Guarding the Ship’s Brig

When I finally got my second class rating, it opened me up to many more responsible duties than I had previously been qualified to do. For example, as a Second Class Petty Officer, I could be a guard in the ship’s brig, the small jail for miscreants on the U.S.S. Chicago CG-11. One day my Chief came by to tell me that he had just signed me up for training to be a guard at the brig. He said it was no big deal. I would just have to read some instructions, and go for a walk-through of the brig. There was one scheduled in the next week.

So I read the sheaf of papers he gave me, and I reported to the mess hall at the specified time. There were several other sailors who were also waiting for the tour and instructions. Finally a member of the MARDET (Marine Detachment) led us down to the brig. The MARDET was responsible for the brig, which was in the bottom of the ship, below the mess hall. When we got down there, our guide explained the basic rules we were supposed to follow as guards:

  • Don’t stand within an arm’s reach of the bars.
  • Sit at the table and watch the prisoners — or at least keep an eye on them.
  • Don’t feed the prisoners; someone from the chow hall would bring food down.

There also were some other rules that I don’t remember any more. The brig was a very small area with two cells, each with sanitary facilities. There was a table and a chair for the guard, which was just barely out of reach of the cells.

So I became qualified to guard the brig, but after that I was never assigned to do it. (I had some friends in my division who did pull guard duty in the brig, and for the most part they said that it was a pretty boring assignment.)

Some of the guys that I worked with regularly in my division often played cards with a certain First Class Petty Officer from another division. Once he was thrown in the ship’s brig for drunk and disorderly conduct. When their usual day to play cards rolled around, the guys I worked with who were the prisoner’s friends went down to his cell and played cards with him, just as they usually did, although it was strictly against the rules. (I think that one of the card players was technically the guard for that shift, and I am pretty sure that the higher-ups never knew about this card party.)

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