In 1988, I got out of the Navy. It was not by choice, really. I mean, there was a choice, just not a good one. I promised in I May Never Come Home that I would tell you the story of how I ended up getting out of the Navy.
Here it is.
Sicily and Security
I had been promoted out of being a gate guard and was now in CID (Command Investigations Division). This meant I rarely wore a uniform and spent my time investigating, pretending to follow suspected homosexuals around, doing some domestic disturbance training, and providing security for the 6th Fleet Admiral, Lee Greenwood, and whoever else needed guarding.
I wasn’t a great investigator. And I didn’t agree with the Navy’s policy on homosexuality. I suspect that I was put in that job because they knew I wasn’t going to catch anyone. I was clear about my feelings on the subject. But they could pretend they were doing something about it by having me waste time. And the suspects? “Oh look, there’s Karin following us again! Hi Karin!” Like I was going to “catch” anyone. I already knew who they were. I’m the one who told them what to do if they were brought in for it.
But I did enjoy the domestic disturbance training, even if they replaced me and Joe because we were a bit too enthusiastic about it. I do have to say that the base counselor probably wouldn’t have been punched in the face if Joe and I had been involved. Jus’ sayin’. As rambunctious as we were, we were in control.
And I enjoyed being security. Riding around in convoys, crouching on the roof of the bowling alley with an M-14 and other adrenaline inducing activities. Heck, I was slated to go to Germany to an offensive driving course! I was so excited!
But then came the day I was called into the Lieutenant’s office. I stood there and he threw down a piece of paper.
“Do you want me to read that, Sir?”
“Yes, I do.”
I read the paper.
It was a letter to the 6th Fleet Admiral detailing concern about what I was doing in Security when I was a Data Processor. That they had need of me. That I could fix a bunch of problems for them. Then they listed the problems.
I looked at the Lieutenant.
He looked at me.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to keep you.”
And in an instant, my desired career track changed, and I was sent to work the graveyard shift in the data processing center (ADP).
They Hated Me
The first thing that happened when I went to ADP, was to be put in charge of the graveyard shift. I looked at the org chart and noticed that there were 3 Petty Officer First Classes and I was a Petty Officer Second Class. I pointed this out to the Chief.
He told me I would have to deal with it.
Christ, I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. The whole thing was weird. The First Classes should have been in charge, not someone who just got transferred there.
Everyone hated me.
No one would listen. The balked at everything. I couldn’t bond with anyone.
Then came the day that there was a knock on my barracks door. There stood Joe and the other guys I used to work with in CID. They were there to “take me in.”
I thought the whole thing was a joke and that they were playing with me. After all, I used to work with these guys.
There I am, in the chair, surrounded by the guys, being questioned.
I still think it’s a joke.
Then they ask me about the map I was making of the ADP center, and I realized that this was no joke. They really did “bring me in”.
One thing about me that people I work with need to know is that I like to know what’s going on. I like to know how systems work together. I like to know everything about what I’m working on. It’s just who I am. I rarely do anything in a silo.
This problem was easily solved. I said “Okay, let’s go look at that map.”
We went over to ADP and I got out all the materials I’d been developing in my effort to understand what the hell was going on in the ADP center. We took that material and went to Physical Security where the material was looked over and I was questioned.
The whole thing was thrown out. Of course.
Then the guys told me that someone in ADP had turned me in for “counter espionage.”
I couldn’t believe that someone I worked with turned me in for “counter espionage.”
I let them all know that I knew that one of them did it, and I made some threats about what was going to happen when I figured out who it was.
Well, one of women sailors wisely came to me and told me the truth. It was she who turned me in.
I talked to her and found out that in order to get me, Security had demanded a body to replace me. So, ADP took their weakest Data Processor and derailed HIS career by sending him to stand gate duty at Security.
I had no idea.
You might wonder why on earth they wanted me so badly. At the time I wondered as well. I didn’t really realize it at the time, but I was considered very valuable in the Navy. I scored very high on the entry exam. I had worked at JCMP (Joint Cruise Missile Project) in D.C. and had been awarded the Joint Services Commendation Metal. And they were trying to push me into becoming an officer.
The idea that I was in Security when I could be doing really important things for ADP drove them nuts. So, they wrote their letters. A lot of letters. It was the one to the 6th Fleet Admiral that was my, and the poor guy who got sent to Security’s, downfall.
Of course, they had no idea what I really was.
My view of myself was a good sailor who behaved well. But that really wasn’t the truth. I have my own sense of integrity and my own moral core. I tended to find a way to do what I thought was right, and to not do what I thought was wrong. I didn’t take orders, or if I did, I either didn’t do it well or I did it too enthusiastically. And I came from a very bad background and was emotionally unstable. I was a wild card. I was not really officer material. I see that now. Heck, I didn’t really belong in the military!
Anyhoo, once I knew what the issue was, I could deal with it.
I got them all together and told them story of how I got there. I told them about my lost trip to Germany to learn to drive offensively. I told them that I had picked Security. That it had been my choice. I asked them if they believed that I really wanted to be there at ADP? That I asked for it?
They realized that I had been a victim as well and relaxed enough to let me lead them.
The Trouble Continued
First, you have to realize that no one ever leaves Security. No one. Ever. So, no one really believed that I was out of Security.
Whenever I’d get beeped, the command duty officer would call ADP to find out why they were beeping me. They didn’t call for any other beeps.
Someone asked me why they were calling all the time. I told them that they didn’t believe I was out of Security, that they thought I was “undercover”, and so they thought that something going down if I was being beeped and wanted to get in on it. If I was undercover, I wasn’t doing a good job of it. The duty officer calls were a distraction.
And it probably didn’t help when one of my guys got stabbed, not too badly, when he was out in back checking the generators, I immediately got Security involved, personally. No chain of command.
Second. it was my shift. I was in charge.
I’m all about getting the job done. Doing it efficiently. And documenting everything. Always have been.
And I don’t always follow the rules to do it.
So, once I fixed the problems they had listed in that damn letter, I turned my attention to getting the shift in shape.
Rules are made to assist you! Not hamper your efforts. I pretty much threw out the rules. Or used them to justify what I was doing.
I became scary.
The 3 First Classes new job was to “supervise” me. They’d be on the shift with me, following me around saying things like “I don’t know if you should be doing that Karin.” And “Karin, you’re going to get me in trouble if you do that.”
I told them that they know damn well they’re not going to be blamed. No one can control me! Everyone knows that!
When our generator died, I threatened the group in charge of replacing it (they were being silly) and we had a new one that day. I guess they called my Chief because he showed up as they were installing it.
“What’s going on?”
“We’re getting a new generator.”
He looked at the generator and then looked at me.
And he left.
Hey, I got stuff done. It’s really hard to get after someone who gets stuff done!
Getting stuff done is well and good but it’s not really the military way, at least, not the way I was doing it. They really didn’t know what to do with me, and since I’d fixed their problems already, they sent me back to Security.
Karin, The Office Manager
Germany was gone. CID was gone. I only had a about a half a year before my tour was up. So, they made me the Office Manager and put me in charge of the Sigonella Sicily’s version of the DMV computer program.
It was clear to me right way that the office could run itself, so I let them run it, to their relief. I only got involved when there was some sort of dispute.
The computer program was a mess, so I focused on that. I practically had to rewrite the thing but it was accepted by the users and finally used to track the sailors and Navy vehicles.
Time to Re-Enlist
Then came the time for me to ship out. Re-enlist! Go somewhere else! It was very exciting to think about.
I sat down with them to discuss my options. They gave me two options:
- To Re-enlist for 2 years at ADP Sigonella
- To Extend for 2 years at ADP Sigonella
Fuck, I don’t want to spend 2 years at ADP! I just escaped them!
I told them that I had already been there and that they didn’t want me anymore.
They didn’t care. They had that damn letter (they showed me the copy) saying that I should go to ADP. That those were my choices. Take it or leave it.
ADP said they’d send me back to Security if I wanted to stay. But after all the nonsense, I didn’t trust them.
It was bureaucracy at its worse.
So, I got out of the Navy and went to college.
In retrospect, I think that it wasn’t necessarily bureaucracy at work. I think that a lot of my shenanigans were put up with because they expected to get me to go the officer route. And I just wasn’t in a space where that would have been a good idea.
I think that Karin, as an enlisted person, wouldn’t be good for the Navy, and they knew it.
I think that if I wasn’t going to go the officer route, they would have found a way to derail me anyway. I was too much of a wildcard. I didn’t take orders well. And was a little too much of a smarty-pants to be enlisted.
I was dangerous.
When I think about it in this way, I can see that they were probably right. I tend to cause a commotion everywhere I work. And I’m still emotionally unstable. I own it. It’s why I don’t go for leadership roles.
It was for the best that I got out of the Navy. I will always have fond memories and will always ask myself, “what if…”
And that’s the story!