Sunday, August 26, 2007

My Shipmates.

When I had just completed Navy Boot Camp at Great Lakes Naval Station, my fellow recruits in Company 158 (pronounced: 'one-five-eight') were looking forward to our first free day off the base for two months. The Navy was nervous, however, to let us all out, knowing most of us would head the few miles south to Chicago and the nightlife there. So they assembled the two recruit companies from the 21st Division who where eligible for their first leave together for a talk.

Company 154 and 158, who for the lasts two months had competed against each other in series of competitive events that tested the training we had received, therefore met together in 154's living quarters for the first and only time. When it was announced that 158, unlike 154, would only have one days leave because we had finished last of all the companies in our group, the recruits of 154 made taunting remarks and noise. At that point 154's Company Commander got really angry with his recruits and told them off saying: "These are your shipmates, don't make fun of them!"

The Navy talked a lot about the importance of looking out for ones shipmates. Unfortunately for the Navy they did nothing to foster a spirit of unity and the environment in the Navy, especially onboard ship, was hostile. Everyone, from officers to lowest enlisted, were rude and spoke harshly to each others. When I arrived at my ship, the USS Seattle, I tried my best to work hard and get along with everybody, but found myself constantly being told off and jelled at.

The words of 154's Company Commander have nevertheless remained with me and I can't stop thinking about them. Isen't that the attitude I should have to everybody around me, that they are my shipmates and their welbeing should be at the forefront of my mind. Whether its the Polish waitress at the takeaway, the mother shouting at her kid in a pushchair, the teenagers hanging about on the streetcorners and all those awful readers of the Daily Mail. They are all my shipmates, they are all my neighbours!


At 28 August, 2007 20:46, Anonymous Charles said...

Torsten, thanks for relating that story. I have to confess, relating to other's as fellow ship-mates has been a challenge for me, especially concerning those within the church who espouse ultra-conservatism/legalism.

You reminded me that they are just as much God's children as I am, and should be treated with respect. Thanks for your for you witness to me!


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