What…A Beer On Duty

In February 1976, I completed Lab School out in Oakland, CA and my next duty station was to travel all the way across the United States to Charleston, SC. The Charleston Naval Regional Medical Center (Charleston NRMC) was a large hospital in North Charleston that served Navy personnel, Navy Dependents and retired military. The laboratory there was a full service laboratory with approximately 50-60 Navy personnel as well as a few civilian personnel.

The Medical Director in our lab was a man by the name of Frank Trefney, and at the time he was the only forensic pathologist in the city of Charleston, SC. But the day to day operations of our lab were ran by the Chiefs in the Lab. We had 2 Chiefs in our lab, one was in charge of the microbiology department and the other was over the entire laboratory. Chief Theodore Ludvik was the Chief of our lab.

Chief Ludvik was responsible for making sure that everything ran smooth in the lab. He was over everything and all things in the lab including equipment, scheduling and personnel matters (both Navy and personal). He was the guy we went to with all our problems and questions.

Chief Ludvik and I would butt heads in the meetings, mostly on a lighthearted level…kind of like smart-asses to each other. Even though he was a Chief (E7) and I was an 3rd Class (E4), we still “needled” each other. I can only remember one time when it got beyond normal teasing…and then I was smart enough to back off and let it be. Needless to say, after that incident our working relationship was strained.

When I was about 2 months from getting out of the Navy (end of enlistment), I had to work nights for two weeks. That meant that from 11p-7a I was the only tech in the lab during this time. However much of the time, there wasn’t a lot of lab work going on and we had a TV for entertainment. One night into this 2 week duty of nights, it wasn’t busy and I was just relaxing and watching TV.  Chief Ludvik was on duty also as the “Chief of the Day” of the hospital and his main duties included making rounds of the hospital and taking care of any patient issues or security issues throughout the day and night.

The Chief walked in the lab and asked how it was going, and I just told him it was slow and that I was watching TV for awhile. He asked if he could sit down and I said sure. We sat there for a little while and he looks over at me and says, “Hey Jarratt, you wanna beer?” I was stunned that he asked me that. First off, our work relationship was strained, secondly, I was on duty, and thirdly…I was on duty at a HOSPITAL. I thought maybe this was the Chief trying to BUST MY ASS just before I was getting out of the Navy. I really did. Was he trying to trick me? Or was he serious. I did not know. I really wasn’t keen on drinking on duty (at a hospital no less), but I also wanted to try and lessen the tension between us these last two months in the Navy. Finally I responded to the Chief and said, “Sure, I’ll  drink one”.

Chief Ludvik said, “OK, I’ll be right back”.  I thought to myself..I”m busted. He’s gonna hand it to me and when I take it, he’ll bust me and then I’ll get kicked out of the Navy. All kinds of scenarios went through my mind while he was gone. He finally returned with two long neck Budweiser’s and sat down beside me. I thought…THIS IS IT. I’m DONE. But it turned out, we sat there watching TV and drank our beer. It was a very nice visit and after we were done with our beer…he left and we never discussed our little meeting. I always liked Chief Ludvik. He was a pretty good guy…probably a lot like me…just a smartass that never meant any harm.

I always wondered what happened to him. I knew he wanted to move to Alabama when he retired, and I knew he loved bass fishing. I scoured Facebook and the military sites over the years and could never find him. However, I finally located him, but only after he had passed. I would have loved to pick his brain about that night we sat in the lab drank a beer together. RIP Chief Ted Ludvik…may you have calm seas and the wind at your back.

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