An interesting character, Gus was a recent UCLA graduate who raised his right hand and swore his oath of allegiance at the same time and in the same room as did I...we were the only two lads present that morning so, I suppose we were destined to be service pals, and we were. Unfortunately for Gus, he was a political science major, a course of study that most techie types would suggest, involves no science. His problem was that the Navy testing and classification routines strongly favored those with some math and science capabilities. Original Gus apparently had few of those skills. However, in most other respects he was a lively and intelligent shipmate, if a bit idiosyncratic.
The Reserves. Reserves were not particularly well-received by the USN regulars we found aboard ship. And after reading Manchester, Jones, and Mauldin, among others, I'm of the opinion that enlisted service people are pretty universally seen by the Regular (read: career) service management structures as no more than canon fodder and, in a sense that's exactly what they are. Jones wrote most eloquently about that situation following his WWII service.
But, the Guses and other Reserves like them presented a new kind of challenge to Regular Navy management. The nature of the Vietnam War and the constant threat of the Draft forced all young men age 18-26 during those years to deal with military service in some fashion. Almost overnight the more selective services, Navy and the Air Force, had a significant rise in the quality of their recruits as tons of college-trained lads came into the Draft pool. Not all of them wanted to be officers, which required almost twice the time on active duty. Further, neither the Navy nor the Air Force ever had to rely on the Draft to fill their manpower needs during the Vietnam War…there was a ready supply of high quality volunteers from which to choose. Those volunteers were recognized by the Navy management as being a pretty smart group...esp. the Reserves since they had figured out how to get done in 2-years what others were taking 4-years to do.
So, there was Gus, BA-UCLA, reporting aboard to start his 2-years of ACDU (active duty) as a Seaman. However, since the Reserve unit had not declared him a "striker" for anything, what to do with him? Other Reservists that had scored well on the classification tests had been designated as “strikers” for the various technical ratings aboard ships….radio, machinists, electronics, sonar, radar, fire control, etc. Sometime during the preceding year a rather dour Reserve Commander asked me if I wanted to be a "striker" for one of the technical jobs...and me not knowing what he was talking about said, "sure, why not." And with that brief exchange my cruise was destined to be a fairly decent experience.
Gus apparently didn't get the same deal. When about 4 of us reported aboard late one afternoon, we were directed to the front compartment of the ship...up in the bow. That was the standard response to all new reports for, up there was 1st Division...the deck apes...the Bosuns...later to be observed as the crappiest jobs on the ship. Fortunately, just before settling in, a black Petty Officer, one of the first blacks I had ever seen in a working situation, rushed into the compartment and called my name along with one other guy, told us to grab our kit, and follow him. Unfortunately for Gus, his wasn't one of the names called...and there he stayed with the deck apes for the entire 7-month cruise!