Selective Service Should Have Been More Selective

by Steed Dropout
Mar. 16, 2015

“General Fuck-up.” That’s what my ROTC name tag said when I showed up for drill. Some hazing-happy fraternity brothers had promoted me to General.

ROTC was mandatory at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana 1957-61.

Here, Dropout learned he was a military misfit, but was slow to get the message.

Literature and film loves military misfits. From Abbot and Costello, Martin and Lewis, Saxophonist Lester Young–the ultimate army fuck-up, who was discharged for stowing medical marijuana in his boot-camp locker during WW2–Ensign Pulver to Stalag 17. Kurtz, (Marlon Brando), in Apocalypse Now, a major screw-up.

Now Steed Dropout throws his sailor’s hat in the ring, competing for all-time military incompetence. Dropout flunked out of Naval Officer Candidate School, was court-martialed in boot camp, and flunked a semester of mandatory college ROTC; the Commanding officer said no one had flunked in the seventy-year history of the program.


In the U.S. Navy, standing watch makes your Navy sail–floats the boat. Everyone at sea, or ashore, from captain to ensign–stands watch.

I failed to appreciate this when I was standing watch over our barracks in Navy boot camp, 1963. I was freshly flunked out of Officer Candidate School, when I was assigned to guard our boot-camp barracks.

My assignment: station yourself in the chief petty officer’s office; stand guard over a boot-camp barracks.

My reaction: sit in the chief’s chair. Put feet on chief’s desk. Put rifle on floor (deck). Kick back and chill until caught in the act.

They threatened to make me repeat boot-camp, but I was sentenced to join the fleet. The punishment fit the crime.

That punishment was The USS Point Defiance (LSD 31, a Marine landing ship), which, when I came aboard, was poised for distinguished Vietnam War service–but could not be located.

Point Defiance had been diverted From Long Beach Naval Shipyard to Seattle to undergo more specialized shipyard repairs.

When I reported aboard, the ship’s crew was gripping-mad that they had been shipped away from scheduled home-port repairs in Long Beach and separated from their girlfriends.

All hands were crowding the deck, as Point Defiance eventually got underway out of Seattle for a return to hearth and home in Long Beach, only to be diverted once more, this time to Boston to transport a bathyscaphe (diving bell) to search for a downed nuclear sub in the Atlantic.

Point Defiance was then the fastest ship of its type afloat, a vast, fast-moving swimming pool, toting 300 Marines; a work-horse ship, making 33 knots.

If you were General Fuck up, even you could be proud.

USS Point Defiance LSD 31, with 8 war campaign awards (Vietnam), was sold for scrap metal in 1997. General Fuck-up is still up to no good.

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