It dawned on us slowly as the instructor ticked off the names: Dunnigan, McMaster, McManus, McCrave, McGrath, Nylander, O’Keefe…
Someone in the Personnel Command must have had quite a laugh putting together the orders for a SWOS class entirely made up of Irishmen. He must have had even more fun designating us Section 8.
At first we thought it was a joke, then maybe a prank. But as we thought about it, we came to the conclusion that it was cool.
We had an identity – something everyone wants when they’re new.
We had fame (at least among the other seven sections).
We had a personality – fame required us to “act” Irish, which – come to think about it – isn’t always a good thing (think Irish pubs).
We had accents – words like “reduction gear” and “booster pump” sound better when spoken in a thick Irish brogue, even a fake one.
We had a killer softball team (we’re not sure why).
There was only one problem. I’m not Irish. I am of English and Scottish heritage, and neither are particularly popular among the Irish. But this is America, dang it, and my Irish bretheren looked beyond my ancestors’ transgressions and welcomed me as one of their own. For a few weeks, I was one of the Irish.
Section 8 went on to graduate and many of them eventually took leadership positions in the Navy. A lot of them are still active in Navy-related professions and organizations.
In the Navy you attend lots of classes full of Officers and Sailors, and afterwards you shake hands and go your separate ways. My career was the same, with one exception. After nearly three decades, the Irish boys from Section 8 still keep in touch with each other, and even get together from time to time. Maybe that fellow at the Personnel Command was on to something.
Erin go brau.