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My Life In the Coast Guard
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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3A
Chapter 3B
Chapter 3C
Chapter 3D
Chapter 4
Chapter 5A
Chapter 5B
Chapter 5C
Chapter 6
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        The Senior Chief being an expert at psychological torture was not one to start working on the strongest link in the chain first, at least not what he perceived to be the strongest link in the chain. One of his major victims was a very sweet, shy, and demure girl named Seaman Lynn Battles. I saw her receive numerous dressing downs by the Senior Chief. I spent hours with her while we were working and underway trying to bolster her confidence and self-esteem after his attacks. Then one day I saw what looked like a Hurst pull up to the station and two men wearing white medical uniforms got out of the vehicle and went into the station. A short time later these same two men escorted Seaman Battles to their vehicle and drove off with her. I didn't know what was going on so I inquired with several people of the station and I was told that Seaman Battles had been taken to a psychiatric ward at the Navy hospital in Pensacola. I was stunned by this news. After she was gone the Senior Chief began working on me.

Lynn Battles
Seaman Lynn Battles

        I called my parents up one day and they told me that they had noticed that my car was not in very good condition and sort of as a gift for making it as far as I had through the Coast Guard they wanted to buy me a new vehicle and asked me what I wanted. After a couple days thought I called them up and told them I was interested in a truck and that I didn't want them to buy an expensive one. My father called me back a few days later to tell me that he had selected a truck for me and asked me what I could take leave to get it. I told him I would request leave when I went to work in the morning and that I would call him to let him know when. I put in a request for leave stating that the purpose of my leave was to pick up a new vehicle and it was approved, but no sooner than I had gotten into my civilian clothes I was handed my leave request by BM1 Rutheford and I observed that it was denied by the Senior Chief himself. The reasons were due to poor work performance. I found the Senior Chief in the radio room and I asked him what this little about. A large grin came across his face and he said, "Yah I'm responsible for that, what do you think about it!" I thought he was asking me for my opinion so I gave it to him and said, "As far as the reasons listed on this request are concerned they're bullshit!" The Senior Chief replied, "Mr. Coghill you may be 20 pounds overweight and I have more weight than you! Come to my office." He said this in the presence of our electronics technician and several other crewmembers. I went into his office and the BM1 Rutheford was already sitting on the couch. Obviously they had this thing choreographed. I sat down as the Senior Chief closed the door and he proceeded to tell me, "Your work performance is so bad I am ordering Petty Officer Thiewes to do another personnel evaluation on you and if you don't sign it I'm going to bust you down a grade in rank and send you to the brig in Pensacola. Now get out of my sight!" My parents had already purchased the airline ticket to get me home so I called them up to let them know that I would not be able to go. As I was on the phone talking to my mother the Senior Chief came into the radio room shouting, "Petty Officer Coghill get into uniform and get to work now you've got duty!" At that precise moment he instantly changed my duty section because I was not scheduled for duty that day. My mother was on the phone and she could hear him screaming at me and she said, "Who is that yelling at you?" and I said, "It's the Senior Chief I've got to go bye." I went back to the berthing area and as I was punching my collar devices into my collar I was thinking, "He doesn't have the authority to send anybody to the brig at all. It takes an officer to do that and there isn't one here." And then I realized that it would take an officer to bust me in rank. The Senior Chief was bluffing! Then I thought, "Somebody has got to do something to stop this man before things get worse than they already are." I did a rapid mental calculation to determine if I could withstand the loss of pay as a result of being lowered one level in rank and the answer was yes. So I went to the Senior Chief's office and found that the door was closed so I knocked. When I was granted permission to enter I walked over to his desk and said, "Senior Chief if you want these you can have them and I laid my collar devices on his desk." He grabbed them and walked over to me with his hands shaking. This resulted in him dropping one of them and he had to bend over to pick it up. He shoved out his hand and screamed at me, "Petty Officer Coghill, take these and get out of my sight before I send you to Pensacola today!" I went back to the berthing area and finished getting into uniform. Ten minutes later I found that I had been placed on report for gross disrespect to a senior Petty Officer.

        As a result of being placed on report a third party investigator designated by the Senior Chief was appointed to investigate the event. The man that he selected was electronics technician who is present in the radio room when the Senior Chief exploded and a family man that just had a child. It was and is my suspicion that he selected this man because the Senior Chief thought he could be intimidated. He guessed wrong! When I was interviewed by the electronics technician we went over everything that happened that day and everything that had been said. Afterwards I asked him if he was going to speak with the Senior Chief about this incident and he told me that he already had. He told me that in his conversation with the Senior Chief he said, "You might remember I was present when you told Mr. Coghill that he may be overweight, but you had more weight than him. What if Mr. Coghill had taken that as a threat and took you out to the parking lot to kick your ass? What would happen to Mr. Coghill then?" The electronics technician told me that the Senior Chief's response was, "Then I would've press charges against Mr. Coghill for assaulting a senior Petty Officer." The electronics technician told me that his reply was, "Well that doesn't seem very fair it looks to me like Petty Officer Coghill loses both ways." The Senior Chief replied, "That's right, Petty Officer Coghill loses both ways." I asked the electronics technician what the findings of his investigation were and he said, "I'm recommending that the charges be dropped." And they were.

        My father called me up on the phone the next night to tell me that he made arrangements to get my truck to me, seeing that the station was not going to release me to go get it. Because of what the Senior Chief had done to me, my parents were forced to hire a man to drive my new truck from St. Louis, MO. to Panama City, FL. and then paid for a one-way airline ticket to get the man back home. I was quite happy when I drove my new truck to the station the following Monday. The same Monday that I would be reporting back to the station from leave had I driven it there myself. In other words what the Senior Chief was trying to do to me had no effect at all. Neither the Senior Chief nor BM1 Rutheford could speak to me at all during that day because they were so angry at their failure to hurt me and you could see it on their faces.

        As time progressed I began to get a panoramic view of everything that was happening to me. Here is a list of what I saw:

  1. My wife has divorced me.
  2. I'm constantly under fire from the Senior Chief and the executive officer.
  3. I've just participated in two-thirds of the stations fatalities and several other life-threatening rescue missions.
  4. I have nearly been killed several times by one of my boat drivers.
  5. I have encountered three hurricanes in one year.
  6. All hope of receiving help in regard to the matters concerning the Senior Chief and his mistress from a higher power has been destroyed.

        As a result of all of this I contracted irritable bowel syndrome and it was severe. The abdominal cramping and diarrhea were unbearable. At the time the doctors that I had gone to about it couldn't figure out what it was. At one point it was so bad that I decided to count the number of times I had to go to the bathroom before I got to work and I counted eight times and upon arrival at the station I would have to go again. I was miserable inside and out and there wasn't anything I could do about it. That was on until we received a visit from the assistant corpsman at group mobile. When his work with the station was completed I asked for a moment in private to speak with him. We went into the berthing area and sat down on the floor. It was at this time with tears in my eyes I begged the corpsman to get me out of there before something horrible happened. I told the corpsman that I was slowly losing my mind under the torture of the senior cheif. I had a conversation with him that lasted approximately 15 minutes when it was interrupted by the arrival of BM1 Rutheford. He didn't say anything to us and went to his locker to remove something from it and then left the room. When he walked into the berthing area I immediately ceased talking until he had left the room. Not more than two minutes later the Senior Chief came into the berthing area demanding to speak with me and escorted me outside the building and we stood next to the doorway to the rec. deck while he gave me the most severe tongue lashing I have ever received in my life. The insults that he hurled at me and the things that he said about me were so bad that most of them I can't even remember. The Senior Chief was standing with his back to the door of the rec. deck and as he was doing this to me the assistant corpsman poked his head out of the door and heard every word of it. His eyes got as wide as saucers and his jaw dropped in disbelief over what he was hearing coming out of the Senior Chief's mouth. When the Senior Chief wasn't looking I made a quick glance in the direction of the assistant corpsman and looked him square in the eye. Then he pulled his head back through the door and closed it. This man got living proof of what the Senior Chief was doing to every one of us there and still nothing happened and my request to get out of the station fell on deaf ears.  Forget about goodness and mercy - they're gone!

        I was cleaning the bilges one day while Deborah Gorczyki had one of her seamen sanding the boat that I was working on. She decided to check-in on the progress of this man who happened to be an African-American. She started riding his back, saying that he wasn't working fast enough. It was then that she said, "You better get that job done in the next hour boy!" I have worked emergency room security in the ghetto of East St. Louis, IL. for three years and I had never heard something so insulting and stupid in my entire life. Anybody with any common sense at all knows that calling a black man boy under any circumstances is an open invitation for confrontation due to the fact that it references slavery and we were in the deep south. This man was huge and full of muscle, he obviously lifted weights. Not the kind of man I would want angry at me. The man stood his ground and told Debbie, "I'm doing this job as fast as I can, get off my back!" Debbie didn't like the tone of his voice so she wrote him up for gross disrespect and I was listed as one of her witnesses. Something happened as a result of this that brought in investigators from group mobile, but just exactly what it was I don't know. Regardless, I was called him for questioning because I had witnessed the event and I related to them exactly what I'm telling you now. In addition to that I informed the investigators that if she pulled something like this on an underway mission she could be inviting violence.

        The Fourth of July had arrived and deep down I knew that some idiot was going to come down to Panama City FL and get himself killed. I couldn't bare the thought of going through another mission like the ones I had been on before so I requested five days leave over the Fourth of July holiday. BM1 Rutheford denied my request for leave on the grounds that I was essential personnel. Again I called my parents in told them that my request for leave had been denied. That's when my father got on the phone and he said, "Jim put your officer in charge on the phone I want to talk to him." I went down to the new Senior Chief and informed him that my father wanted to speak with him. Senior Chief Campos motioned for me to sit down and picked up the phone. BM1 Rutheford was seated on the couch. My father had about a three-minute conversation with him and then hung up the phone. Senior Chief Campos turned to me and said, "Petty Officer Coghill as of this minute you are on leave." BM1 Rutheford was about to object when Senior Chief Campos said to him, "I don't want to hear it. Let me tell you what we have here. We have a man who has been denied leave from this unit three times and a father who is about to call a senator. This matter is closed. Petty Officer Coghill get out of this station and get to the airport." I had a wonderful week over the Fourth of July but felt fear and trepidation over my eminent return to the station when it came time to go back.

        It was early spring in my last year of the Coast Guard when a very powerful storm blew into Panama City. We had 8 to 10 foot rolling waives in Panama City Bay. I could just imagine what it was like out in the Gulf of Mexico. No sooner than I thought this one of the crew boats for the offshore oil rig platforms radioed the station stating that the seas were so heavy he was afraid he was going to lose control of his vessel. I don't know what anybody thought we could do for this guy because we were only 41 feet long and an oil rig crew boat is approximately 82 feet long and is a much more seaworthy vessel than ours was in those conditions. Nonetheless we went out there anyway. We got his position just as we were passing through the jetties and as soon as we had we turned to a southwesterly course. I was little concerned about this maneuver because in this position away years were hitting us broadside causing the boat to tip over more so than I had seen at any other time. As we continued my concern increased when I noticed that we were starting to get hit with even larger waves. I was constantly looking out the port side window to keep an eye on the waves when I saw a really big one coming. We had two seamen out on deck at the time and I was afraid they were going to be washed away so I opened the door and yelled at them, "Get inside!" Too late the wave hit us. Suddenly the left wall of the cabin became the floor and anyone who was standing fell including me. When I fell I landed on one of the metal clips that held our hatch wrenches. It's sharp edges slashed through my uniform and put a deep laceration in my left buttocks six inches long and I was bleeding pretty good. As soon as I could I got back to my feet and opened the door so our people outside could get into the cabin. By the time I had accomplished this they were still rising to their feet as another wave approached. When we got everyone inside the boatswains mate radioed the station to tell them that the seas were too rough and that we were returning to station. He also informed them that I was injured. When we got back to the station I was taken to the Navy clinic at the naval coastal systems center where they patched me up and returned me to duty.

        For some reason when people get short as they say in the Coast Guard they seem to have a natural proclivity for getting injured and this is what happened to me as well. We were experiencing an unusually high tide in this cause the boats to sit very high in the boat dock. I was stepping off the main deck which was almost three feet above the boat dock and when I planted my left foot it landed on the power cable supplying electricity to the boat. This cause my full weight to fall hard on an ankle and twist it. I got the worst spring in my entire life even up to now. My ankle looked like it belonged on an elephant and it turned black and blue instantly. I was taken to the emergency room at a Eglin Air Force Base where I received the standard treatment for a sprained ankle and was put on no duty. I had been told to soak my foot and alternate with cold and hot water. The first time I did this there was a huge spasm in my ankle and it hurt is bad as when I had first injured it. When my immediate supervisor learned of this the next day became over to my apartment after work to find out if I was really hurt. You should have seen his eyes grow wide when I took the bandage off and he apologized for thinking that I was faking it. I said, "None of this is my idea of fun." About four days later I was placed on light duty which meant that I stood and eight hour radio watch and then went home. When I was finally discharged from the Coast Guard I had to make an appearance at group mobile to have my ankle looked at by the corpsmen. He then authorized me for discharge and I went home.

        When I arrived home in St. Louis MO my parents were very concerned about me. In their own words, "You're not the same as when you left here and we're very worried about you." It took almost two years before my normal state of mind had somewhat returned.

 

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