An Introduction to "Mess" Duty and Other "Messy" Work, Such as Peeling potatoes, Washing Dishes, Scrubbing Cutlery and the Like - Extra Assignments by Way of Penalties.

By Frederick W. Box - Co. 115

Article No. 6

Service week in the Navy during "boot" training spells mess detail.

Mess detail spells at least 14 hours of hard work a day for 8 days.

Civilians may complain when they are forced to work from 8 to 12 hours a day for the full week but Navy recruits must take K.P. in stride.

The detail means a 4:30 a.m. rising hour and duty at the mess hall from 5:15 a.m. until between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. The mess detail usually includes most of three companies.

Service workers are attired in spotless whites while the "skullery" and kitchen workers are allowed to wear regular work clothes - dungarees.

Mess is operated on the cafeteria system and in slightly more than an hour the entire First Regiment passes through the chow line. This means the countermen who dish and pass out the food, actually are at these duties for only about three hours a day. The remainder of the time is devoted to keeping the hall meticulously clean.

Other men attired in white include the traffic directors and bread men.

The countermen must keep the stainless steel equipment shined to mirror-like finish. Afterwards they must pitch in with the traffic directors and bread men to swab the mess hall floor. This procedure is followed after every meal and means sweeping, scrubbing and mopping.

The dungaree-attired men serve in the break and cake room, the once dreaded "spud locker," and on the kitchen floor in the capacity of swabbers.

Bread and cake men "swab the deck" the first thing in the morning and then turn to regular assignments of cutting pies and cakes, distributing bread and bake goods to the various stations on the floor, and keeping the salt and sugar barrels and shakers filled from the supply room.

The bake goods are brought to the Unit C mess hall from another part of the station.

After the meal is over, the "bakery" crew must wash the pie and cake pans and then return to the duty of cleaning the room again. This is repeated three times daily.

One of the "hated" jobs of mess detail is the "spud" or potato locker assignment. Actually the men do not peel the spuds because machines now do this work. However, they dig out the potato eyes and peel other vegetables such as carrots and beets for consumption the following day.

Another tough job is "skullery" duty. About a dozen men are assigned to each skullery to wash the eating trays (all food is served on one tray), the cutlery, cups and bowls.

The skullery is also operated on the station system. When the bluejackets finish chow, they move through the skullery depositing knives, forks and spoons in one tray, cups in another, bowls in a third, and finally the stainless steel trays with the last attendant.

Leftovers are tossed into the garbage can and the trays move to a wash tub where they are thoroughly cleaned. Then all equipment runs through the steamer where it is sterilized by boiling water to insure cleanliness. Other men return the equipment to stations where it can be used over again.

As in all other work, an occasional "goldbrick" is discovered. For minor infractions, a man may be assigned to crack a crate of eggs after the evening's work is done. For continued goldbricking, a man on the floor or counters may be shipped into the skullery. There they are assigned to clean the "honey bowls" which catch the refuse under the wash tub and the steamer.

Sometimes goldbricks are assigned to the "spud locker" for punishment or carry stock from trucks.

When repeated "extra instruction" fails to produce results, the master at arms uses the "goldbrick" assignment for "punishment." The guilty party is assigned to push a cement block painted gold around the floor on his hands and knees for a full day to remove any "excess paint." One day of this "work" usually makes the bluejacket see the light.

The men are really happy when "service men" is over and they can get a full night's sleep again.