Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Earlier, I discussed the Planned Maintenance Subsystem, which is how the crew of any ship knew what maintenance work needed to be done. Quite often, though, maintenance or repair work needed to be accomplished which was beyond the capabilities of the ship's force. That work had to be accomplished by an outside entity.

The process was started by submitting a request on a pale green machine-readable form, OPNAV Form 4790/2K, which was known throughout the Fleet as a "2-Kilo".

2-Kilos had to be signed by the entire chain of command. After that, what happened depended on where the ship was and what was going on. If your ship was going into a tender availability, the 2-Kilos went to the tender's repair officer for evaluation. If the repair officer passed on doing the work, then the 2-Kilo would be sent to the home port supervisor of shipbuilding and repair (Supships) for submission for the next overhaul or selected restricted availability (SRA). What was accomplished in an overhaul or SRA was determined by Navsea and the type commander (SurfLant or SurfPac), and the main criteria was how much it would cost and how much money the type commander had for repairs.

Back in the day, ships of the Atlantic Fleet had to be able to rig "friendship lights". Imagine a 25' long string of 3-wire outdoor extension cord, with a 60-watt work light every foot or so. They looked like giant Christmas tree lights. Ships needed enough strings to completely circle the main weather deck, to go down the length of the gangway and to run from the fantail, up to the top of the mast and then back down to the bow. That was a shitload of lights.

It looked something like this:

Night time:


They were called friendship lights because lighting up the ship like that implied no hostile intent (and it told everyone who looked out at the harbor that a foreign warship was there). Everyone in the Atlantic Fleet called them "Med lights", because they were normally only used when deployed. More to the point of things, they were not repair parts, they were consumable items.

This is no shit:

There was a steam-powered cruiser in Mayport that was getting ready to deploy. The cruiser had a new chief engineer. The CHENG asked the Electrical Officer if the Med lights were ready to go. The Electrical Officer replied in the affirmative. The CHENG said fine, the ship was going to be in port for three weeks, so he wanted to see them all strung up in place and tested. The Electrical Officer protested that would be a lot of work for his division. The CHENG was unswayed and changed his phraseology from "I would like to see the Med lights strung up" to "you goddamn will string up the fucking Med lights". That was not a normal thing to do, but this particular CHENG was kind of an unreasonable bastard who had been badly burned on a previous tour by a division officer who had fed him a load of shit. He was a real piece of work in a job which tended to encourage becoming one.

Well, it seemed there was a bit of a problem. That ship needed about 3,000 feet of Med lights to fully rig the ship. They had 100 feet. The CHENG had the E Division supply petty officer determine the cost of 2,900 feet of Med lights. At that point, the CHENG turned white, for the cost would have wiped out the consumable budget for Engineering for the rest of the fiscal year and then some.

The CHENG went straight to the CO and told him that the ship essentially had no Med lights. The CO was a wise one who knew that there were times for going ballistic and times when it would serve no purpose. He thanked the CHENG for telling him and told him to "carry on." The CO then called his good friend, the CO of the destroyer tender down the pier.

Nobody would talk about what deal was struck (if any), but the CHENG was told to bring a 2-Kilo to the CO, filled out with the name of the ship, the work center, initialed by the Electrical Officer and the CHENG and otherwise left blank. The CO took the 2-Kilo, signed it, and then instructed the CHENG to personally hand-carry it to the CO of the tender.

Which the CHENG did. The tender's CO took it, thanked the CHENG and told him that he could send a working party over in two hours to pick up the lights he needed. The CHENG sent the available electrician's mates and IC men to get the Med lights, all three thousand feet of them. The ship had its Med lights for the cruise (though they had to buy a shitload of bulbs).

A copy of the 2-Kilo later came back for the ship's work order file. The text of it read: "Fabricate and provide 3,000 feet of waterline security lighting, ship's force to install."


Jean-Marc Liotier said...

Behind all organizations that appear to work well, there are the untold ugly workarounds that actually get them to work... Always fun stuff !

kaigun said...

I never cared much about the friendship lights until they started merging the SMs with navigation. Then it became my concern because we had to rig the dress ship span wires the lights hung on, which was always a PITA.

chaoticsynapticactivity said...

You're a wealth of sea stories and good documenting of life aboard ships.

Old Retired Petty Officer said...

OMG! Dress Ship!

Kristina said...

nice post.

Charles Pergiel said...

"3,000 feet of waterline security lighting" and "a 60-watt work light every foot or so". Mmm-K, that means 3,000 lights times 60 watts, or 180KW, divided by 120 Volts (just to pick a number out of the air) comes to 1500 Amperes. That is a s*** load of electricity. I imagine there were a couple of miles of plain power cables used to supply power to all these lights.