Monday, September 27, 2010

Meep, Meep!

ASW, Japanese style:


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

But, But, I Might Get in Trouble!!!

This is no shit (and all times are approximate):

I was on shore duty for a spell; I was stationed in the DC area. For some reason, the Powers That Be where I worked sent me and a bunch of civilian engineers to a four-hour presentation/lunch at the Little Creek Naval Base in Virginia Beach, VA. We had to all be at work at 0530 to ride a large passenger van down (the conference started at 1000) and the van would take us back to our offices at the end of the presentation.

Most of us snoozed on the way down.

I wish I could tell you what the presentation was all about, not because it was classified, but because I just don't remember. For some reason, we had to ride out in the harbor in a LARC-LX to watch some ship do something worth seeing. It was a nice day, the water was calm, a LARC-LX is one big mother on huge wheels (like a really big DUKW) and we got to eat a buffet lunch after the boat ride. But none of that is important to this tale.

It was an hour or so after we started back to DC that it became clear to me (and others) that the driver of the van was seriously tired. He was having trouble staying in the lane on I-64. I called out to him (I was two rows back) and asked that he make a pit stop as soon as possible, with the excuse that I really had to pee, "and I mean right now."

He pulled into a truck stop and everybody got out. I made a quick run to the head and got back to the van before the driver. I climbed into the driver's seat, buckled up and waited. When the driver came back, he didn't even put up an argument. He got into the right front seat and he was out like a light just after we got back on the highway. He slept until we pulled off the highway towards the facility where we worked.

The van had three lights to monitor mileage, the idea being that you were supposed to drive in such a way as to keep the green light on. I had the yellow or red lights on the whole way back. When we got to the facility, around 1900 or so, the gate guard did a double-take when he saw that I was driving, but he saluted and I drove in to the office building, where we all got out and the driver took the van back to the motor pool.

The next day, one of the engineers buttonholed me and said: "I was really happy that you took over from that driver. I could see that he was falling asleep at the wheel. We could have all been killed."

"If you knew that, then why didn't you volunteer to drive," I asked.

"But I don't have a government driver's license," he protested. He actually seemed scandalized at the idea that he might drive a government vehicle without one.

I looked at him and smiled. "I don't have one, either. But I'm not about to let the lack of a piece of paper get me killed."

The driver, though, must have told what had happened to his boss. For three days later, without my saying a word to anyone, I received a government driver's license through the interoffice mail. The effective date on the license was back-dated to a week before the trip.

The file had been papered.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Day in Port

This is from memory and it is based on the ships I spent time on. So if your ship differed, feel free to comment.

Sunrise- Topside lighting was turned off.

0600- Reveille. The Petty Officer of the Watch would turn on the 1MC (announcing system) to the common spaces and engineering and announce: "Reveille, reveille. All hands heave out and trice up. The smoking lamp is lit in all authorized spaces.." he would flip on the switch to Officers' Country and add "now reveille."

Of course, some people had been up for awhile. The watches, whether the ship was cold iron (hotel services being provided from the pier) or auxiliary steaming were manned. The cooks had been up for awhile preparing breakfast.

0615- "Early chow". The watchstanders, those who were taking the forenoon watch at 0700, got to eat. Lots of other people did, as well. Most of the officers drifted in by 0630 so they could change into working uniform and grab breakfast. The department heads and some of the division officers received copies of relevant message traffic; you could find them at the wardroom table, eating breakfast and scanning through the pile of copies of radioteletype messages. (Radio Central usually had more than one damn big xerox machine.)

0615- Sweepers. The offgoing duty section was supposed to give a quick cleaning of the ship. If the day was a weekend, it had better be a good one, as the oncoming Command Duty Officer would not release the offgoing duty section until the ship was cleaned to his or her satisfaction. The offgoing duty section hoped like hell that the oncoming CDO was badly hung over and wouldn't have noticed if the ship had sunk at the pier.

0630- Breakfast for the Crew. By now there was a steady parade of ship's company across the Quarterdeck. An officer from the off-going duty section had to eat breakfast on the Mess Deck in order to fill out a report.

0700- Relieve the Watch. The Forenoon watch was the first one for the oncoming duty section.

0700-0715- Expiration of Liberty. The exact time depended on the ship.

0720- Officers' Call. This was where the XO amplified on whatever was in the Plan of the Day. The XO would ask questions of the attendees and discuss anything that was on his or her mind. Depending on what was bugging the XO, this could be a very uncomfortable event.

On smaller ships, all of the officers and the command master chief attended Officers' Call. On larger ships, it was the CMC and the department heads; in that event, the department heads then met with their division officers. Any discomfort from the XO would be passed along.

0730- Quarters. All hands not on watch in port would assemble at their divisional mustering point. Attendance was taken and the Muster Report would later be turned into the Ship's Office. Attention would be called with words ranging from the formal (and prescribed) "Attention to Quarters", to, as I heard one Master Chief say: "Listen Up, You Varmints." The Plan of the Day was read out and then everyone would wait for the division officer to come back from Officer's Call and announce any modifications to the POD.

If the day was a weekend, the ongoing and offgoing duty sections would muster in one location. When the oncoming CDO was satisfied, liberty call would occur for the offgoing duty section.

0745- Turn To. Commence Ship's Work. In other words, get busy. Division officers were expected to be in their spaces for most of the work day. Good department heads toured their spaces as well, for on a warship, the best fertilizer was the farmer's shadow.

0800- Colors. The National Ensign and the Jack were raised. Either the colors bugle call was played (by a recording) or the National Anthem. If you were topside, you stood at attention, faced aft and saluted.If there were more than one nation's warship in port, that anthem was played as well. In a NATO task group, that could be several of them. You really didn't want to be caught topside for morning colors.

0600-0930- CO arrives on board. If the ship had no special inspections or other looming catastrophes, it was a sign of a well-run ship (and a competent XO) that the Captain arrived late and could go home early.[1] The XO would meet with the CO soon after the CO arrived to discuss the daily message traffic and whatever else was going on. The CO would also tour parts of his ship.

1000- XO's Inspection of Messing and Berthing. The XO, the CMC and a yeoman (who took notes) would inspect the berthing compartments, the heads, the galley, the scullery and the messing areas. This was very much a "shit flows downhill" inspection, as the XO would pour hell on the department heads. Department heads would then motivate their division officers, and so forth. After a couple of bad reports, an irritated department head might order the responsible division office to make a personal inspection prior to the XO and report back.[2]

1115- Early Chow (lunch)

1130-1230 Lunch. (Some ships called this "dinner"). The lunch hour was popular for those who wanted to work out or rack out. This hour was damn near sacred, bothering a person at lunch was considered to be an offense. Usually, immediately before lunch, the Officer of the Deck would send the Messenger of the Watch to make the Twelve O'Clock Reports to the Captain. These included the Fuel and Water Report, the Muster Report, the Mazagine Temperature Report and the Chronometer Report. The MOW had a spiel to recite as the reports were handed to the Captain.[3]

1230- Commence Ship's work.

1545- Sweepers.

1600- Liberty Call. This may be delayed on ships that had a lot to do. Individual divisions could let people go earlier or later. Usually the last people off the ship were the engineering officers. [4]

1715- Early Chow.

1730- Supper for the Crew.

Sunset- Colors. The National Ensign and Jack were lowered, the topside lights were turned on.

1830- Muster of Extra Duty Men with the Master of Arms. These were the fuckups who had been awarded extra duty at Captain's Mast. Divisions would request extra-duty men from the Master of Arms. Usually, this involved chipping paint in either the engineering spaces or the topside weather decks for two hours.

1830- Sweepers.

1900 (or so, it could be later)- Movie Call. This was more popular back in the days of real 16mm movies being shown on the ships. In the 1980s, the movies began to be replaced with tapes that were played either where a TV set was installed or on the ship's internal cable television system (SITE TV).

1930- Eight O'Clock Reports- The duty department heads would meet with the CDO to report that the ship had been cleaned. Underway, the meeting was between the department heads and the XO. If a department head was on watch, a division officer would attend. Eight O'Clock Reports were really disliked if one had the midwatch.

2200- Taps. The smoking lamp was extinguished, the interior of the ship was darkened, at least in the vicinity of the berthing compartments and in Officers Country. Before the adoption of privacy curtains, all bunk lights had to be shut off.

[1] The converse was also true. Captains were "bonged aboard" (page down to "boat gongs"), so it was common knowledge when a captain arrived or left the ship.
[2] A division which didn't seem to grasp the importance of complying might end up with their division officer and chief being ordered to attend the XO's inspection. That usually worked wonders.
[3] "Good morning, Sir. The Officer of the Deck sends his respects and reports the approach of the hour of twelve o'clock. All chronometers have been wound and compared. Request permission to strike eight bells on time, sir." The CO would reply: "Very well, permission granted. Carry on."
[4] The operations officers often were heard to complain about the commuter traffic on and of the base. The engineers had no idea what their beef was, for traffic was usually light by the time they went home.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Purge

I alluded to the story I am about to relate nearly two years ago, when I discussed selection boards.

The surface Navy's Department Head School, commonly referred to as the Destroyer School, was located on Coasters Harbor Island, Newport, RI. The school consisted of two parts. First there was the general curriculum, including the Tactical Action Officers segment, and then the students split into groups for the job-specific portion (Weapons, Operations or Engineering). Each class in the 1980s had 100 officers, usually 95% lieutenants in two sections of 50. The course was 20 weeks long and there were two full classes in session at any one time.

This is no shit:

In one of the classes that was in session when the LCDR Selection Board reported out, there was a LT who failed to select. They brought him back to the school in the middle of the night to inventory the classified material in his desk, then they gave him orders to somewhere else. As far as his classmates knew, he was there in class one day and gone the next. Nobody would tell them where he was sent to.

He was a popular young man and his classmates were not happy.

Two days later, they took the class photo, which was on the back cover of the graduation program for each class. The photo was a group photo of everyone standing on the steps in front of the Destroyer School building, three deep. The class left a one-man gap in the front rank and they put a combination cover on the ground in the gap.

The photographer didn't notice or didn't give a shit. The people who put together the graduation program didn't notice. The XO of the Destroyer School did notice on the day before the graduation, when it was too late to change the programs. The CO of the Destroyer School had to settle for a mass chewing out of the entire class at a special assembly.

Which, as is typical for such events, accomplished nothing.