Friday, November 2, 2018


There are still those who say that the point of any inspection conducted by the echelons above command is to determine the actual readiness or worthiness of a subordinate unit. We call those guys losers. In the real world, inspecting is done with an eye to destroy by admin what cannot be destroyed by operations. We have a fair but low opinion of it and that's why we all decided to join the inspection hunting crew. It's a lot like hunting grizzly with a bow and arrow. One arrow. You go up against the odds and to win is to win and survive. Losing is for losers.

I was an early advocate to the navy's hunting program. The powers that be (COMNAVSURFLANT) decided that one of the ships under the administrative control of COMPHIBRON TWELVE must be given an Operational Propulsion Light Off Exam  (OPPE) in the Middle East, which was her homeport for many a year. They came, they saw, they got an arrow. The Chief Engineer on the ship was an LDO. The other officers in Engineering other than me and the Main Propulsion Assistant were LDO and Warrants. The CO (Captain) was a prior enlisted Hospital Corpsman. Those guys from OPPE and the Propulsion Examining Board never stood a chance.

"After all," said the Chief Engineer, "what are they going to do? Weld us to the pier?"

SURFLANT, unabashed, followed up with an INSURV. I admit, I have no idea how ships are sacrificed to the board of Survey but LaSalle was tossed into the blender and came out, as expected, unwelded to the pier.

These are both good and worthy inspections and worth the time and effort put into into them but they lost any sheen of meaning for me as inspections, per se. They were games and ship's company played one side and the inspectors were the enemy. We played to win. We used all the means a navy at war would use to win against an enemy. We did the same thing when the 3M team came through to give us our 3M inspection on my last day on LaSalle. Finding deficiencies was a down check and led to failure so, war to the knife against the inspectors.

I followed through as I had been taught when I was inspected later in every realm. From 3M inspections to COMSEC to OPPE and Boiler Inspections, it was a game. We played to win. That's one of the things about games. When, in the rare event you do run up against a rule mongering aggregate creature from Hell, you tend to play by their rules. You just have to know them better and be willing to outflank them without a moment's notice.

And so we did.

There are some things you can't play. You better be ready at a moment's notice to conduct shore bombardment because that's the way my ship played it. Wait until the last day before the qualification expired to actually haul ass out to the range and shoot. Prior to the shooting one had to prove that one could acquire the beacons from the gunnery direction teams ashore. That required radios. Naturally, on the day this became a requirement and must fill, none of the ships installed radios worked. There's a way around that sort of crap and that's what the portable radio program was there for.

If you are required to light off right now and get underway to shift berths so an LST can take your spot on the pier, well, that's why you only open one reduction gear at a time for annual inspection PMS. You can always get underway on one shaft.

We were exempt by direction of COMNAVSURFPAC from all inspections during the Mine Battle Force rotations to the Persian Gulf. There really wasn't much point and the staff knew it. Our Immediate Superior in Command at MINEGROUP ONE had a hardon for my ship and threw us to the wolves, inspection-wise. We passed them all with about 15% of ship's complement. It was an exciting time. I can see why big game hunters get such a rush.

In the space of 3 months we passed a Boiler Inspection, a Diesel Inspection, a SURFPAC 3M inspection and were only spared an INSURV and OPPE because it was a foregone conclusion and the Board of Survey and the Propulsion Examining Board declined to inspect a ship built in 1954 that they knew was bound to fail every single category because designed and built to a Navy specification obsolete long before INSURV reared it's ugly head.

I don't know how they play the game these days. Based on collisions in the Sea of Japan and western Pacific I suspect that the fleet staff started playing the game and that is probably not a good thing. I used to go to the Third Fleet scheduling conferences and the Vice Admiral and his staff were not so much taken up with making sure that operational commitments were met since that was Seventh Fleet's issue and concern. Third Fleet staff was there to make sure that all the required Training and Certifying was scheduled in order that only certified units made their way into the operational control of Seventh and Fifth Fleets. I think the guys on the Blue Ridge gamed the system and that was a mistake.

Nobody was terribly concerned about the games we played. On the first ship, it was too late to whine about any shortfalls or deficiencies of staff. My time in San Diego was spent on non-deployable ships that weren't on anybody's real list of concern. Harry W. Hill was going into a 9 month dry docking in Seattle. The mighty Pluck was a very good ship, arguably, before the Rotations, the best on the west coast, but it wasn't going anywhere with it's obsolete and knackered Packard engines. Everybody knew that. They were amazed it made it to Canada and back on all 4 of those engines.

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