On My Way In - Part IV
Moving on from my last entry, regardless of what area of specialization I decided to make a go of, the next step along the way was to finish the paperwork and square away (Navy jargon for taking care of anything that needs to get done) anything that was out of the ordinary on the entrance physical. There indeed was something out of the ordinary, though it wasn't much of a surprise: my vision was not 20/20. I'm not sure when that changed as in my younger days my
vision certainly did test to 20/20, but now it was clear that I was nearsighted and in need of
correction for the slight blurriness I encountered when trying to make things out at a distance. So it was some time in the summer of 1980, at the ripe old age of 23, that I began to wear glasses.
Next stop was to Newport, RI, where at the time the Navy's Officer Candidate School (OCS) was located. OCS is now found in the much more pleasant climes of Pensacola, FL --- well, more pleasant anyway when there aren't hurricanes howling their way in from the Gulf. I was going to be starting OCS in Newport beginning in mid-October. I'm pretty sure the program was 12 weeks in length, and given Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years thrown into the mix, I wouldn't graduate until sometime in early February. Really, who could ask for anything more than to be in Newport, RI, in the dead of winter, right there along the shores of the Atlantic, with the wind howling in from under and over the Newport Bridge?
My parents drove me up to Newport in October of 1980, which in retrospect seems sort of odd to me. They'd been divorced for about nine years at that point, and my father re-married. They got along well enough, in fact they were very civil with each other, and my mother, who raised me and my siblings, never had anything bad to say about my father. Their coming together I
think reflected how important my taking this next stage in my life was to them. In another sense they were also there to offer me up to the God(s) of the Navy, in addition to just seeing me off. Either way it was odd to have both of them in the car like that as I had very distinctly different relationships with both parents and this was one of the few times since the divorce that I had to deal with them at the same time, in the same space, especially for a life changing event such as was before me.
After saying my goodbyes to my parents I was left in front of King Hall, where I found myself in the company of many others who were standing about in civilian clothes as I was, all of us unsure as to what to do. We were told to wait by someone dressed in a black (later I learned this is the Navy's version of blue) uniform, looking something like an officer but with collar devices that made no sense, i.e. I couldn't determine a rank. I don't remember how long it was we stood there, but eventually we were gathered into groups and broken down into individual companies - I was in Kilo company and my group, henceforth known as Kilos, was taken to our wing of King Hall where we'd be staying for the next 12 weeks. I was paired up with a guy by the name of Chris Curran (it's funny I should remember his name that easily after all these years as we didn't stay in touch after OCS - Chris was going to be a diver and we went off on different paths after OCS) and we shared a room together for the duration of our time in Newport.
I remember the beds were small, the closets not very spacious, the rooms equally non-spacious and smelling oddly antiseptic, the bathroom and shower were communal, and my not taking a liking to any of this very quickly, note: I never lived in a college dorm nor ever did much time at a sleep away camp. I could see that life had changed dramatically, how much so remained to be seen, and I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to like this adventure I set myself up for. We were told that the first week was a gimmee, if you didn't like it you were able to pull the plug on the whole thing. In reality you had that option at any time during your 12 weeks prior to being actually commissioned, but the first week was the only one that was emphasized by the staff. Needless to say I laid me down to sleep that night, with a coarse woolen blanket the likes of which I hadn't seen since sleep away camp, with decidedly mixed feelings regarding where all of this was going to take me.