The Navy's traditions live on in the hearts of those who serve

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Warring Natures.

A few weeks ago, I think, I wrote and posted a diatribe about the health of the Navy Chief Petty Officer's community. I was fired up, to say the least. I reverted, but not without warning to my readers, to the profanity that was so much of my Navy vernacular. I reviewed the posting and posted it. A few minutes later, I decided to take the posting down, not because I did not agree with what I wrote, but because I thought some of my friends would not understand how I expressed my opinion. Since some of you are much more technically savvy than I, and use RSS to immediately get anything I post, I decided to explain myself.

Some of you know me, as a Master Chief Gunner's Mate. Others know me as a Deacon, Church Elder, and Lay minister and have even heard me preach God's word. That is where the difficulty lies. There are two warring natures that live within me, that appear to be diametrically opposed to the outsider, but not to me. Yes, God's word instructs us not to use profanity and not to blaspheme the Lord's name. I agree whole heartedly. And while I will tell you that I am not without sin in this area, I am very careful not to take the Lord's name in vane or to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. However, my 40 years associated with the Navy taught me that, sometimes, a verbal PUNCH in the nose, is exactly what some folks need to understand what you are trying to teach them. And, since we are a kinder and gentler Navy and actually punching one in the nose is looked down upon, I still use harsh language, in my Navy community, to get my point across. Since some of you have never been associated with the military, or never knew me in the Navy, my diatribe may have offended you. If it did, I am sincerely sorry. But you have to understand that God made me, put me in the life that I lead, and used me to do his will in may different venues. My Navy career was definitely God's doing. Go back and read my earliest postings, I hated authority, and only joined the Navy to evade incarceration. But, almost from the first day in Boot Camp, I found the Navy to be an organization that I fit into very well. That "Fit" resulted in success that I could not have imagined. Yes, my Navy career has it's "Salty" stories and harsher moments. But those experiences have helped me understand the people I work and Live with and helped me to help them. I did not grow up in the Church and only came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as an adult. I understand what people struggle with in a life without Christ. I have been there. Did Christ abandon me during those times, NO. He was there, watching over me, protecting me, trust me, he was. In 1972, in Bremerton Washington, a Stewburner friend of mine and I got drunk, and then decided to go to Seattle. We boarded the ferry from Brememton to Seattle in his 1965 Pontiac Tempest, and drunk as we were, drank a fifth of some cheap whiskey, without chaser, in that hour ferry ride. We drove off the ferry and soon had an automobile accident. Imagine that! We hit a wood, telephone pole, sliding on the ice, doing about 80 mph! I was the passenger, and I was not wearing a seat belt. I went through the windshield ad was stuck to the bottom rim of the windshield when I heard someone say; "Are they dead?" I thought I might be, since I could not move. But, after a police officer pulled me free of the windshield, I walked to the ambulance and was fine, with the exception of a few scars on my face that I bear today. I should have died in the wreck, Trust me, the transmission was in the back seat of the Pontiac! Jesus was watching over me because He has plans for me. Did I do something he was proud of, NO! Did I learn from it, eventually. Have I helped others avoid my stupidity, absolutely, including my Niece at my Dad's 80th birthday party!

Look, I am not trying to justify my occasional use of profanity, I am asking you to understand that I am a complex mix of the world and all it's sins and a man who, knowing that I am a sinner, still love Jesus for what He did for me. Do I recommend my way of life, NO! As a matter of fact, I spend plenty of time telling folks to stay away from the trappings of the world. But sometimes, the passion I feel for the institutions that I love, boil up in me, and I express that passion in the manner that I am equipped to do. If I offended anyone, I am sorry. But I meant what I said and I stand by my statements. As Popeye said; "I am what I am!"

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Greatest Team of All!

As many of you know, I just retired from my civilian career with the Navy. For the last 20 years, I have worked for a government agency, under different names, that provides technical assistance to all of the Navy, Coast Guard, and Military Sea Lift Command ships, worldwide. My last 12 or 13 years have been spent with the Greatest Group of individuals that I have ever been with. When all else fails, call these people and they will fix the problem. Day or night, holidays, kid's birthday, vacation day, it does not matter. They can and will solve the problem, anywhere, anytime, at a cost that can't be duplicated! I became associated with this group of professionals through a strange turn of events. But, it was the best thing that ever happened to my Navy career.

Why do I write this, because this wonderful group of friends and their wives, held a retirement dinner for my wife and me this evening. This was an exceptional evening that words do not begin to describe. These friends, that do so much for the Navy and did so much for me, professionally and personally, made my wife and I feel so loved and special. I am at a loss for words. And if you know me, that's not normal. To top it off, they gave me a beautiful shadow box with a U.S. Ensign, flown over the USS Constitution, a group photograph of the entire team, and a very generous gift certificate. Since I don't normal put individuals names in my Blog, without their permission, I will only use their "Gator" given names. Linda and I appreciate all that each of you did for us through our long time together and tonight. Naturally, the lead instigator was Gator. Thanks for carrying me and being my friend. Squig, PBJ, Toy Story, Picachu, and the Slayer of Small Fish, thanks for planning this entire day, from the firing range time, which Linda and I really enjoyed, to the magnificent evening. Picachu, the slide show was a hit. Thanks for letting me tell a few "Sea" stories. The rest of the team was there too, Big Head, Bat Man, Hey Yu, Wacko, Big Money, Cell Block, T-Rex, Bubba and Cal, who retired a few years before me. Thanks also to all of the wives. I realize how hard it is to be out with a group of people you barely know but whom your Husbands are great friends with. But I really appreciated seeing each of you and being able to thank you for sharing your extremely talented Husband with the Navy and me. Trust me, the Navy could not do it's job without this group of dedicated professionals.

I'd be remiss if I did not say thanks to those who could not come tonight. PP had a very important Father - Son event. In my estimation, if he would have missed that event with his son, to be with me, I would have been angry with him. PP, your a great tech rep and a wonderful Father. Keep up the good work. Everyone of us missed Captain Kenny, but he was there in our hearts. There were other team members, from the early days in the Search Radar Branch, that were not able to come, but still hold a loving place in my heart like, Crash, Grumpy, Gumby, MacGiver, Jaws, OB, and others whose "Gator" given names have escaped my failing memory.

I have written before, but it bears repeating; I spend much time reliving past memories. Today, is hard to remember and harder to deal with. But my memories are safe, warm, enjoyable, places for me to rest. Thanks to each of you, for writing such a pleasant, loving memory of The Greatest Team of All. I will never forget you.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Good friends, Great memories.

A few weeks ago, I finally got off my duff and called an old friend, Charlie Ford. He is an Engineer who was one of the smartest people I ever met when it came to the MK 45 Gun Mount and one of the nicest, most humble gentlemen I ever met, bar none. Charlie has always been gracious to me, helped me through some of my most difficult problems with hthe MK 45 gun Mount and kept me laughing. We spent a long time on the phone, remembering other old friends and telling sea stories as only those of us who "Lived" Navy can. I remember early in my MK 45 days, on the USS Leftwich, I had an unusual problem come up. When we commissioned Leftwich, President Jimmy Carter was in office and was systematically disarming America. When we manned that ship up, we were so short on people it was dangerous. To make things worse, the people we had were without experience. There were only 12 Chiefs in the commissioning crew for the entire ship. That was about 8 Chief Petty Officers low. I had 4 Gunner's Mates and me to maintain two MK 45 Gun Mounts and all of the associated and not so associated equipment and spaces. I was billetted for 8! To say the least, I was totally overwhelmed. To top that off, only one of the four had been to MK 45 "C" school and only he had ever been in a firing gun mount before. Get the idea. I had to teach everything, be everywhere, and do most everything. One day, one of my young GMGSN's came to me with some bolt heads in his hand. He said, "Chief, I think we have a problem." It seemed that he was doing the preventative maintenance card on the hold down bolts in Mount 51. The PMS card listed numerous torque readings to test for, based on what alteration of hold down bolts were installed in your gun mount. Instead of trying to determine what our status was, he "ASSUMED" that the highest torque rating would be good, and he promptly twisted off the heads of 5 or so hold down bolts!!! Of course, that made the gun unsafe to fire. So, I called Cahrlie in Louisville and explained my dilemma. Unfazed, Charlie shipped me enough "New Style" hold down bolts for both gun mounts. His quick action is admirable in itself, but Charlie shipped the bolts to my home address so I could get them quicker and solve my embarassing problem quickly. He also, quietly set up for the NAVSEACENPAC reps, Bill Luder and Pappy, to come over with their magnetic drill base and drill out the broken bolts. No reports, nothing said, no snickering, just help.

That's not the only time Charlie came to my rescue. While still on Leftwich I had a severe hydraulic failure with the upper accumulator unloading valve, (UVX24). I still think it's amazing I can remember that but forget how to sign my name. In any case, that failure started a strange chain of events that mimicked air being trapped in the cradle raise hydraulic circuit. On the MK 45 Mod ) gun mount, air in the hydraulic system was your enemy! He and I chased that problem for months and Charlie made numerous visits to my ship to help. Buy we could not find the problem. I was working everyday, 7 days a week on this problem, and the west coast Louisville tech rep, Dean Reahart was due on my ship Saturday morning to help me, once again. Friday evening, Charlie called me on the ship and said that he had spoken to another old friend, Dave Flippo, who I went to MK 42 "C" school with, a long time before. Dave had left the Navy and went to work for FMC, the manufacturer of the MK 45 gun mount. As it turned out Dave had seen this problem before. Charlie had Dave call me the next morning and Dave did, at 7AM. He told me to check an orifice plate in the hydraulic interlock pipe that came from the cradle in the right trunnion. I believe it was pipe P8 or P16. I may be wrong. I told Dave the prints did not show an orifice there, he agreed and told me to check it anyway. Without draining down the header tank, I pulled the four cap screws out of the pipe flange and pulled the pipe off, sure enough, there was a small orifice plate in this little 3/8" hydraulic line, and low and behold, there was half of an O-Ring stuck through the hole in the orifice plate. I removed the half an O-Ring, replaced the pipe, and had the gun running, correctly before Dean got there. I was happy because I finally got mount 52 running after 4 months and I was going to get to go home to my wife and son. Dean was happy because he did not have to work on the weekend. But it was Charlie's tenacious "Never Say Die" attitude and dedication to the success of all Gunner's Mates, including me that made the success possible.

My Navy career was filled with great men like Charlie Ford. I appreciate their efforts and dedication. But Charlie was a mentor, a teacher, and a friend. Charlie, enjoy your retirement, you deserve it.

PS- I did give Charlie a copy of the picture of the USS Caron, Mount 51, taken the morning of February 5, 1984 after we had fired over 400 rounds out of that gun, including 2 one hundred round rapid fire runs to support the Marines that were trapped at the airport in Beirut, Lebanon. That photo shows a forecastle littered with empty 5" powder cases and a gun barrel with it's paint proudly burned off from the blistering firing the night before. That was a proud night for USS Caron, the MK 45 Gun Mounts, fleet wide, for my Gunner's Mate's and Fire Control Technicians, and of course, for me. Thanks again Charlie!!