Hamilton: The Misadventures of USARELMNAVWARCOL
Violent protests at America’s universities are in the news these days. Whether or not to support free speech is the issue. Used to be that the common definition of a university was a bunch of faculty, staff, and students assembled around a common parking grievance. No doubt the burning issue of the day will change as it always does; however, the lack of parking spaces is likely to persist.
Which brings to mind the extreme lack of parking spaces when this writer was an Army officer student living in Bachelor Officers Quarters (BOQ) on Coasters Harbor Island, the 92-acre home of the U.S. Naval War College (NWC). The tiny island is in Narragansett Bay, attached to the mainland city of Newport, R.I., by a narrow, U.S. Marine-guarded causeway.
As the cold winds of the coming winter started blowing off the Atlantic Ocean, the need to park close to the BOQ became apparent to someone who had just come off a second year in the steaming jungles of Vietnam. Noticing that the admirals had reserved parking places marked by signs bearing those long acronyms so beloved by the Navy — with a gift-boxed bottle of rum in hand — I drove over to the sign shop at the nearby naval base and got a thirsty sailor to make a very, very official looking sign in Navy blue and gold that read: USARELMNAVWARCOL. In Navy speak, that meant: U.S. Army Element, Naval War College.
In the dark of one late September night, the reserved parking sign for USARELMNAVWARCOL appeared right next to the entrance to the BOQ. For eight months of the nine-month-course, USARELMNAVWARCOL enjoyed his prime parking spot. But one late spring day a visiting Naval Reserve Captain (in Army rank, a full colonel) yelled, “Major, do you realize you just parked in the place reserved for USARELMNAVWARCOL? You Army types cannot just ignore naval protocol. So, you take that car of yours and find somewhere else to park on this island!”
I responded, “Aye, aye, Sir. So sorry. The car will be moved immediately!” Apparently, the visiting reservist was so intrigued by the identity of USARELMNAVWARCOL that he made some inquiries at NWC headquarters.
The next day, USARELMNAVWARCOL found himself standing at attention in front of the full Colonel Army senior advisor to the NWC who said, “Major, there is a rumor that someone made a fictitious parking sign and placed it next to the entrance to the BOQ. If true, that sign needs to disappear. Dismissed!” It was like a scene from “Casablanca.” “There’s gambling going on here?”
That night, the sign for USARELMNAVWARCOL found its way to the bottom of Narragansett Bay. But that was not the end of the story. On the day for leaving the NWC en route to assignment in Europe, a letter written on the made-up letterhead of USARELMNAVWARCOL was posted to the vice admiral president of the NWC.
The letter read, in part, “Dear Admiral Colbert: This is to thank you for the courtesy of a reserved parking place next to the BOQ and to inform you that the parking spot reserved for USARELMNAVWARCOL will no longer be needed.”
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and is a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College (a distinguished graduate), the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University. For more, see: http://www.central-view.com.
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