Thursday, February 26, 2015

Misfits


Misfits

Years ago in the early 70's I was a Correctional Counselor for a couple of years.   I was stationed at the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi Texas.  The Marines had been in charge of the correctional facility, and a Navy Commander went in undercover to investigate complaints about them.  They messed him up pretty good, and as a result, the Navy sent all the Marines away and put sailors in charge.   If you've spent any time around active duty Marines, you come to understand there is a huge difference in a world view between Marines and Sailors.   The Marines have important functions to fulfill in their military role and thus have to have undergone a particular type of conditioning to do that which for the most part makes them nearly incompatible with the rest of society.  Fortunately, most of them normalize after they leave the service. 

Of all the services, the Navy is the toughest to survive in.  Sailors get stationed on huge hunks of metal with hundreds of miles of wire strung through it, and large electrical generators then charge those wires.   Then stick that huge hunk of metal in water and float it around the world without getting shocked, swamped by a typhoon or set it on fire without the sight of land in any direction.  In abandon ship drills you are always given the bearing and distance to the nearest land.  We always joked it is 2000 feet straight down.  Then with all the inherent dangers to life and limb, we ride these ships for months and months on end.  I have 12 years on my sea counter.   Needless to say; it isn't the life for everyone which takes me back to the topic.  

 

Most of the people we had as a guest in our correctional facility were misfits.   They just ran away to find some relief and then got caught and brought to us for processing out.   It took three months to discharge someone out on a convenience to the government release from service.  We had two facilities the correctional center and the correctional barracks.  The center held new arrivals and more hardcore men that posed a flight risk and harm to others.  The barracks housed those proven to be without flight risk and would sit out the mustering out process. 

 

As the correctional counselor I interviewed all the new arrivals; assisted the disbursing office with getting them some comfort funds, assessing their risk levels, medical needs and keeping them informed as to the process they were to undergo and the time frame to expect to be let go.  I kept statistics on the people for the two years.  I found that over 90% of the inmates were 5'10" or less; more than 85% hailed from a broken home growing up with just a mom or just a dad and a few fostered to adulthood.   Almost everyone smoked tobacco and most drank alcohol to excess if they could get it.  Then 99.7% of them had some varying degree of issues with authority figures of which I was one.  

 

My relationship with the inmates compared to the regular Navy was less stressful for them on several levels.  For one I was permitted to wear civilian clothes to work as to lessen the intimidation as an authority figure and garner greater trust.  I don't think to wear civies made any difference, as I put my uniform back on for the second year. If anything, I think my relationship with the inmates was stronger in uniform.   

 

With some exception the leadership of the Navy is ingrown.  The term ingrown has a negative meaning for a good reason.  Young men without benefit of much life experience and not having much authority exercised over them other than mom and dad and Mr. Phillips in the wood shop at school that had just enough leadership skills to teach them not to cut their finger off on the band saw.  So off to boot camp where they are insulted, torn down and reassembled into the military mold.   Then those that stick it out long enough find themselves in charge are leaders without the skills to be so.  These new leaders learned to treat others the way they got treated, and that usually wasn't very good.   We that stuck it out (I did 24 years) worked our way through those people and some of us took it on board to be different.  However, the misfits could not.  They, for the most part, were not bad people.   They had issues that just weren't compatible with the military.  Unlike civilian jobs, you can't just resign.  You have to ride it out or get into enough trouble to get kicked out.   That's the route these men took. 

 

Here's my positive spin on this.  Those misfits that couldn't function in the Navy are among us.  The same type of people that would have been a misfit had they been in the Navy are with us too.   They still have authority issues, wear their hearts on their sleeves and hate to follow the rules and if not loners travel in the companionship of those like-minded.  They add flavor to our otherwise complacent lives.  I call for a "Let's befriend a misfit" week.   I found that for the most part misfits are hard to get along with because of their attitudes and many times we don't feel they like us.  We struggle with having respect for them.   I can tell you that almost without exception that if we make an effort to actually "like" a misfit, they will like us back.  It is nearly impossible not to like someone that likes us.  Turn that around, and we'll all get along together much better.  You would be amazed at a depth of sound character a misfit can bring forth under the right conditions.   Give it a shot, you might just come away with a new best friend.  Wouldn't that be nice? 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Third times the charm

Now we've had blogs from our time in Germany and I've had a running blog last couple years over a range of topics from Motorcycle trips to political commentary.  Then the Misses says I need to write some happy stuff.  I have to admit the political landscape as gotten me down a bit and she said that after my last rant.

So, here we go.  Happy Thoughts.  I suspect the pressure is on.  I'm not sure I have anything positive to say.  Oh heck, sure I do and soon as I think of something I'll put it here.