General Quarters

General Quarters is when the ship goes to battle stations because of an imminent threat. It might be because there is a fire aboard ship. It might be because an enemy is attacking. Outside of wartime, it usually is for a training drill.

The Head

During an extended period of GQ, sooner or later it comes to the minds of all sailors with human tendencies is the fact that you’re not allowed for any reason to open any doors while Zebra condition is set. Eventually, a person needs to go to the bathroom, or “head” as sailors call it. Recently there have been some recent investigations into collisions of naval ships. One of the ships had plastic bottles of urine stored in the combat information center. That’s a direct result of the rule about not being able to leave the compartment to use the bathroom.

Once as a young sailor I was reprimanded because my supervisor used what he thought was a bottle of PD-680 grease solvent he found in the director barbette where I worked, but it turned out to be full of urine. You could say that he literally was pissed! I think he must have thought I intentionally played a dirty trick. It very easily could have happened to me as well because I didn’t know who did that deed. I was up in the director during GQ and my guess is one of the lookouts on the 05 level below me had to go really bad so they filled up one of my half-used solvent bottles.

On the Missouri, we had our emergency head, a five gallon bucket. The rule was, you could use the bucket to relieve yourself during General Quarters, but the first man to do so was also required to empty it. We eyed it with deep longing several times during Desert Storm. But visions of hauling five gallons of piss up several ladders to the nearest facility kept that bucket dry for the entire time I served on Mighty Mo.