Wednesday, March 2, 2016


A long time ago we had six small warships of the Reserve sail in harm's way for month after month, year after year while they were based out of one of the smallest kingdoms in the world. The little ships were manned at something like three to four times their normal manning because they were Reserve ships where fewer do more with less than anyone else.  In other words, ships that had routinely heretofore, gotten underway for voyages of thousands of miles with just 30 crew onboard, were now fighting the good fight with crews of 100 or more. There literally wasn't room to house them all and many slept on mattresses scattered about on the deck and others were jammed into bunks 3 tall that had been jammed alike into spaces already crowded with men and the equipment used to fight the ship.

There were three, nearly identical ships from the Pacific fleet and three nearly identical ships from the Atlantic fleet. They were yet, profoundly different in almost every respect. I, for one, find it unlikely that any of my counterparts would tear apart all four main engines while anchored next to a minefield and gap the tolerances between the engine drive shaft and the reduction gear shafting, toss their hands in the air, moan about unacceptable tolerances that were thousands of an inch off and refuse to get underway until the situation was resolved and the engines realigned.

Every sailor knows that his ship is better than the other guys' unless he has decided to adopt the next best strategy and declare his the worst ship that ever was suffered to float upon the ocean. There's no detectable difference between the two types when they pitch in to fight the ship. Some guys just like drama and to bitch and moan about things because, superstition. You don't want the God's to find out how happy you are because sure as NAVSEA is a pack of shiftless lazy no-goodnicks making money out of your sweat, they'll take it away from you and send you someplace worse. Much worse.

We used to do this thing with the newly reported drafts of men that reported aboard the 3 ships from the professional fleet. We three rotated a quarter of the total of the crew every single month for years and years. There would be an entire crew replacement roughly every 16 to 18 weeks. The strategy adopted by the leaders of the other ocean's fleet elected to replace 100% of the crew every 4 months in one giant crew swap. One group of lazy scoundrels replaced by a completely new set just once every four months. Both methods had their attractions.

What we did with our new guys was nudge them a little and nod toward one of those other ships from the much more closely supervised and badly managed fleet and we'd say, "they're in 3 section duty." This hurts a man who is standing two section duty and will be standing port and starboard duty for 16 to 18 weeks. He just know the Gods hate him. Personally.

It would then be revealed that yes, those poor mizelled sailors of the Atlantic were not enough, in and of themselves, numbering as they did in each duty section the whole entire size of a ship's company back in the USA. Nope. What they could do well enough back home in 10 man duty sections could only here be accomplished by two Middle East Force sized duty sections each consisting of upwards of 34 men.

For you see, the poor quality of those sailor men required the captains of those unfortunate ships to retain a full 66 men onboard when in port. We might be in two section duty but we did get every other day off in port while the poor quality sailors from the other fleet were allowed just every third day off while in port. As with much of the Middle East Force, the language was sometimes deceiving: lying little scamp that it is. Back in America 3 section duty meant two out three sections were granted liberty. Here, it meant something worse. Much worse.

It was one of our ways of feeling better about being there. I have no idea what those other guys did to make themselves feel better. I suspect it led them to tear apart their perfectly good engines and spend the next 3 weeks anchored off the Farsi Mine Danger Area contributing whatever it is that NAVSEA contributes. One of my captains did comment to me that they certainly had the most nicely painted and spiffy looking places with engine shaped things in them that he'd ever been privileged to see. I wouldn't know.


Captain Steve said...

I never knew that nukes commanded MSOs.

HMS Defiant said...

Well, you know, deep draft commands and all. I mean when you put the depressor down you could be drawing 400 feet or more. :)
You should hear my sister, the Air Force captain, on what happened when one of our nukes took over the labs at Kirtland AFB a long time ago. She told me, at about the same timeframe, that the new guy came in and told them to throw out all the crap sitting on the loading docks. It didn't look good. Her husband got an Article 15 for not zipping up his blue jacket and another for a messy BOQ room. Talk about different worlds.... Well, truth told, he probably came from the badly mizelled fleet of nukes. I'm sure the guys who run submarines into mountains in the Pacific would have done better.