When we commissioned the USS Leftwich, the Navy decided we would go through a full refresher training, called REFTRA. It was six weeks of drills, training, exercising ever piece of equipment on teh ship, long hours, no sleep and lots of pressure. There are three "Battle Problems", one in the beginning, a mid term, and a final. The equipment check, the Friday before REFTRA started had already set the tone of events. First of all, my REFTRA observer was a Chief Gunner's Mate Missiles, with no gun mount experience at all. Second, Mount 52 had a catastrophic hydraulic casualty that took the combined efforts of me, the NAVSEACENPAC tech reps, the ORDSTA Louisville tech rep, and my friend at the manufacturer of the gun mounts, FMC, to discover what was wrong and it took the better part of six months. To say the least, it was one difficult problem.
But this post is about the three battle problems. When the REFTRA observers come aboard for the battle problem, one of my jobs was to provide three concussion grenades. They were used to simulate the three "Hits" the ship would take in the simulated battle. For the first battle problem, I was on the quarterdeck and provided the three concussion grenades, complete with their cardboard safety liners. This was to ensure the grenade did not accidentally go off in case the pin fell out. Trust me, those pins won't fall out. And, you can't pull them out with you teeth like you see in the movies. Your teeth will come out, but most likely, not the pin! In any case, I provided them to the observer, a GMM. I never thought to train him, after all, he was there to train me and my folks. He SHOULD know what he is doing and I don't want to humiliate the guy who is grading me.
The first battle problem begins, with no Boom! As a matter of fact, no boom for hit Alpha, Bravo, or Charlie! After the days events, the Combat Systems Officer, a real dolt, and the Captain are on me about having bad grenades. Well, I had a lot to fix, procedures to write, training to do, and I did not have time to chase grenade issues. So, I put them off and forgot about it.
Three weeks later, time for the mid-term battle problem and I am hoping to do better. The observers come aboard including my Missiles Chief. I handed him three grenades and I went about my work. The battle problem begins with Hit Alpha, and no boom. No boom for hit Bravo or Charlie either!! Now I am worried. There must be a problem with the grenades. Of course, the CSO and the Captain are really on me know. But, again, I manage to push the issue aside. However I did check to see if there were any issues reported with concussion grenades, none. Curious.
The day arrives for the final battle problem, and again, I am on the Quarterdeck with the required three concussion grenades. I turn them over to my Chief Missile Gunner's Mate observer, and set about my duties. The battle problem begins with hit Alpha and again, no boom. I am in Mount 52 and the observer calls me on the 21 MC and asks me to come to Mount 51. My thoughts are on what is wrong now!?! When I get to Mount 51's loader room, I am met by a puzzled look on this Chief's face. He asks me, "When I throw the grenades, do I have to take this cardboard ring off the spoon and body of the grenade after I pull the pin?"
Somewhere, off the coast of San Diego, are seven concussion grenades that went off after the sea water deteriorated the cardboard band and the spoon popped, probably when a ship was going by. I would have loved to be there.