My friend Gary Reisdorf sent me this article from is early days (around the time I first met him). His wife, Lois, provided us all with a wonderful series of posts about her history in the Sea Org with L. Ron Hubbard and David Miscavige.
Tales From The Apollo
One of the hardest things to do while on the ship was getting approval to purchase items you needed to do your job. In most companies, if you were running out of copy paper or pens, you would merely send an email to the appropriate person in the company and let them know. The next day or 2 we would have a delivery from Staples and you would have the paper. Not in the Sea Org. We had to go through Financial Planning.
If you needed some paint brushes, in order to paint the ship, you would have to write what is referred to as a CSW, or Completed Staff Work and submit it to the FP or Financial Planning Committee. The CSW consists of explaining the situation, providing the data and finally the solution. You needed to do this for most problems that require approval in the Sea Org. A CSW for paint brushes would be something like this.
SITUATION: I need to paint the ship in order to keep up a good appearance and keep it from rusting. In order to do this we need paint brushes to apply the paint.
DATA: You would then go into details of how one cannot apply paint with your hands but brushes are needed. The last brushes were old or worn out and had to be replaced etc. You basically had to explain what happened to the other brushes and why you need new ones. There will be 2 deckhands painting the ship and we will need 2 different size paint brushes for each painter so therefore we will need 4 brushes.The brushes cost $5.00 each 4 X $5.00 = $20.00 and so we will need to have $20.00 allocated for this purpose.
SOLUTION: Approve the allocation of $20.00 to purchase 4 paint brushes.
Approved______________ Not Approved ______________
Usually, the CSWs are returned, not approved, with questions like, brushes don’t really wear out so you either lost them or did not clean and care for them properly. Did you lose brushes over the side of the ship? Did you not care for them properly? Getting something approved thru Financial Planning was often a lost cause. We would then try to clean off the old brushes and use them the best way we could. If we lost one over the side, we would have to buy the brushes with our own money, where 1 brush was ½ a week’s pay. That wasn’t a pleasant idea.
This type of nonsense would occur on almost everything we attempted to buy. Rope, block and tackles, paint, rollers etc., every item needed to maintain the ship had to go thru this same CSW procedure and often it was shot down. It had to be proven that the items being requested were a true necessity. But, it wasn’t just the Deck Force that had this problem but every department of the entire ship had to go thru this same procedure.
Financial Planning made it seem like the ship did not have enough money to barely even operate. I would find out in later years though that people would be sent on missions from the ship with briefcases full of money (millions) on their way to be deposited into Swiss banks. Not that it would matter though, knowing that information wouldn’t have made it any easier to buy $20 worth of paint brushes.
Well, finally the deckhands had enough of this Financial Planning bullshit.
The Apollo was in Lisbon, Portugal and there wasn’t enough dock space for our vessel. The only solution to remain at a dock rather than going to anchor was to dock alongside an abandoned ship called the Caroline. The Captain went with that option.
The Caroline was a ship around the same size as the Apollo, 300 feet long. It was some sort of old rust-bucket cargo ship. We knew though, since it wasn’t a Sea Org vessel, that it would actually have equipment on board. This got a few of the deck apes thinking.
Pat McCullough and I were in the Bosun’s Locker preparing our paint brushes and paint for a day of painting. “Hey, Gary, did you hear what’s happening tonight?” Pat asked.
“Nope” I hadn’t heard a thing.
“Well, we are all going over to the Caroline tonight at midnight. We are going to raid it.”
“What do you mean, raid it?” I still didn’t have a clue.
“Look it, we are sure they have a bunch of shit on that ship that we can use on the deck. You know, ropes, block and tackles, tarps, hammers, paint brushes, we are going to borrow them…. permanently.” Pat explained. “No one is on that ship, it isn’t running and those things are being wasted. We can put them to good use.”
I was a bit shocked but replied, “Oh that sounds cool man. I’ll be ready”. But, this was coming from one of the most innocent 18 year olds in the world. Hell, being brought up as a perfectly ethical Scientologist, I had never even stolen a piece of penny candy from a jar at the corner shop back in Mason City, Iowa. I was nervous already and it was only 7 a.m.
We carried on working away but the thought of grand theft was on my mind the entire day. God, what if we got caught? I have never been in jail and sure as hell do not want to start my prison experience in a Portuguese jail. What about the bad things that would happen to me for creating an overt of this magnitude? Similarly to karma, Scientologist strongly believed that if you commit an “overt” or bad deed, you were going to have something bad happen back to you. This was sort of the control over me my entire youth. I was nervous alright, but I was one of the deckhands. They were my best buddies and I had to be right alongside them. I was in, damn it! Also, it made sense that our purpose to save the planet and have a well maintained ship would be worth the risk. It was the greatest good to do this.
I finished my work, finished supper and my course studies and quickly got into my bunk so I could get 2 hours of sleep before midnight. In a way, I was excited but it was not a happy excitement but more of a nervous excitement.
I was just about to roll over on my worn out, tired, old pillow and fall asleep, when one of my fellow, senior deckhands, Steve Nichols came into the cabin. Steve was a great guy. He was about 39 years old I figured and was the perfect stereotypical deckhand, without the drinking and the whores. He was about 6’ 2”, over 220 lbs and pretty much solid muscle. He was truly one of those strong, silent types that no one argued with.
“Kid, you aren’t going tonight.” Steve said, not expecting anything but a “ok, Steve” out of me.
Steve always called me kid. It was kind of a term of endearment but at the same time keeping me in my place.
“What? Aren’t we going to raid that ship tonight?” I was a bit shocked after all of the mental preparation I put into this.
“Kid, you are too young and we aren’t taking you with us. We’ll let you know in the morning how it went”. He was pretty adamant about it.
“Oh, fuck! I want to go with you guys.” Even though I truly only wanted to go to be part of the deck force, I had to pretend that I wasn’t afraid and that I was ready to take one for the team, right along with them.
Steve, didn’t want to hear another word and walked out of the cabin. Not a big talker.
That was that, I wasn’t going to commit my first grand theft. Whew! inside I was completely relieved. Looking back on it now, I don’t know if he felt that I was too incompetent and young to sneak around a ship that was manned by a full time, on-board security guard or was it that he felt I would breakdown, not being able to live with myself, having committed such a horrible deed and would spill the beans. I don’t know his reasoning, but he cut me from the team without even getting the chance to fumble the ball! Most people would say at this point, I was devastated, but really, I wasn’t.
The next day the boys were all safe and back on board. Pat was right, that ship had the coolest shit ever. We had new tarps, buckets, mallets, lots of rope, all of the things we could never get through the normal financial channels of the Sea Org. It was a great feeling. I wished that I could have been a part of that adventure and helped to get these things but the only thing that made it okay was that I was ordered by Steve to stay behind. I tried.
“So, Pat, tell me what happened.” I demanded of Pat.
“Well, it was actually pretty damn scary. We went on board and down into the deck storage area, similar to our bosun’s cabin. We all started packing up shit that we wanted to bring back. We then decided to go into another hold of the ship. It was pitch black and we were being quiet as hell. Then, all of a sudden we saw another flashlight coming from the other side of the hold we were in. I almost shat my pants. I figured, right then and there, that we would be arrested. Gary, you won’t believe it, but it was the snipes. Those damn engineers had the same idea that we had and were ripping off all of the engineer shit they could get their hands on”
“What?” I was shocked. “They decided to do the exact same thing at the exact date and time?”
“That’s nuts. All of you must have been scared out of your minds”.
In retrospect, there had to be more to this than just coincidence. I’m sure that the 1st Mate, who was in charge of the deckhands and the Chief Engineer who ran the Snipes, planned this raid together but didn’t inform their staff of the other group’s participation. They probably didn’t think they would run into each other as they would be in different parts of the Caroline looking to rip off different types of equipment. They were looking for Engine Room stuff like wrenches, pipe cutting equipment, welding equipment etc.
The fun had just started for this little adventure. It seems that one of the guys informed a young girl, Valerie Schomer, what went down that night. Valerie, who was around 11 years old, really liked the deckhands and used to eat lunch with us often. We all looked after her like we would a younger sister. It turns out though that she wrote up a Knowledge Report on us all. A Knowledge Report or KR, as it is called, is a report that SO members wrote when they found out about someone doing something out-ethics. I guess stealing from a ship would definitely fall into this category. I didn’t blame Valerie for doing this whatsoever. She was just being a good little SO member and she was doing the ethical thing, by reporting us.
I wasn’t too worried though as I didn’t participate in the theft. Steve ordered me to stay in bed. Whew, I wasn’t going to be Comm-Ev’d.
Now that this crime was reported to the Master At Arms (MAA for short), a lot of wheels had to be put in motion. A comm-ev has to be typed up and issued, ensuring everyone involved were interviewed so that no one person slipped thru the cracks for the wrath of the Sea Org ethics procedures. Then, someone has to figure out what we are going to do with the equipment.
Both the Snipes and the Deckhands managed to get onto the ship and bring all of the equipment back without being seen by the guard so in actual fact, they could just let us keep the stuff. But, the chance of being caught out and our crew being convicted of a crime was too great. It would probably mean jail time, bad press for the ship and perhaps blowing our cover of being OTC, Operation & Transport Corporation, but actually being the international headquarters of the Church of Scientology. Someone had to get very creative here.
The powers that be came up with a plan. Gerry Armstrong was assigned the task of getting the stolen goods back onto the Caroline. Gerry was in the Port Captain’s Office as some sort of Public Relations Officer. He could speak a bit of Portuguese and was friendly and outgoing. The Port Captain’s Office was responsible for ensuring the ship had good PR with the port, that our OTC cover was maintained and they handled all legal matters of the ship. This was right up their alley. They should have just made the Deckies and Snipes just do another midnight raid, but in reverse this time. They were experienced at it, didn’t get caught the last time. Perfect plan.
What happened to the stolen goods was this. Gerry went over to the Security Guard that was posted on the Caroline. He brought him a couple of bottles of good whiskey and proceeded to tell him about a problem we had on our ship. You see, it had been raining a few days back and we need to build some protection from the rain. We didn’t have the necessary equipment on the Apollo so a few of the guys from the ship borrowed some equipment from the Caroline. It was kind of an emergency. We needed tarps, rope, block and tackles, buckets, etc to create this MacGiver rain shelter. We know that was wrong of them to borrow this without permission, so we are now returning it. The whiskey he brought to the guard was for the hassle he had to endure while we returned all of the items. What that all translates to was, you and I both know some guys from our ship stole from the Caroline but you take this bribe of some whiskey to keep your mouth shut and everyone will be happy.
It worked. The goods were returned to the ship and nothing was ever said publicly about our grand theft of the Caroline. Knowing the Snipes and the Deckies as I did, I would imagine that they kept ½ of the items that they had stolen as we didn’t keep an inventory of our stolen goods.
Now for the Committee of Evidence – Scientology’s Criminal Court. The MAA did his due diligence of interviewing everyone involved and got all of the names of who he was going to be included as Interested Parties. The Ethics Order was issued and it was all the buzz on the ship. The problem is, my name was listed as an Interested Party. So, I was getting comm-ev’d and I didn’t even get to participate in the theft. They included me because I knew it was going down and didn’t report it to the MAA. Heck, I could have stopped it or at minimum squealed on my buddies after the fact. There was no way in hell I would have done either of those 2 things. I think I wrote maybe 1 or 2 Knowledge Reports on fellow SO members my entire 11 years in that horrible organization. Nowadays Sea Org members and even normal Scientologists turn in their friends and family, by writing Knowledge Reports on them for the slightest, perceived infringement. I didn’t work that way and neither did any of my buddies. Allegiance to family and friends actually meant something in those days. Heck, before my youngest son disconnected from me, he wrote a Knowledge Report on me, because one of the things I did was bragging that I hated the Philadelphia Eagles, just because David Miscavige, the leader of the church, was from Philly and the Eagles were his favorite team. He wouldn’t have had too many friends on the deck force of the Apollo in 1972.
The Comm-Ev went down as they all did. There was probably a total of about 15 Interested Parties (like defendants for a court trial). We all pleaded guilty to every Misdemeanor, Crime and High Crime that we were charged with. It was rather standard to always plead guilty with Comm-Evs because they were going to find you guilty 99.9% of the time and if you pled not-guilty the penalty would increase. Some of the charges were Theft, Causing an Out-PR situation with the church, overworking executives due to negligence or out-ethics behavior, failure to report Crimes or High-Crimes etc. I fell into the last category and I’m sure they trumped up other stupid crimes to make us all look bad.
We were all assigned conditions and had to lose our liberties that we would normally have once every 2 weeks. The loss of liberty probably lasted for a month or 2 while we got thru our conditions. We had to do the usual amends projects which was work done after hours in addition to our normal work, giving us 16 hour work days.
Another day in the life, in the Sea Org.
So far, I’d been comm-ev’d for breaking a boat I didn’t break and was at least a mile away from, and for robbing a ship that I didn’t rob. I was off to a good start in the Scientology ethics system.