January 28, 1968
During the Sunday briefing Captain Cavagnol addressed the battery. He complimented the gun crews on their ability to react quickly to the always changing demands of fire missions. Top announced a new battery policy regarding the distribution of beer at the club; everyone would be rationed two free beers or sodas on Sunday afternoons from 1400 – 1600. The explanation was that the allocation of ice made cold beer impossible every day of the week. An additional restriction was that beer could not be consumed outside the club. These rules were accepted with some minor grumbling.
After brunch Britt and I were faced with cutting steaks from the New York strip loins we received every week for Sunday dinner. Murphy was observing us and said, “You guys are hacking these steaks up.” I laid the knife down and said, “Show me.”
Murphy sliced a steak in one motion, drawing the blade toward him. He told us to never SAW with the blade and if one cut wasn’t enough, draw a second cut to finish the job. He also pointed to a line of gristle running the length of each strip and showed us how to pinch each steak in a way to remove the tough and inedible piece of meat. “The steak will curl up on the grill and cook unevenly if you don’t remove it.”
With the three of us cutting, things were going faster and we were joined by Captain Cavagnol. He was impressed with our skills in meat cutting. After observing for a few minutes, he wanted to speak with me outside. I washed my hands and joined him.
He asked, if I could have anything for the mess hall, what would it be? . . . “A new dining room Sir.” I showed him the area Leggs had cleared next to the mess hall and explained how we were limited by the seating capacity. We could double the number of seats with a new dining room and have more room in the galley as well. He was holding his chin, thinking and I added, “Isn’t this what the Seabees do?” He raised his eyebrows and said, “You surprise me” (I think he expected a smaller request).
He promised to discuss this issue with the Battalion Commander but warned, “It will require a lot of scrutiny from the brass.” We will need to sell this to them and prove it to be a worthy endeavor.
The Chaplain passed us on the way to the LZ (Landing Zone), and Cavagnol told him of our plan for a new dining room. The Chaplain smiled and said, “I’ll pray for it – we can use it for larger church services” (another selling point).
After the steaks were cut, I went to the motor pool NCO and discussed the idea of parking one of his trucks with an air compressor next to the mess hall. I explained that we were killing ourselves using a bicycle pump for our burners; a compressor would fill them with air in seconds. To my surprise he said, “Jump in,” and we drove to the mess hall. He showed all the cooks how to start the truck and use the air compressor hose . . . we were in business.
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