The Flying Palmetto Bugs

Do you know what a Palmetto bug is? If not and you’re are curious about what a Palmetto bug is, I will share my story about how I met a few.


In April 1985, I went on active duty in the Navy. My ex-husband had gone on active duty the prior year. At the time I went to boot camp, we had two children under the age of three; and I was missing them badly. However, boot camp was only 12-weeks. I was confident I could do it and get home in one piece. I convinced myself that boot camp in Orlando would be a mini-vacation.


The weather was hot and sticky. The days were sometimes unbearable; but the nights weren’t too bad. I was assigned to Company K070 with 79 other women, ages ranging from 17 to 36. At 24, I was considered middle-aged. Every Wave (that’s what women sailors were called) was assigned to a squad and I was in Squad 1 and later became the squad leader.



We had two company commanders, Petty Officer First-Class McClellan and Petty Officer First-Class Johnson. They were two of the toughest women I had encountered outside of my mother and Aunt Elaine (that’s another article). After the company commanders matter-of-factly informed us we were no longer individuals, but government property, K070 was marched to their barracks.



Although the Orlando training base was coed, the guys were on the opposite side of the base. However, male recruits were assigned rover duties in the female barracks area since there were few female recruits assigned to the base. K070 was the only company in the building our barracks was located. We occupied the third floor.

Rover duties ran in 2-hour shifts. Over the 12-weeks, I was assigned rover duties twice, from midnight to 2:00 a.m. Our company commanders explained that in the past, several male and female recruits were caught in compromising situations . Therefore, roving duties were essential.


My first roving duty was uneventful but freaky scary. I had to enter empty, dark, creepy barracks that had no lighting and were so quiet I could hear the echo of my footsteps ahead. The only weapon I had for protection was a flashlight. Those two hours went by slowly but I made it.

swarmDuring my second roving duty, I felt more confident and was happy it would be my last. Opening the metal door of one of the lower level barracks, I stepped into the dark vastness, turned on my flashlight, and began scanning the floor, and the bunks. I aimed the flashlight at the ceiling and O.M.G.! It was covered in MOVING BLACKNESS!

I froze. I could feel my heart pounding so hard I knew it would fallKamikaze-632918-crop out of my chest!Then, there was buzzing, lots of buzzing. Suddenly, things with wings flew at me. Screaming, I turned and ran for the door. I could feel things hitting me in the back. They were kamikaze-ing me!

Screaming louder, I fumbled with the metal door handle for what seemed an eternity. It finally opened and I darted out and up those stairs probably breaking some kind of Olympic track record. When I reached the door of my barracks, my shipmates were crowded at the door. I burst through them stripping off dungarees in mid-stride. When I finally made it to my rack, all I wanted to do was shed my skin as it was still crawling.


The next day, and to my absolute horror, some of my fellow Waves told our company commanders what had happened. I could hear muffled laughter. Then, Petty Officer McClellan called me to her office. I was so nervous and scared. She informed me that I could be kicked out of the Navy for disobeying a lawful order when I left my post without permission. As she chastised me, I wondered how I would live down being court-martialed for narrowly escaping the attack of the flying Palmetto bugs. Luckily, Petty Office McClellan felt sorry for me. Surprisingly, she commended me for being the only one to make it to a second roving duty in that area. GO FIGURE! She wasn’t harsh, but told me how lucky I was that K070 was the only company in the building, then she dismissed me.


Three years later, I returned to Florida to attend school in Pensacola. Every time I saw a Palmetto tree flashbacks of that night resurfaced. What I didn’t tell you previously was that Palmetto bugs live in the layers of the Palmetto tree AKA palm tree. By the way, Palmetto bugs are flat, gigantic ROACHES with wings and aren’t afraid of terrorizing humans who invade their space. Thanks, Florida!

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