One had to be careful to monitor the practice informally, though, because sometimes the enlisted men could be too hard on themselves--no sail locker justice. A retired Master Chief Petty Officer in my church, a Pearl Harbor survivor, told me, ďIf I had to send one of my sailors to mast, I felt that was a failure of leadership.Ē
But once a sailor is written up, he must go to Mast.
Hereís what happens.
The division officer investigates the legitimacy of the offense. Now, usually, this isnít difficult. About 90% of UCMJ violations are for unauthorized absence. The proof, according to the Manual for Courts Martial, is that the sailor was at his appointed place of duty at the appointed time or not. The division officer only has to check the deck log. All the rest is evidence in mitigation and extenuation. The division officer talks with the leading petty officer, and they come up with a recommendation for punishment, based on the sailorís record and reputation. At least, thatís what I did as a division officer. The department head passes on the recommendation to the executive officer without comment, figuring the leading petty officer and division officer know the sailor better than he does, and besides heís busy with other stuff. At least, thatís what I did as a department head.
Did you know that the motto once was, "We sharpen up the fleet?"
Everything you ever wanted to know about Captainís Mast.
Iíve been maybe to 100 Captainís Masts, as a division officer, department head, executive officer twice and commanding officer. Maybe youíve been to one or two yourself. (Oh, no! Only the good guys form a shipís alumni association.)
There are various measures that can be taken short of going to Captainís Mast, most illegal but prevalent. If youíre old enough you may remember liberty cards. By issuing a liberty card, a leading petty officer certified that a sailor had done his duty for the day and had no unresolved issues. In effect, the leading petty officer was saying to the officer-of-the-deck, ďThis sailor is eligible for liberty in all regards.Ē But a common practice was to withhold a liberty card as punishment, not legal because only the commanding officer can punish. Liberty cards were done away with 40 years ago or so. But Iím sure the practice still exists. A salty old chief tells a sailor, ďLad, you really screwed up, but rather than write you up, Iím going to give you the option of voluntarily staying aboard a couple of days.Ē
Though illegal, officers not only tolerated the informal practice of enlisted men disciplining themselves, but appreciated it. If administered fairly, discipline was maintained without a lot of paperwork.
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