While waiting to be called into the Inquiry, I was thinking about my experience the summer before, at El Toro. I had volunteered to be interviewed by a Drill Instructor Board, hoping to be assigned duty in San Diego to avoid orders for Vietnam. A Sergeant on the rifle range who had been a Drill Instructor coached me in advance: “Sit at attention, head and eyes straight to the front, speak clearly, DO NOT avert your eyes.”
The door opened, and the Sergeant Major invited me into the Inquiry. There was a folding table for the three-person panel and a single chair facing it. Major Catoe was the Presiding Officer, Lieutenant Martin (my executive officer) was seated to his right and Sergeant Major Lossie sat on the left. I stood at attention and said, “Sir, Sergeant Kysor reporting as ordered.” Catoe said, “At ease, please take a seat.” I sat at attention and listened as Catoe explained the proceeding, “This is an informal inquiry; you are not being charged with any infractions.” I answered, “Yes Sir!”
Catoe went first and asked me to explain my version of the accident. After my explanation, he wanted to know why I didn’t use solvent and accepted my supply receipt as evidence. He surprised me with, “How is your hand, can you perform your duties?” I answered, “It is healing well, Sir. Yes, I have been performing my duties.”
Lieutenant Martin went next, and it was clear he was hostile, “Hasn’t your performance been diminished by this incident?” I answered, “Respectfully Sir, my leadership in the mess hall has not been diminished.” He then stated, “Using gasoline in this case shows negligence on your part.” I answered, “No Sir, it was an accident, and I was just improvising as everyone does.” He questioned, “EVERYONE?” and I answered, “Yes, Sir, the gun crews, motor transport, maintenance; everyone is improvising with gasoline . . . there is no solvent!”
My record book was passed to Lossie, and he did a calculation, “Four years of good conduct?” I answered, “Affirmative, Sir.” Then he turned my record book toward me; it was open to my certificate of completion of NCO Leadership School. What does this 1/27 mean?” Sir, I was first in the class of 27.”
That was it. Major Catoe excused me and said, “Please wait outside, we will give you our finding shortly.” It was a hot morning, I was sweating and tempted to wipe my brow with the gauze bandage. Sergeant Lossie came out and said, “It was determined to be an accident, and there will be no Article 15.” I thanked him and headed for the mess hall.
Lunch with Gunny Sampson was always interesting. He was casual about the Article 15 being avoided but more interested in the steak and lobster feast we had served yesterday. He said, “I’ve never had so many comments about a meal.” He wanted to hear all the details, and I cheerfully filled him in. Then the Gunny said, “Captain Cavagnol had your back on this accident.” It was a subtle message . . . The outcome of the Inquiry had been rigged: Lieutenant Martin was overruled by Major Catoe and the Sergeant Major. Even Gunny Sampson knew the Inquiry result beforehand.
I was happy about the decision of the Inquiry but was let down about not winning it on my own merit. There was also the realization that Lieutenant Martin went out of his way to burn me (no pun intended).