Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Humor in Uniform – How to “Bullshit”


A Spoof

This story happened almost 30 years ago  in the late 1980’s – on a frontline warship.


There is a saying: “No one is indispensable”.

However  in the 1980’s  with the induction of new ships with modern weapons/equipment and sophisticated propulsion systems  I observed that  on many ships  there were a number of Sailors  especially in the Technical Branches  mainly Artificers  who were considered “indispensable”.

Whether these individuals were genuinely indispensable or not  I do not know  and I suspect not.

But the fact of the matter was that the Captain and Head of Department (HOD) wanted that particular “indispensable” Sailor on board the ship during his one year tenure – so that their tenures passed without a hiccup  especially on that crucial weapon system handled by the “indispensable” Sailor.

In fact  the Captain/HOD often got the transfers of these “indispensable” Sailors cancelled  and  I remember a case of “poaching” of an “indispensable” Sailor too  which resulted in an ugly exchange of correspondence, including signals, between the two rival ships involved.

Another offshoot was that these “indispensable” Sailors acquired immense “expert power” – which sometimes overwhelmed “position power”,

And – thanks to their “expert power”  these “indispensable” Sailors sometimes developed a tendency to bullshit.

Here is the hilarious story of one such “indispensable” Sailor called “P”



On our ship we had a Chief Petty Officer – an Artificer  let’s call him “P”.

P was a part of the commissioning crew.

P had remained on the ship continuously without break for more than Seven years.

Every time P’s transfer came  the incumbent Captain would get P’s transfer cancelled.

Every Captain wanted P to remain on board during his tenure  since P was indispensable.

P was indispensable  since he was a specialist on a key weapon system.

With increasing years of experience  P gained more and more expertise  and soon – P was the unsurpassed expert on the system in the entire Navy.

Every Captain knew that with P on board  it would be smooth sailing as far as that crucial weapon system was concerned.

So every new Captain ensured that  during his command tenure  P was kept on board the ship.

It was a Catch-22 situation.

The more P served at sea on board the ship  the more P yearned to go for an appointment ashore.

But conversely  the more P served on board the ship  he acquired more and more specialist expertise.  and he became even more indispensable”  and his chances of going ashore became lesser and lesser. 

So  the more P served on board the ship – the more P became indispensable”  and his chances of being posted out diminished – as every new Captain wanted him on board during his own tenure.

P was fed up.

Seven continuous years at sea were taking its toll on his health.

And also  his family life was adversely affected. 

One day – suddenly – his transfer order came

was delighted when he got his transfer order to a training establishment ashore as an instructor.

But unfortunately  the incoming new Captain got P’s transfer cancelled.

represented against the cancellation of his transfer – saying that he had served seven long years continuously on a frontline warship  and he desperately wanted to go ashore.

I took Chief Petty Officer P to meet the new Captain. 

I told the Captain that P had completed 7 years on this ship.

The Captain looked at P – and then – the Captain personally assured P:

“You don’t worry. You just remain on the ship for my tenure. The moment my transfer comes  I will see to it that you are transferred to some good place ashore – in fact  I will get you a choice transfer to the shore establishment of your choice... 

Despite the Captain’s assurance  P seemed dejected. 

This meant another year on board this ship – it would be 8 continuous years of sea time away from family  with no hope that it would end after even this sea tenure was over

When I tried to commiserate with him  P said cynically to me: 

“Forget it, Sir. Every Captain says the same thing. Captains come and go  all of you officers come and go  but I am destined to remain stuck in this hellhole forever...”

THE BULLSHITTER XO (Executive Officer)

A few days later a new XO (second-in-command) arrived.

The new XO was a hot-shot “spit and polish” Commander – who had spent most of his time on training ships and shore establishments (stone frigates) – and – a long chairborne tenure behnd a desk pushing files in the “Northern Naval Command” (Naval Headquarters) – from where he had arrived on board for his criteria appointment.

The new XO boasted that he was going to “kick us into shape”.

On the very first day of sailing  I was summoned to his cabin.

The XO was seated in his chair.

The “indispensable” Chief Petty Officer P was standing in front of the XO 

P was not standing at attention  which was proper form for sailors – when standing in front of an officer – especially a senior officer like the XO 

However P was standing in his usual casual manner – wearing his peak cap at a rakish angle – in the manner of a famous Admiral.

P had the cavalier bearing of a sailor who has been at sea for a long time.

The Master-at-Arms was standing behind P.

The XO shouted at me: 

“I was taking rounds of the ship  and your Chief P was moving around in a slovenly manner in the alleyway. This sailor – your sailor Chief P” – he was almost nude  the bugger was dressed in a bloody filthy skimpy lungi  – and even his bloody lungi was at half-mast...”

“Sir  I was going for my bath …” P interrupted.

“Shut up!” the XO shouted furiously at P.

Then  the XO turned to me  and he said to me: “The bugger did not even bother to salute me. Your sailor – Chief P” – he intentionally did not salute me…”

Again  P interrupted  and he said to the XO“Sir  in this ship we don’t salute below decks…”

This infuriated the XO 

The XO stood up to his full height – and the XO looked menacingly at P for some time.

Then  the XO shouted at P“Don’t you bloody try to bullshit me – and don’t try to act smart with me – I have sorted out many funny chaps like you...” the XO said angrily to P.

“Sir  why are you threatening at me? I told you that in this ship we do not salute below decks...” P pleaded.

On hearing this  the XO glowered at for some time.

Then  the XO roared furiously – the XO shouted at Chief P

“If you misbehave with me  I will throw you out of this ship...

P (a Chief Petty Officer) looked at the XO (a Commander) squarely in the eye.

Looking straight into the XO’s eyes – P said to the XO: 

Sir  if you get me transferred out of this ship  I will give you a grand party in a 5-Star hotel...”

I almost burst out laughing  but I controlled myself.

In order to prevent the situation from deteriorating further and leading to an aggravated offence  I quickly removed my Chief Petty Officer P” from the XO’s cabin.

Such juicy galley news spreads fast  especially at sea – and  in a few hours  the whole ship knew about the incident.

From then on  the XO would scrupulously avoid P.

However  whenever their paths crossed  with tongue-in-cheek  Chief Petty Officer P would taunt the XO

XO Sir  when are you throwing me out of this ship...?


I learnt three lessons from this story: 

1. Some individuals are indispensable – especially those who have “expert power. 

2. As a Military Officer – sometimes – you will have to resort to “Bullshit”.

“Bullshitting” is considered officership  an essential part of Officer Like Qualities (OLQ). 

But – there are limits to bullshit”  beyond which bullshit can boomerang. 

Yes – if you cross the limit – your “bullshit” can boomerang and fly back into your face. 

3. If you want to have a comfortable life and long tenures  you must try to become “indispensable”.

That is how some officers manage to spend long tenures in choicest stations – and even get their sea-time waived

You will find many such indispensable” “experts” sitting comfortably for many years in Delhi – and other preferred peace stations  while their counterparts keep slogging it out at sea and in the field. 

So – Dear Reader – the Moral of the Story is: 

As an Officer  you must Bullshit your subordinates – but know your limits – especially with experts. 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

1. This story is a spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)

This is an abridged updated extract of my story FEAR – THE GREATEST MOTIVATOR First Posted in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog on 29 July 2013 by Vikram Karve at 7/29/2013 12:52:00 PM in this blog at url: and revised versions posted by me later at urls:  and  and and  etc

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