I remember standing on the flight deck of our ship while our ship was in port. I happened to be in the area doing some type of small task that needed to be done. The vast majority of the sailors on our ship seemed to be enjoying the weather and meaningful work. I was pulled aside for a quasi-important conversation.
One of the shipmates I had known since I got onboard told/asked me to be a “side boy” for someone being “piped off”. I knew the officer that my buddy had mentioned. I will call the officer LT Outlaw. The man earned the moniker.
I never had a bad interaction with the guy. LT Outlaw spoke to me respectively and did his best to steer clear of excessive ploys to emotion using esprit de corps/militarisms/sayings, which many military leaders were quick to use instead of logic/reason. This was a sign that many things were not right in his world.
I started to notice that many of the senior officers seem to ignore him and speak to him differently than other officers. Outlaw was matter of fact or blunt with people. His inability to stomach bullshit hurt him in the long run, he didn’t kiss people’s asses and it showed that he didn’t drink the “kool aid”.
Lt Outlaw ended up with dead end BS assignments, like inspecting berthing cleaning (usually assigned to senior enlisted), inspecting bilge cleaning and painting (not actively watched over at all), among other things that weren’t normally done by any officers.
Lt. Outlaw was a talented man who played the bagpipes at a few military funerals, had connections outside of our command with smart and intellectual types, and earned the respect of many enlisted people on our ship. I personally saw him discuss many subjects that blew away the most simple of minds. He was a warrior without a battlefield.
I knew that things were short for his career when all of my observations hit the ultimate concrete slab on a warm afternoon. Another one of the officers was arguing with him as Lt Outlaw made a beeline for the pier. Lt Outlaw told this officer that his work was done and he had promised his wife that he was going to take them out to a picnic. The unnamed officer was griping about some penny ante made up work that someone dreamed up at the last minute. Of course, his departure wasn’t celebrated. (I had every reason to believe that his schedule was screwed around with just to punish him or make one of the officers happy).
The other officers talked about many of these things and the senior officers set the tone that Lt Outlaw wasn’t in the enlightened caste. It trickled won to us peons that Lt Outlaw was more or less walled off from everyone else.
I am not sure of how long it took for me to see him making his final walk off the ship. Traditionally speaking, when one of the officers leaves a ship, he is seen off by his colleagues. The colleagues lining up in two columns to salute and shake hands. On the day that I was called to be a impromptu side boy, I don’t remember one officer showing up to see him off. We lined up and shook hands, offering well wishes and thanks. Lt Outlaw mentioned that it was sad that someone else’s “guys” showed up instead of the officers of the “wardroom”.
This stuck in my mind. I had my own run ins with the stupidity that people put up with and the mantra-esque chants that sailors would say instead of thinking, learning to accept things out of duty. I thought of it as self betrayal.
Fast forward to my own last day, I hugged and shook hands with many people. I had things packed and was ready for Life 2.0. I stepped to the flight deck, headed to the pier. I gave out pleasantries but asked that I not be “rung off with bells”. I required no side boys or someone to pipe me off. I walked off with a crisp salute and high stepped it out of there, just like Lt. Outlaw did.