Navy and Beer

This is not a criticism nor a political statement. It is an observation ignited by a story of a Fox news item on Google news internet link.

Paul Best, the reporter, tells us that the Pensacola Naval Base has ordered E3 and below, most of which are “airmen” (Seaman Recruit, Seaman Apprentice and Seaman, also “Firemen” if the new Navy hasn’t changed those terms to be politically correct) to not be sold more than one six-pack of beer a day at base exchanges.

In spite of what appears to be noble intent, this may be the silliest regulation ever imposed by our Navy. Supposedly, this will reduce the number of “alcohol related” incidents by young sailors and make training and safety more effective. If a sailor buys and drinks a six-pack a day every day, i’m not too sure the base has accomplished anything. And with the pay sailors get nowadays, i’m pretty sure they can get all they want above a six-pack, not to mention the hard stuff, off base and the local age limit will not deter them one bit.

It appears Navy Air is trying to be like the Air Force: you know, those guys who wear uniforms to look like bus drivers.

The article did make me think about the past and beer.

The first thing that came to mind was an incident on the US Army’s base in Pusan, Korea, now called “Busan” and perhaps both. It was 1970. i spent the night in the BOQ with Captain Ollie White. Ollie was assigned to the Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG) and had ridden our ship to observe and assist our transport unit which was in charge of the Korean troops being transported to and from Vietnam.

On the return trip to Korea, Ollie and i became good friends, and he invited me to dinner and a a couple of nights off the ship, something always welcomed.

We left the ship, caught a cab to the post across town, changed into civilian clothes in Ollie’s BOQ suite, had dinner, bought a couple of new albums at the post exchange: George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass,” The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy,” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” among them, and went to the post “package store” for something to drink while enjoying the music.

Ollie went to get some bourbon, i think. i headed for the beer and got two cases of Olympia, one of the few US beers sold in the Western Pacific (WESTPAC) that did not have formaldehyde as a preservative. i figured what we didn’t drink in the evening and coming day, i would leave for Ollie and his army buddies.

i sat my two cases on the counter as Ollie came up to be next in line. The Korean native cashier looked at my cases and said, “No, no. You can only buy one case of beer.”

“Why not,” i asked, puzzled.

“It’s policy,” the cashier replied, “Beer is rationed to one case a day.”

At this point, i began my rant on what a stupid policy and how could anyone come up with such a bullshit idea, uttering a few more choice Navy terms before paying for my one case, picking it up and heading for the exit.

The cashier looked at me, then at Ollie, and said, “Must be a Navy man.”

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As mentioned, most US produced beers available in WESTPAC at the time were loaded with preservatives that made them all taste bitter. Pabst Blue Ribbon put the date of canning on their beers. One night in the small officers club in Qui Nhon just northeast of the Delong pier where our USNS ships moored, four of our officers including me were drinking PBR’s when someone told me of the practice. i checked my can. i was drinking beer that had been canned in 1958, twelve years earlier.

Because of the preservative factor, local beers were consumed. The most famous was San Miguel, a brew in the Philippines. Military folks called it San McGoo. There are many, many stories involving San McGoo, and i am trying to imagine what would have happened had the Subic Navy Base, or the Clark Air Force Base had ordered a limit be placed on that beer.

i don’t think it would have been pretty.

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My golf has always seem to include beer, even now for our Friday Morning Golf (FMG). But that has changed drastically over the years. In addition to the 19th holes, Navy courses had other sources for a beer. Out on  the courses, there were one or two covered areas containing soda can dispensers, one or two of which dispensed can beer. There was a chain curtain to keep someone from stealing the machines, but a golfer could put his arm through a link to deposit a quarter and get a beer. These beers were available at that price as late as the late 1980’s.

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Things have changed. Prices have changed. Habits have changed.

i’m glad i was there for the old days and old ways.

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