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How I became an officer and a gentleman
The first time I walked across a ship’s quarterdeck, I knew I was “home.” This was to be my life, my profession, my oeuvre.
The impact on the senses was overwhelming: the gentle rise and fall of the ship’s hull against the tide; the smell of salt water; sea gulls wheeling across the sky; the graffiti on the pier beneath the brow that only sailors could see; the ambient noises: Old Glory snapping in the wind, the thud of a garbage scow against the side of the ship, the throbbing of the auxiliary diesels.
Before that, I had been aimless, no money, no connections, no prospects, a “leaf in the wind.”
Now, I had a purpose and a dream. That dream was to become an officer in the United States Navy.
Unfortunately, when one is just a Seaman Apprentice and a member of the uncouth, unwashed, and unlettered masses, an outlier, it’s almost an impossible dream.
Generally, there are four ways to become a commissioned officer in the Navy: graduate from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; attend college on a four-year Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship; graduate from college and complete Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Newport, Rhode Island; or be nominated from the fleet to attend OCS.
For someone of my station, the first three avenues to a commission were only a fantasy.