The only exemptions being petty officers or, if you were lucky, your division being so undermanned they simply couldn't function without you. Anyone from a seaman (E-3) and below had to do it, generally speaking.
Now, I had served my time and paid my debt to society on my first ship, the USS Henderson (DD-785), which was a reserve destroyer that I only spent a little over 100 days on, since they decided to decom it and sell it to...puke...Pakistan.
Sorry, still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
So when I arrived at my second ship, the USS Duluth (LPD-6), which happened to be stationed at Todd Shipyards in delightful San Pedro, CA., I was considered an ex-con when it came to mess cookin' duty, with time served.
That was the time I chose to get in trouble. Well, I hadn't planned on it but that's what happened nevertheless.
So I ended up on restriction (like house arrest except on a ship), fined, and given two hours of extra duty per day plus, I had to muster five times a day to make sure I was there.
Oh, and I was reduced in rank from a seaman to a seaman's apprentice (E-3 to E-2).
Then I got in trouble again, got reduced to an E-1 (seaman recruit) and won an all expense paid vacation to the brig for 30 days. And another fine.
Meanwhile, the ship didn't sink, and she returned to sunny San Diego while I marched sandbags around and did a mini bootcamp kind of thing. By this time I had learned it wasn't a good idea to get in trouble.
After my R and R I returned to the Duluth on my 19th birthday. I had saved up around 25 bucks and this seemed like a good time to go to the base club and have a few cold ones.
Life returned to about as normal as it gets in the Navy and I found that San Diego was much nicer than San Pedro or Long Beach.
I worked extra hard, which you hafta do after getting in trouble because everyone is watching you. Especially my new division officer who was a sadistic bastard that didn't like me because I had gotten into trouble.
In fact, he told me when I met him that he didn't like troublemakers, and that he would see to it that I was kicked out on a bad conduct discharge.
I tried to explain that my attitude had been adjusted and I wouldn't get in trouble again, but he didn't wanna hear it. He had made up his mind.
He did everything he could to get me to mouth off or take a swing at him but I bit my lip and kept my nose to the grindstone.
He's not gonna break me, I told myself.
A few month's later, Chief took me aside after morning muster.
"Conrad, I hate to break it to you but I have to assign you mess duty," he said.
"What? Whoa. Wait. Chief...I did my time," I replied.
Didn't he read my record? I wondered.
"I know. But everyone else has gone, and since you were reduced in rank, you are next in line," Chief explained.
Sh*t. What a revoltin' developement this was, I thought.
"Do I hafta do the full 90 days again?" I asked.
"Yep. I hate to lose you, especially since you've been working so hard but my hands are tied on this one," Chief said, grimacing.
"I...I understand, Chief," I said.
Unintended consequences suck, I thought. Oh well, more incentive not to get in trouble again.
"Report to MS1 Baker and he will get you situated," Chief said. "Oh, BTW, you'll still report to Combat during general quarters, condition 1 alpha or navigation detail," Chief added.
"Roger that, Chief," I replied.
On the bright side, I wouldn't hafta to put up with LTJG asshole as much, I thought.
After grueling 12 hr. days in the shipyards and the brig mess duty wasn't nearly as bad as I had thought it would be.
Relatively speaking, of course. Because it also wasn't a cakewalk neither.
Near the end of my second tour of mess duty I was helping to bring on some more stores we had received as part of underway replenishment with a supply ship.
We didn't actually need much, if anything, since we were only underway for a few weeks to conduct exercises and work-ups for an upcoming WestPac deployment, so this was part of that.
I heard a scream and something hitting the deck. As I turned to see what it was I almost got bowled over as a fellow shipmate ran past me.
"What the f*ck man?!" I shouted.
I saw a dropped box of bananas on the deck o few feet in front of me. On the other side of the banana's two other sailors were backing up, and flailing.
"Shit! Watch out!" Rodriguez exclaimed, pointing.
Then I saw what he was pointing at.
I don't know exactly what kind of spider it was, but as a kid I was always trying to catch spiders, snakes, even scorpions.
I wasn't an expert but I thought this one looked like a tarantula but not quite as hairy.
Naturally, I couldn't resist trying to catch it.
Lessee, what to use...I guess that box top will work temporarily, I thought.
I took a few steps toward the banana box top and the spider scurried over next to the bananas as it saw me approaching. It lifted it's front legs as I crept closer.
"What the hell you doing essay? Oh hell no!" Rodriguez exclaimed as I reached for the box top.
"Trying to catch it," I replied in a loud whisper. "Don't make any sudden movements," I added.
"Don't f*ck with it homes," Rodriguez said, now also in a loud whisper.
"Kill it! Kill the motherf*cker," said Wilson, the guy who initially tried to bowl me over and the one I was pretty sure let out the primal scream I had heard earlier.
"Don't be such wusses," I said, almost reaching the box top.
On Rodriguez's end of the passageway I saw a crown forming as more of our shipmates arrived to see what the scream was about.
"I'm out of here," Wilson said in a shaky voice.
As I reached for the box I kept one eye on the spider. The spider kept four eyes on me and two on Rodriguez...I think.
Finally, my fingers brushed the lid and...
"What the f*ck is the hold up?!" I heard someone bellow behind me.
And the spider jumped...at me!
I jumped too, backwards, and tripped into whoever had startled the spider.
"Sheet! Get out of there man!" Rodriguez shouted.
This seemed to agitate spiderzilla even more and it scurried towards me really fast.
Oh sh*t! I thought, trying to get up as fast as I could.
"Aiiiieeee!" Screamed the hapless sailor who I had tripped over.
Thae scream was louder than Wilsons and spiderkong began to scurry the other direction.
"Holy Mary mother of God!" Shouted Rodriguez, backing up and making the sign of the cross.
At that moment, MS1 Baker pushed his way through the retreating crowd and almost gave Rodriguez a heart attack when he grabbed his shoulder a pushed past him.
As I began to regain my footing el spidiablo, startled by petty officer Baker jumped and scurried in my direction again.
"Aiieee!" Shouted the screamer behind me kicking his feet...this, along with the rolling of the ship on the waves tripped me up again.
Damn! What the hell? I thought, wondering who in the hell was kicking the back of my legs.
"Aieee!" Screamed the screamer again, hurting my ears.
If I wasn't so busy trying to get up and watch the spider, I swear, I would've punched the screamers lights out!
If I hadn't been so preoccupied I would've thought to elbow him in the mouth.
"Shut the f*ck up, man!" I said in a loud whisper.
Mr. Spider creeped closer and I pulled my feet closer as well, bending my knees and raising my right foot, in case it got close enough to bring my boot down on it.
Thanks to Stanley Screamer I had abandoned the idea of catching the spider alive.
Spidey seemed to speed up and for a second there I thought I saw fear in it's eyes...all 6 of them. I almost...almost felt sorry for it. Then I wondered if I would be fast enough to kill it or if my timing would be off and instead I would feel the plunge of one inch fangs instead.
Okay, maybe they were more like half inch fangs, but they were fangs, nonetheless.
Or maybe, just maybe, the spider would run over me and bite screamin' Minnie behind me.
If I could've communicated with it I would've coordinated the attack myself.
Splat! MS1 Baker's boot came down and all I saw left of spidey was the tips of eight legs, evenly dispatched on both sides of Baker's size 14 boot.
"Quit lollygagging around, we got work to do," MS1 Baker said, smiling.
He reached out his hand and helped me up.
"Thanks!" I said.
"Is it dead? Is it dead?" Asked screamin' Nellie.
""You tell me," Baker said, raising his boot up into Nellie's face.
It took me several minutes to stop laughing after that.
MS1 Baker smiled. His smiles were equivalent to laughing out loud.