The Joint Chiefs of Staff
by Iona Ware
In the late 60’s there were no cell phones, emails, office computers for secretaries. We had IBM Correcting Selectrics. This meant if the corrections made did not meet my standard, the entire page would be typed over again, especially if being done on the Captain’s letterhead. At the end of each day a yeoman would come by with a large trash bag so I could give him the used typewriter tape and typed-on trash for shredding classified documents.
Every time the Captain had a report for The Joint Chiefs of Staff I was the delivery girl. As a seventeen year old who was naive about the real world, add to that a driven worker too serious on getting my job done right and throw in some OCD & being hypersensitive to everything around me, the only thing that kept me sane was my sense of humor. (I never was suited for a secretarial type of work but somehow I made it work and adapted through time and extreme forced focusing.)
The first time delivering a report taught me who I was becoming in life. Okay, I grab the report and it needs to be there by a specific time and the Captain said It’s critical that it be there. He ran late putting it together and I had to hustle. Back then, we dressed professional everyday which meant I was doing the hustle in my new alligator high heels. Now it gets worse. The JCS was possibly a mile away taking into account walking up stairwells, getting lost and the fact at that time the Pentagon was the largest office building in the world. Finally I got there, looked at the clock and with a sigh of relief was on time with five minutes to spare. I needed some fun time relief after almost running under time constraints, feeling the pressure from my boss.
Standing there were beautiful oak extra wide doors above them a nice gold brass sign with Joint Chiefs of Staff on it. While in awe of this moment, I then saw in front of them a handsome U.S. Marine standing straight, everything spit shined, behind a podium, totally focused like the ones at the Arlington Cemetery who stand guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. Also, there was a painted line on the cement floor in front of the podium with a sign that said “Do not cross this line or you will be shot”. That statement was so startling to me that I didn’t believe it and feeling the need for comic relief I looked at the Marine and said “Oh, you wouldn’t shoot me, would you?” as I put my right foot on the other side of the line. Without a flinch, without any eye contact, this Marine takes one step to the left of the podium and in a split second his rifle is pointed at me. At the end of his rifle was a shiny bayonet looking into my left eye. I quickly removed my foot to where it belonged and said that I was sorry. He returned to his previous position, I gave him the report and realized how much I loved the Navy and was proud to be a part of such a disciplined dedicated team.