You may be familiar with the term Chain of Command. Although I’m sure that it started as a military euphemism for the order of authority in a military organization, It’s spread to civilian life. But think about it. It’s not the more appropriate “flow of authority” or “who to call when things go wrong”; no, it’s the chain.I think the whole thing is just a bit fascist. But then, when it comes to me, you’re dealing with a 1960s counter-culture survivor in deep recovery.
Yup, a chain. Jerk on the chain when something happens. Yeah, you can tell that I was a troublemaker. When I got out of the Navy, little love was lost between the two separating parties. Officers did not like some smart ass politely asking why we were doing some dumb ass thing, while procedure clearly stated to do the opposite. My last thirty days were marked by my ceremonially trimming off a knot on a “short-timers rope.” I burnt the final bit in a little ritual at the local Blue Anchor bar.
It’s true; I thought I was done with petty officiousness. Instead, I found it alive and well on the civilian side. I admit it. It was immature of me to suspect that things might be otherwise. So I just learned to tie knots in the devil’s tail without getting caught. And guess what? I eventually wound up back in the belly of the beast working for the federal government.
My teeny little appendage of the feds was located and attached to the National Park Service as part of the Department of the Interior. Nobody had any real idea of what I did or why the feds were spending money on the cultural programs I was in charge of.

For some reason, the folks in charge began to think that they should start behaving in a more polished, regimented way…kind of like the military. So it was stiff responses and everything but salutes and short-arm inspections. The funny thing was there were only three veterans in the organization, and we were amused and confounded by the pomp and circumstance the leadership put into this.Our lack of respect for these activities didn’t win us any joy. We were a former paratrooper, a tanker, and me very late of the USN. We understood that the actual military did not run continuously on protocol, inspections, and reprimands; sometimes, you had to get work done.
As a small group, we’d gather mornings for coffee, snicker over the goings-on, and recall military idiocies we’d participated in. We were sure these people’s ideas about the military came from the movies, not actual veterans. Unfortunately, if you haven’t served, you probably don’t know lots that you need to survive, much less flourish, in the military.We started an informal educational forum over coffee. We taught them parables of military thought, such as – ” problems pass up the chain of command, but the shit always drops down.” From the movies, they know the more common acronym the military was fond of, but we taught them the one that would allow them to cope and survive. It was BOHICA – “Bend Over, Here It Comes Again.”
Bohica sums up the military life for the enlisted. It advises that you duck and cover to avoid the worst or unhappily accept your fate. It outlines how frequently the nasty stuff falls on the innocent. Of course, you must also learn to tie knots in the devil’s tail.
I’ll leave you with one final anecdote. Because of my degrees, I sometimes get asked If I served as an officer. No, I was a lowly enlisted. The normal response I give is one many enlisted veterans deliver: ” No, I worked for a living.”