7 o’clock, time to get up. In a room where about 40 guys slept the smell was a treat to the nostrils. Gym clothes, the hamper, socks, cologne and a few guys that hadn’t quiet grown out of the “I don’t need to shower every day, I have Axe body spray” stage of life meant that you were never quite sure what you were smelling but you knew it wasn’t pleasant.
I got up that morning like any other on board the USS Tarawa, but this was no ordinary day. Today there would be a couple hundred of us on the mess deck at 8:00 a.m. ready to take our advancement exam. Freshly sharpened Ticonderoga #2 pencils laid out next to the neatly stacked test booklets waited for us to come and fill in our circles without any stray marks. The aroma of undercooked eggs and fatty delicious bacon still lingered outside the kitchen as we took our seats.
It had been almost six years since I flew from PDX to O’Hare international airport. Arriving in Chicago in late January, it turns out, is a little cold. During book camp we walked everywhere which would have been easier if it weren’t for the two feet of snow on the ground. On good days we weren’t outside too much in the cold. But there was one day that we were in trouble and we went in to the courtyard to do some push-ups. You could see your breath as you entered the cold winter air. We got down and put our bare knuckles on the rough asphalt to knock out some knuckle-diamond push-ups until the RDC was satisfied (which happened to be long after I was ready to go back inside).
Today was almost six years later. This would be my final time taking the advancement exam and I would be out of the navy before the results even took effect. Should I even care about the test? It was a 200 question exam and we had a few hours to complete it. 15 minutes and a few hand cramps later I was the first to hand in my exam. The instructor seemed surprised and asked “done already” to which I replied “when in doubt ‘Charlie Out’”. I decided that test didn’t matter. It took me 15 minutes to answer “C” to 200 multiple choice questions that day. I was getting out either way, but now I can say I finished the test before all those smart kids.