Change of Command Ceremony

Captain Cavagnol with Lieutenant Braley – FDC Officer

Thursday, July 18, 1968

At 0730 it was all hands on deck.  We stood in formation on the road in front of the CP.  The transfer of leadership from Captain Cavagnol to Captain Smotherman was a symbolic handover of authority.  We had no ceremony when Cavagnol arrived, just a quick staff meeting.  *

Cavagnol gave a short speech, praising the Kilo battery performance and accomplishments.  He gave kudos to the gun crews, with special recognition to FDC, who plotted the fire missions.  We had earned a Navy Unit Commendation for these efforts.

After the formal ceremony Gunny Pavelcek assigned work parties for the day, but before dismissing us, he made an announcement.  “I hereby officially proclaim a name change for “Ptomaine.”  From this day forward, he will be known as “TRIPWIRE.”  The outlandish Rube Goldberg device rigged to explode the rockets was just another example of our field training motto:  “Improvise.”

My new nickname didn’t really stick, but it was appreciated.  Few people actually knew my real name, and I had finally accepted “Ptomaine” in the spirit of unit morale.

During the afternoon we baked a simple sheet cake and frosted it with white frosting.  Reb mixed in some caramel coloring and drew an image of a 155mm round heading to its target with the caption, “Kilo’s Killers – Good Luck Patty Shell” (Cavagnol’s call sign).

* See previous blog, “Captain Cavagnol” January 26, 1968

Command Chronologies – Kilo 4/11 – July 1968

Next Edition:  Cavagnol to CONUS

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