When I got back to the states I instantly became a military police "person of interest." I'm not sure if they framed it in those exact words, but there you have it. The country was nothing like before I left for Westpac. It was like there had been an epidemic of patriotism fervor that infected every citizen of the United States. There were more god damned American flag bumper stickers than there were fast food restaurants. If you were in the military everybody wanted to personally thank you, shake your hand, and buy your lunch. Before I left nobody gave a shit about enlisted personal...not even enlisted personal gave a shit about enlisted personal, and nobody cared about American Pride bumper stickers. I found myself in a bit of a pickle seeing as how I was UA (unauthorized absence). I only bring this up to help explain what it was like to be a deserter at that time in our countries history. I imagine it would have been about like being a Nazi sympathizer during WW11, or a communist during the McCarthy era, or a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. I had become a pariah even in the eyes of my own family. So when the Master Chief of Reactor Department handed me my military I.D. back, and I was free to go spend time with my family, it wasn't exactly a welcomed homecoming. Never mind the fact that I had been at war for the country during the last six months.
After two weeks of trying to get my family to understand my actions, it was time to report back to the ship and begin reaping my idealistic harvest. It was a lovely harvest that offered me all manner of tailored bull shit in the key of USN. The reason I had chosen to go UA was because I knew that there was a zero tolerance drug policy that applied even to the nuclear navy. I knew that the captain wasn't going to be able to ignore the fact that my piss test was positive for herb. I think the Master At Arms that watched me flip my wanker out and piss in the cup got high from the marijuana smell of my urine. I handed him my green piss while smiling ear to ear, for here was my ticket out of this mess. After the piss test the Master Chief began to counsel me on how my life wasn't over, and if I played my cards right it wouldn't ruin my navy career, and that I could rebound from it and even prosper. I just looked him in the eyes and said "my piss test is going to come back positive for marijuana." At that point he realized that there was nothing that could be done to salvage this nuke.
Once my positive piss test came back, it was on to the punishment portion of my processing out of the navy. They were kicking me out, but first they had to punish me. I was rewarded a demotion from E-4 to E-3 (which seemed sort of ridiculous since I was getting processed out of the navy) and had to spend 60 days on "restriction." That meant that I had to wear orange coveralls over my "utilities" which is what we called our work uniform. I wasn't allowed to leave the ship, and I had to muster five times a day with the rest of the restrictees so that the master at arm douche bags could incessantly fuck with us. Master at arms are in charge of the security on the boat...they're like the police men. Every department had to offer up some of these douche bags to fill the positions on the boat. It was a second duty that was performed. People volunteered to be a master at arms because they wanted their egos inflated as much as possible. They got to carry around a nine millimeter and wear camouflage BDS's (I always thought that was odd since our environment was a ship, not a jungle, but so goes military intelligence). At any rate, the point is that these guys were from all ten dimensions of ass hole, and they all aspired to the eleventh. They got their rocks off fuckin' with restrictees.
The muster that we had to do five times a day was so that they could make us stand in formation at attention while they walked up to each one of us and personally inspected our hair cut, shave, uniform, orange jail coveralls, and sphincter sizes to ensure they were all in line with military specifications. The last place I wanted to be was on that god damn ship after spending pretty much every day all day for the last six months on it. I couldn't leave. Imagine having to live where you work. We also had to wear steel toed boots, a hard hat and safety glasses all day long unless we were in berthing because we were in an industrial zone. When a ship pulls in after a deployment there are a lot of things that have to get done to maintain a metal ship that lives in salt water. There's all manner of grinding, and tubing, and ventilation piping, and chemicals and painting and grinding and on and on...and that's what we lived in. The rest of the ships crew were living in barracks on the base or off base in their own apartment or house. There was only one berthing area that was even functional and that was the forward berthing where the air wing slept during deployment.
During the work day, from 0800 to 1700, the restrictees all reported to their respective departments. Seeing as how I was no longer allowed in either of the power plants because I had lost my TLD (thermal luminescent dosimeter, the device that measures radiation exposure); I was essentially useless to reactor department. However, not completely useless. Apparently while we were at sea one of the conventional mechanics on the boat had been gaffing his logs (not actually doing them). He was supposed to be checking on the status of a very large water heater (the size of a midsize truck) that was located in a room that nobody would even know existed had it not been for this water heater. To get to it you had to go up several ladders, through female berthing, into another room that had nothing but large ventilation pipes, and finally through another water tight door into this room that had only this water heater. At some point the heater developed a small leak, and by the time we pulled into port and somebody actually went to the trouble of checking on it, it was discovered that the heater had been swimming in several feet of water for some time. Everything was rusted all to shit. The entire room, which was nothing but metal, was rusted out. Somebody had to fix this mess...enter me, and several other fuck ups from reactor department that were on restriction for doing drugs to deal with their consciences.
That became my job while on restriction for those 60 days. We were to deck grind and needle gun the entire room (git rid of all of the rust, corrosion, and muck to restore the room to serviceability). Due to the fact that deck grinding in a rusted out water tight room can be hazardous to your health, we had to have an air ejector installed in the room. The room was located as far starboard as possible and the outer skin of the ship made one of the walls. The air ejectors job was to eject all of the crap that went airborne overboard so that we didn't have to inhale any of it. Due to the hidden nature of this room, it was quite easy to get to it and not have to worry about being found (since pretty much nobody on the ship, with the exception of a couple of reactor department personal, even knew of it's existence, and only one of them actually knew how to get to it). When the work day was over, the only people who gave a shit about our whereabouts were the master at arms, and they hardly knew where they were located half of the time.
So me and a few of my fuck up buddies decided that, seeing as how we were already getting kicked out of the navy for "wrongful use of marijuana" (which I always wondered what they supposed the proper use of marijuana was), we would start smuggling herb onto the boat, and then we decided we would use this room to smoke it in seeing as how we had an air ejector to rid of the pungent evidence. After a few weeks of us using this space during the work day, we began hearing rumors about some chiefs in a space above the room we were in smelling the scent of marijuana. The air ejector was doing it's job nicely, it was just that they had a cat walk outside of their work space on the outside of the ship where the smoke would pass them from time to time. We weren't about to stop smoking herb, and getting to this space after the work day without detection by the master at arms would be difficult. We began searching for new weed smoking real estate on the ship. A large portion of the 40 or so restrictees all wanted to smoke herb, and they were from all different departments capable of supplying us with all manner of hidey holes to smoke a toke. I found myself in some pretty interesting places on that ship with the explicit purpose of getting stoned with five or six other guys. I happened to be the only restrictee stupid enough to have a glass pipe in my rack, and so I happened to be included frequently in these weed smoking gallivants. None of us ever got caught smoking on board while I was on restriction. Although there were many close calls, and they were onto us.
It's important to understand how restrictees were viewed by the rest of the ship to completely understand my situation. Restriction was the navy's way to punish non-judiciously. If you were on restriction it's because you were a "shit bag", and that was the end of the story. If you were on restriction and you were just waiting to be kicked out of the navy, then you were beyond a shit bag. You were a shit bag fuck up that was found in a pile of whale shit at the bottom of the deepest ocean, and you were treated as such by pretty much everybody. Nobody gave two shits about a restrictee, and they damn sure didn't care about one that was getting kicked out. They started doing things like locking the only head (bathroom) accessible to us while everybody else on the ship was gone so that we had to either piss ourselves or hold it all night. They would turn all of the hot water off so that we had to take cold showers. I wasn't about to abide that type of treatment, and so I went to war with the Master at Arms.
I began demeaning the head master at arms by pointing these indiscretions out during our various musters. He basically told me that I, and all of the other restrictees, could go fuck ourselves, and that we would just have to hold it or piss ourselves for all he cared. No sir, this aggression will not stand, and so I, and several other restrictees, decided that we would take matters into our own hands. About fifteen of us wrote short letters about how shitty our conditions were and dropped them off in the Captain's suggestion box. Nobody ever put anything in that box because it would mean that you were going around the chain of command. You didn't go around the chain of command and have any kind of life on a ship, because the chain of command would make sure that you had no life. We were brain washed with fear into not using that suggestion box. It was simply there for show and not to be used. I didn't give a damn about any chain of command any longer because I was getting separated from the Navy.
One night, shortly after we turned in our suggestions regarding how we wanted to be treated while on restriction, we were all up in the small lounge area in berthing playing cards, drinking, and smoking cigarettes. This was a problem because we were not supposed to be out of our racks past 2200 hrs (well and the smokes and boos). The only other people that used this berthing on the ship were people that had to stand watch very early in the morning. Some of the restrictees started gettin' kind of loud with the card game due to the copious amount of "bilge wine" that was being consumed (this is illegal alcohol that is made by sailors at sea by concealing the ferment in bilges). Apparently there was a non-restrictee staying in our berthing that night, and he didn't appreciate the fact that we were making noise. He decided he'd put an end to our shenanigans and call the on duty master at arms. Minutes before the master at arms descended on us with all of their egomaniac rage, one of the restrictees bursted into the lounge to warn everybody. We dispersed like cockroaches when the lights switch is turned on in the middle of the night. Except we were drunk cockroaches so we weren't nearly as efficient. Maybe more like drunk rats.
I had the bright idea to strip naked, wrap a towel around myself, grab my shower bag, and head for the head. I ducked into the shower and turned the water on in an attempt to hide from the douche bags. After ten minutes or so, I figured it was safe and got out of the shower. I opened the head door slightly and peaked out into berthing to have a clandestine look see. Nothing, dark, no master at arms. I quickly scurried to my rack and just as I slipped into my rack a rogue master at arms, with nothing better to do, shined his flashlight down my isle and saw my foot going into my rack.
"Hey, you..." as he waddled on over to my rack, "aren't you a restrictee?"
"Get dressed, you're coming with me."