"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Officers and enlisted

Civilians don't think much about rank in our everyday world...official rank. Sure, we know some people have higher paying jobs, some have the power to hire and fire, but we don't have labels on our clothes designating our rank in a hierarchy  and we don't formally salute superiors or follow strict orders.

The second you step about a military base, or into a military organization, or aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, you notice the difference.

As we walked up the stairs and crossed the gangplank to the brow of the ship, our host, Lt. Cmdr. Steve Curry stopped just before boarding the ship, turned aft and saluted the flag. The enlisted people waiting for us, snapped salutes to him which he returned. We were among about 300 other "Tigers" on the ship for the four day cruise, and we soon were thankful our host was an officer. Most of the others were hosted by members of the enlisted crew.

Though they work as a team in close quarters, the line between officers and enlisted, is everywhere apparent--as you saw with the label on the door to the male officers head. Other labels in berthing areas clearly announce the area as officer country. You also saw the difference in eating areas, and officers don't have to bus their own plates.

Sleeping quarters are one example. We were bunked in a suite of six, two sinks, ample storage.
Where I slept, bottom bunk
Four of the bunks in our area--you can barely see mine behind the locker and chair on the right
Another view, of the sinks, and storage.
Enlisted quarters, three bunks in a stack s0 there's less overhead room, and there are many bunks to each area.
 I expect the only place rank doesn't matter is in sick bay and medical treatment...all are equal there.
Steve and I in San Diego. He's wearing the NWU.
You see the difference in uniforms too, obviously. On the NWU (camouflaged Naval Working Uniform), you have to hunt for rank, and if officers don't have their hats on where the rank is displayed, there aren't salutes from enlisted. But dress uniforms:
Steve Curry's dress uniform, ready for wear. Note the name tag, with the ship's logo--a Lincoln head penny.

An enlisted uniform
An officer conducting a tour on the bridge
The sailor of the year aboard the Abe, Quartermaster 2nd class Sarah Y. Degraw. She's on the bridge checking the rudders prior to departure from San Diego. Oh, while you can steer the ship and those massive rudders by punching computer buttons, most people prefer the little steering wheel at her left. Yep, smaller than your car steering wheel, for that mammoth ship. And the top ranking enlisted person on board, a command Master Chief, is also a woman.

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