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Brainwashing Busts Out At Cecil Field
By Mike Woloshin
I returned to the World with my squadron, ATKRON 86, on July 1, 1970. After shore duty in Da Nang and a nine-month Westpac cruise on the U.S.S. Coral Sea, I had forgotten the reality of the Stateside "chickenshit" Navy. Admiral Elmo Zumwalt ("The Z") became C.N.O. (Chief of Naval Operations) that day and a flurry of "Z-grams" issued from "Disneyland East" allowing enlisted men to grow beards (which I did), abolishing Liberty Cards and eliminating other "chickenshit" practices which contributed to the Navy's astounding 16% re-up rate for 1970. However, "The Z's" reforms were slow to reach N.A.S. Cecil Field, Florida.
In October 1970, I was assigned TAD to the AMD (Aircraft Maintenance Division). As a "bubble chaser" (Aviation Structural Mechanic - Hydraulics), I cleaned and repaired hydraulic system filters, broke down, replaced seals, tested and certified flight control activators, brakes and other hydraulic system components. I also had a sideline making custom pipes and smoking accessories from T-6061 aluminum tubing designed for 3,000 P.S.I. hydraulic systems.
The shop was run by Charlie Lynch, a First Class with thirteen years in, from Philadelphia, Mississippi. Despite his hometown (where civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were murdered in 1964), he hated Navy racism - the most virulent kind - and Navy "chickenshit," particularly the Cecil Field variety. He drank coffee and shot the bull with the troops each morning, and as long as the work got done he didn't fuck with anyone. Although he wasn't expressly anti-war, he listened to our anti-war bull sessions and tolerated our anti-military attitudes.
The airframes and hydraulics shops were under the command of Chief Warrant Officer H.J. Harrell and Senior Chief (often called Super Chief) Sonnetag, two of the biggest turds in the Navy. Often when a troop left the shop floor to make a head (latrine) call, he would announce that he was going to take a Harrell and then wipe his Sonnetag.
In early December 1970, I got word that I qualified for the early-out for March 1, 1971. I was getting short, had leave time on the books and put in a chit for three weeks beginning in the middle of the month. At the Monday morning inspection, a few days before I was to go on leave, Harrell announced a film showing for that afternoon.
After 29 years, I don't recall the name of the flick, but I'll never forget how ludicrous it was and how the troops reacted to it. It was a late 1960s Army propaganda film with a Jack Webb-like voice narrating the evils of the international communist conspiracy. It opened with a Tupamaro squad engaged in guerrilla operations against Uruguayan troops of the U.S.-backed regime of Jorge Pacheco-Areco. (In 1970, the Tupamaros executed a U.S. A.I.D. advisor Don Mitrione who was training Uruguayan police in torture techniques - events depicted in the Costa-Gavras film "State of Siege") When the Tupamaros gained turf in the staged combat footage, the audience responded with shouts of "kill, kill, kill," clapping and cheering. When the government troops gained ground, they responded with boos, hisses and curses. At one point Harrell stopped the flick and gave us a ration of shit about our commentary, lack of patriotism and urged us to take the "communist threat" seriously. As the flick ended with the Tupamaro squad leader escaping an ambush down river in a dugout canoe, there were more cheers, yells and applause.
Harrell and Sonnetag were royally pissed and let us know in no uncertain terms, but, like the rest of the troops, I didn't give a shit. I was getting short, going on leave and in a little over a month and half after, I returned. I would be gone!
Mike Woloshin is a former AMH-2, U.S.N. ATKRON 86 N.A.S. Cecil Field, Florida.
He's also a member of the VVAW Chicago Chapter.