Saturday, March 23, 1968
As the construction neared completion, we started moving picnic tables into the new mess deck. The roof was being finished, and the Seabees were constructing additional tables. We would end up with a new seating capacity of 140 enlisted men with 20 officers and staff.
Leggs was inspecting the work and admiring the construction methods. He said, “I have a surprise for you.” In back of the mess hall was the refurbished 2-foot grill with new sturdy, welded legs. It would hold a single burner on slide-in rails. We spent much of the day rearranging the galley and bringing in the new oven. We now had four ovens, five burner units, two grills and the outside BBQ pit.
Cobby had an unusual suggestion: He thought we should move all the canned food from the 16’X16′ storage shed to the perimeter of the galley. It would require sawing wooden pallets in half and using them as dunnage racks. The storage shed would be re-purposed as a GI house (garbage room). This would contain and minimize flies, and the floor could be scrubbed.
There was too much work involved with this endeavor so I went to Top Culverhouse and asked his advice. He suggested I ask the Battery Gunny (the one who named me Ptomaine) for a work party. I swallowed my pride and asked the Gunny for help and he said, “Hell No, this is your problem.” I would never break the chain of command and go over his head, but I knew Captain Cavagnol would be aggravated with the Gunny over this issue.
Somehow the word got out about us needing help, and by dinner there were Marines and Seabees sawing pallets and moving food to the expanded galley. It was hard work carrying the cases of food uphill from the lower level of the storage shed, but it was finished before dark.
Chaplain Starling was spending the night and requested we move our brunch hours back to accommodate an earlier church service. I told him it was not my call to make, “It would be up to Captain Cavagnol or Lieutenant Martin, the XO.” Later Martin came to see me and said, “Do you have a problem changing the brunch hours?” I answered, “No Sir.” He angrily said, “Why did you send Starling to the Exec Pit?” I smiled and answered, “Sir, I didn’t send the Chaplain anywhere; I told him changing the hours of brunch wasn’t my call.” Brunch was changed to 0800 – 1100.
Lieutenant Martin was a “Mustang” (an enlisted NCO promoted to officer). He had probably been a Gunny or Master Sergeant in his other life, and the transition to officer left rough edges. I think he was insecure in the new role. Regardless, I showed respect for his position and tried my best to follow the required protocols of communication between officers and enlisted men. It was almost as if he resented being called “Sir.”
Next Edition: Church Services