Tuesday, September 22, 2020


 I was replying to a comment posted below when it occurred to me to write a little about a fireman who reported aboard my ship in the month we spent in Diego Garcia getting a Tender Availability from arguably, the second worst tender in the Navy. USS Puget Sound was famous for several things but the one that endeared it to me during a TAV in the Persian Gulf alongside out at anchor in Sitrah was that it hadn't been able to fix its own air conditioning systems for over 3 years. I think it also got underway once out of San Diego and anchored off the Hotel Del Coronado and lost its anchor and 15 shots of anchor chain because it turns out when they hauled out the chain earlier that year, laid it on the dock, sand blasted it and then painted it they forgot to connect the bitter end to the padeye in the chain locker when they reloaded it onboard which meant the chain and anchor just roared off the wildcat when they took off the brake. Might be apocryphal. But I'd believe anything of them. I was told one of the 2 minesweepers in San Diego went out and found and buoyed the anchor and chain for recovery.

At any rate the Proteus was an AR and dated from the Ulithi Atoll in the second world war. It was old. In the parlance of the era, they had to sign off on the work list we submitted via our Damage Control Assistant, a CWO who flew to meet that ship where it was homeported in Guam. He gave them our list of required repairs and they promptly signed off on 998 of the 1000 jobs we wanted done. They utterly failed to sign off on the only two that mattered most. Both of them were my equipment as Auxiliaries Officer. 

Our 16,000 pound weapons and cargo elevator was destroyed by a chief electrician who used a comb to bypass all the interlocks and safeties on the elevator which then overtravelled the top deck bending 19 inch eye bolts over the sheaves and snapping 2 of the 4 cables. It then fell about 10 feet before the elevator safety system kicked in. Unfortunately those are little diamond knurled rollers that are kicked out by centripetal force as the elevator plunges towards the 6th decks down landing force magazine filled with explosives. It was locked in place and we couldn't shift it and they didn't try. They also refused to try to fix the bastard Bridging and Aircraft Crane that leaked about 3 gallons of 2190 TEP every single damned day. They took all the easy jobs and patted themselves on the back and then reassembled one of my diesel generator engines putting all the bearing surfaces in in reverse order which meant we couldn't start the damned thing until we took it back apart and put 1 through 6 bearing surfaces back in the proper positions. Irritating.

My CHENG was also a little irritated. He meant to rebrick both our boilers but that worthless AR shifted most of their resources to provide services to a nuclear submarine that showed out of the blue and it turned out that WE were the only ones that could provide steam power to the sub which meant we kept a boiler alight despite our plans to take power from the diesel AR and that meant that rebricking the boilers was done on boilers that didn't really have a chance to cool down before men had to climb in and replace the firebrick. Irritating.

My brand new fireman flew into Diego Garcia with a draft of 98 other men for our ship. We were a little undermanned by this point. In fact the snipes had been in port and starboard inport and underway for about 8 months. Hallelujah! We got new guys and things were looking up. 

My new guy overstayed liberty on his first night in Diego Garcia which meant Article 15, captain's mast and the CHENG had just received the National Agency Check (NAC) that every sailor has run on him/her. He made it through boot camp which was about 8 weeks back then but the results of the NAC didn't show up until just that morning when he returned from AWOL. He had  a 7 page rap sheet with multiple armed robberies in Chicago. The CHENG asked, "do you want to keep him?"

If you look at the other pages on this blog at the top right you will see that I give every dog a free bite on my ass before lowering the boom. In this one case my answer was, "no!" He was put ashore before noon to head back to the States to answer to fraudulent enlistment charges. We didn't even bother to hold captain's mast on him we just administratively discharged him with an other than honorable and he was gone.

Now this is the same draft of new guys that included an EN2 fresh from the Alcohol Rehab Facility on his second chance. I met him at the bar in the United Seaman's Club where we were both waiting for the liberty boat ride back to the ship.  He turned out to be special too but in a thoroughly good way even though I watched him drink 6 rum and cokes before the boat showed up. He was pure BM2 material but an EN2. The Chief found a really good niche for him, one that he excelled at.

I still laugh when I remember the Chief telling me that he was on one of the LCM 8s when he heard the EN2 reply to 2 defaulters that were cleaning the engineroom bilges of the Mike 8 boats. "We can't scoop any more water out of these bilge pockets Petty Officer P***** and his response was, "use a straw."

Years later I lived on the top floor of the Mannai Plaza for a year and my rooms overlooked the punishment grounds of the FAST platoon we imported from Diego Garcia after the Khobar Tower bombing up in Saudi Arabia. Every morning before sunrise I would awaken and run to the airport and back and the FAST platoon's defaulters had an NCO who was down there to encourage them to fill sand bags as rapidly as possible while another defaulter emptied them back into the bin and another was doing pushups and another was sprinting around a fairly large block. As the sprinter returned the pushup guy took the shovel, the emptier started pushups and the shovel guy sprinted around the block and it went on for a full hour.  

Every time I called either of the two captains out to chew their ass or the Major out to chew his ass I was grateful I didn't work for them. They were easily of the same type as EN2 P*****. And they came from the same place. We refer to it as EMI. Extra Military Instruction. At the NCO level it could be brutal. We didn't practice that sort of art form in the Navy I was part of. If you got EMI you at least got it from the Commanding Officer, not the Corporal or Gunny.



capt fast said...

British Army considers EMI a fine method of lubricating the military bearing. Usually involves a bit of blood and a lot of sweat. sometimes broken bones. I heard stories from a few hard cases in Scotland while assigned to RAF Lossiemouth for training and cross experience with our NATO partners. Always an interesting interlude to visit with the British. They always came up with peculiar and unique methods to astonish, kept the level of complacency very, very low. rousting troops with a flash bang at two in the morning is a fine example...

HMS Defiant said...

We surged out of the Seychelles on no notice to go embark some mine sweeping [so they claimed] helicopters from HM 14 in Jeddah.
The CO decided to allow the XO and 1st LT to drop concussion grenades off the bow to 'simulate' a mine strike. To prepare us you know. This was the LaSalle, no small ship. Those grenades slammed it just like a mine.
I was in my office on the damage control deck about 13 feet above the waterline a lot of crew berthing was forward and aft of the office. There were blood trails from the knee knockers as men in the shower took off running to get ready to save the ship by getting dressed first. Literally blood trails down the passageway.

I took the lesson from that and in the next 30 years didn't pretend that hard to scare the crap out sailors.

capt fast said...

I recall a lot of practice alerts on the pad. I also recall the october 73 alert everyone thought was another practice alert. it wasn't. fight like you train.