Within a hundred yards she was walking and breathing normally. It's pretty wonderful to be alive and in your mid-twenties.

We stopped on the side of a fairway and did sit ups and push ups. I don't recall the test numbers but they were pretty modest. I showed off of course, doing a bunch of both very fast. The below thinking level core of my being was trying very hard to prove itself worthy of consideration. The thinking level part of me was too, but the brain was trying even harder to not be Tarzan and make a terrible mistake. Did I mention I was badly confused? I really, really enjoyed assisting Rebecca with her sit ups. It was a very delightful experience, holding her feet in place and making encouraging sounds.

We meandered back toward the clinic, chatting about the upcoming PFT, speculating about what Dr. Chin wanted, and enjoying each others company. We sat on a tee box bench for twenty minutes or so and let the brightening morning wash over us. Magical.

When we arrived back at the clinic we marched in through the front doors on the active duty (as opposed to dependent/family) side. Right into a Senior Chief ambush.

"Goddammit, Evertson, what the fuck part of 'no athletic attire in the working spaces' don't you understand?"

He was gathering a fresh lungful for a killing burst of fire when I accidentally countered with the perfect tactical response.

"Oh shit, Senior," I said, "I apologize! Wasn't thinking. Won't happen again."

That hit him where he lived, and his eyes popped open wide in response to my unexpected low blow.

"Well goddammit don't let it happen again," he grumbled. He wasn't quite sure what had just happened and needed some time to make sense of it. So did I.


Freshly showered and looking four point oh, Rebecca and I presented ourselves at LCDR Chin's office at 0645.

"Okay," said Chin, "You guys did some good work yesterday and you seem to be a good team. We've got a very good crew here but we've got some training and experience gaps and we're gonna work on that. You're TAD Mikey so you're here and gone and you're flying all the time as well. You've also got the most training and experience in the building. So it's time to put the grabassing behind you. I want you teaching and teaching hard. Understand?"


"Rebecca," he said as he shifted targets, "you're shadowing Mikey. Stick to him like glue. Ask questions. Demand explanations. I'm gonna push you hard. You're gonna be teaching too. Understand?"


"I'm gonna pull all the ER staff training records and run our department training back here. Mikey, If Lieutenant Rottencr Alias calls you in on your suturing quals this morning just tell her to please check with me. Understand?"


"Don't be late for quarters."


Morning muster or "quarters" is (was anyway) a daily ritual throughout the navy. In the commands I was attached to each division or department had their own individual morning muster. "As the term "muster" implies, one of the main purposes of the event was to make sure everyone in the division or department was "present and/or accounted for." At the clinic each department LPO would count noses as the corpsman in his or her charge formed up in ranks. Once the ranks were formed and everyone was called to attention by the Senior Chief each LPO would report.

"Emergency Department all present and accounted for," announced HM1 Cooke, or "Cookie."

The other department LPO's reported and as usual, no one was missing.

Muster complete, the Senior Chief droned on, reading selected portions of the Clinic, Naval Hospital, and Air Station Plans of the Day, followed by general clinic announcements and his own patented tirade of the day.

"And remember, goddammit," he groused, "no fucking athletic attire in the building during working hours. Locker room and back passageway only. This ain't the fucking gym!" He ran a baleful glare over his motley crew of simulated sailors, paying particular attention to Rebecca and myself where we stood at ease in the front row. "Annabodda got anything? Arright, LPO's take charge and carry out the Plan of the Day."


Back in the Emergency Room HM2 Wobs walked out of Dr. Chin's office. She was wearing working whites, which was a touch odd as she was the duty SAR Corpsman and should have been, at this hour, down at Hangar 47 briefing and DTA-ing (Daily Turn Around) the aircraft.

In general, the duty SAR Corpsman Would brief and DTA at 0700. They would fly any scheduled or pop-up missions. When not flying or directly engaged in SAR duties they would hang out and labor in the clinic during the work day, dressed in a bag (zoom bag or flight suit) and carrying a pager for immediate recall.

So Wobs was in whites. Why? The pink down chit she held in her hand was the answer. She was medically down.

"Mikey," she said, "I'm down with a cold. Can't valsalva. Can you take the duty?"

The answer of course was yes. I was on the sked for two days hence but I was always prepared to go aviating.

It might seem odd that a pair of E-5's could do a duty dope deal so quickly and informally. Of course seniors needed to be informed, but the way the system worked between the clinic and the Air Station was rather unique. The Air Station levy on the clinic was for a SAR Corpsman each and every day, but they left it up to the clinic to do the watch bill. And the seniors/supervisors at the clinic lacked a fundamental understanding of how the whole noisy-flying machine thing worked, so they delegated manning authority to the SAR Corpsmen themselves.

I took the pager, jumped into a bag, told Chin and Senior Chief what the dope deal was, and I headed myself for the hangar.

As I walked out the door Lieutenant Rottencr Alias tried to waylay me.

"Petty Officer Evertson, I need to see you in my office immediately!"

"Sorry, Ma'am," I replied, "Gotta go brief and DTA. I'll check in with you later."

The exchange bought me a frown and a severe glare.

"Lieutenant," came Dr. Chin's voice from his office, "if I could have a word..."

The Lieutenant's frown deepened.

It was gonna be a good day.


We returned from the morning mission at about 1330. We hot-pumped fuel into the helo, taxied to the ready SAR spot in front of the SAR Hangar, and shut the big Sea King down. We'd done water works -- open ocean swimmer deployment and hoist work. Fun on stilts. I was now garbed in a wet suit, swimmer vest, flight helmet, and flight boots. It was an odd looking rig but quite comfortable. I grabbed my SAR bag which contained my more normal flight attire and strode through the big door and into the cool dimness of the hangar. When my eyes adjusted I beheld a smile-making sight.

Standing next to the paraloft doorway were Rebecca, April, April's Mom, And April's Dad. My heart did an interesting pitter-pat. What a delightful crowd! April had been released from an overnight hospital stay, so she and her Mom and Dad had stopped by the clinic to say thanks. They were disappointed to have missed me, but Rebecca -- who'd been paying attention to the tower radio (?!) -- realized we were landing and offered to organize a quick trip to the SAR Hangar. Brilliant!

As I approached the group April hid behind Mom's skirts for a moment, peeking out and peering closely at me. When she was sure who I was, she exploded into motion. I barely had time to drop my SAR bag before she swarmed up my front and gave me a fierce neck hug.

As I write and recall these many years later I'm still rocked by the intensity of the personal human connection we five ape-lizards now shared. We were all still strangers, but Fred Flintstone and a back slap had brought us together in a magical way. It was an amazing thing. Once again the warm feel of April's breath on my neck rocketed me into a more perfect and less selfish state of being. The coolness of being me was instantly framed as a very small and insignificant thing when placed alongside the sweet beauty of a three year old and her parents. Rebecca and I had been in the right place at the right time with the right training to do a very simple thing and help preserve a precious life and a precious family. Being allowed to do that was a gift beyond measure, and that's something which will live with me so long as I draw breath.

Something of the magic must have filled the air of Hangar 47 in that moment, for the four other members of the crew I'd just flown with paused to share the moment, curious grins adorning each face. The HAC was the Station SAR OIC, Commander GC. He was a genuine legend and a Vietnam C-SAR vet. Without question the greatest helo pilot of all time. The 2P was LCDR Coondog. The Crew Chief and Second Crewman were Zippo and Buckwheat. We all knew and liked each other and flew as a crew a lot.

I introduced April and her parental units and April shared her version of the events of the previous day. In doing so she instantly joined the crew, and we all trooped back outside to give her a tour of our mighty SH-3G Sea King. She sat in the right seat and slapped at buttons and controls with an enormous flight helmet wobbling on her head, then prowled the cavernous back end, delighting in a cornucopia of neat stuff.

Back in the Hangar I introduced Rebecca around. On the spur of the moment I gave her the call sign RBOC -- pronounced "ARE-bock" -- in part because she hated being called Becky. "Rebecca," she'd say, "NOT Becky." Fish had taken to calling her Rebeccanaut (Rebecca-not), and that was cool, but it didn't feel right to me. And I was, after all, mostly in charge of clinic call signs. Go figure. So RBOC it was.

Then it was time for events to move forward. We had to debrief the mission, April and her Mom and Dad had to do their stuff, and RBOC had to get back to work at the clinic.

"I'll see you in a little bit," I said to RBOC, and on impulse draped my left arm around her shoulders. She turned into me and we hugged. Warm RBOC breath delighted my neck and I lightly kissed hers. Where did that come from? The whole physical demonstration of affection between active duty members in uniform was of course strictly forbidden by regulation. Crazy.

RBOC and I broke our embrace but paused for a moment, fingertips touching.

"See ya in a bit."

As I turned away I noticed a warm smile on GC's face. He nodded and winked.



Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.


  1. Great story!! Explains a number of questions I have long had. Raises a few others.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    1. Thanks Paul. Some questions will be answered in due course. Others have not yet been answered. Life's like that.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  2. Another great yarn, er sea story.

    Of course if a guy can write about chickens and planting fences and make those interesting, he will do a great job with people, personalities, petty conflicts, little kids, helicopters, besmitten sailors, etc to weave into the tale. And, it's his story, so we never know how much is true or how others might have viewed it differently. (And he warned us!)

    Well done, sir.
    John Blackshoe

    1. Thanks John! Writing this stuff takes a bit of effort and it's tricky to figure out what to put in and what to leave out. I'm sure that I skip over vital stuff thinking that it must be self evident while at the same time pedantically describing in excruciating detail stuff which everyone has already seen. It's a challenge, and challenge is good. You kind readers and correspondents sure make the process work better and reward me in ways you might not realize. I love to share this stuff and I'm very happy that it seems to be worth reading.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  3. This, this is why I come here.

    Great story, I felt like I was there. You tell great stories Shaun. Love 'em.

    1. Thanks Sarge! Glad I can share some of the flavor of my adventures. And they were indeed adventures, just like the recruiting commercials and ads promised!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  4. Great story! Thank you. Keep them coming when you can. In the meantime be well and keep on truckin', er, that is: livin'.

    1. Thanks Mark. Livin' seems to be the key for me, and I plan to keep on doing so to the best of my ability.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks Skip, and thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  6. So-called “corpsman chronicles” indeed but I must nitpick, because this is not a “sea story“ errr... Well I suppose your paystub says *department of the Navy* but besides being able to drive a few miles to actually see the ocean, the argue-ability of the terminology might have gotten no further? My discontent, is due to your use of other terminology… ”super RBOC” (or the full “Super-Rapid Blooming Outboard Chaff”) is a Bluewater counter measure that is near and dear to my “black shoe“ ancestry (yes, I probably share a few strands of DNA with John blackshoe) on the other hand, your use of such a term completely makes sense now!

    1. None of us sailors like it when the unwarshed use our jargon and terminology improperly.

      So few things ever make sense in any rational context. I christened Rebecca "RBOC" and most of my peers called her that thereafter but I did only rarely. Go figure!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting cT!