Prior to covering crime, espionage, terrorism and other security issues as a writer and a crime columnist for the Washington Times and Philadelphia Weekly, I performed security work in the U.S. Navy as a young sailor and later as a Defense Department civilian for more than 37 years.
For the last 21 of my 37 years of service, I was the civilian administrative officer of a Defense Department command in Philadelphia. I oversaw all security programs and served as an investigating officer and performed security briefings and seminars for the military personnel and civilian employees of the command.
But my very first security job was when I was 17-years-old and stood watch as a sentry in the barracks at the Naval Recruit Training Center at Great Lakes, Illinois in 1970. In Boot Camp we had to memorize the 11 General Orders of a Sentry (see below) and we had to recite them to any drill instructor who happened to visit us while on watch.
I recall being visited while on watch at 0500 by a particularly surly drill instructor. He looked me up and down, shook his head and called me a candy ass and a puke excuse for a sailor. (I stood rigid and said nothing, but I thought about punching this old man's lights out if I ever encountered him outside the base).
The instructor then placed his ugly, twisted face nearly up against mine and screamed, “What is the 5th Order of a Sentry?”
Thankfully, I knew the correct answer. The instructor looked disappointed.
I saw much older recruits draw a mental blank through nervousness, and some broke down and stammered, and some even cried when the instructors screamed, cursed, waved their hands about, and stomped their feet in an effort to confuse the sentry.
But being raised by a former Navy chief, a WWII UDT frogman who ran our house like a ship, I felt like I grew up in the Navy. So someone screaming orders at me was nothing new or especially intimidating.
I would go on to stand less stressful security watches on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War and on a Navy tugboat, the USS Saugus, at the nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland.
I thought of my time as a Boot Camp sentry when I came across the 11 General Orders of a Sentry on the Internet.
I’m sure other Navy veterans have similar memories.
Note: The top photo is of me on watch as a sentry at Boot Camp in February 1970.