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

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day

I was just sitting here, thinking about old Navy friends, lost, fighting for our freedom. They "Stood the Watch" to the end. They never quit, shrunk from their responsibilities, or tried to find a way out of serving their country. They just did what they knew was right. I was proud to know them and happy to remember them.

There was GMG1 Robert "Red" Mills, who died when the MK 42 gun mount on the USS Benjamin Stoddard blew up while providing naval gun fire support, off the coast of Viet Nam.

GMCM James Andrew Smith, wounded twice during two in country, Viet Nam tours. Who suffered from delayed stress syndrome, which lead to his death, after 33 years of Naval Service.

There were others, but my memory fails me right now. That does not mean I don't remember them, it just means I can't remember their names. But their service to our country was still important.

Use a few minutes of this Holiday weekend to remember those you knew, who gave the final measure, for us.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gunner's Mates!

I woke up this morning, thinking about someone who I was stationed with at Great Lakes as a student, later as an instructor, and also at BUPERS. He was an exceptional Gunner's Mate even IF he was a Gunner's Mate Missiles. He was funny, fun to be with, and an exceptional Chief. I remember when we were Detailers together, in Washington D.C. in 1980. The Chrysler "K" car had just came out, and he liked to have the latest car. So, he bought one. A real good looking two door model. Blue, with all the bells and whistles. But, it did not come with a sun roof at that time. No problem, he would install his own. After all, he was a Chief Gunner's Mate! So, down to the auto parts store at the local Montgomery Wards he goes, to purchase his new sun roof. He then went home, read the instructions, and proceeded to install said sun roof. He carefully removed the headliner, preserving it for future use. He removed the roof insulation panel. Using the enclosed template, he carefully measured where the sun roof would be placed on the roof, taped the template on the top of his roof, drilled a pilot hole, and then cut the hole out of his roof, carefully, following the provided template to a "T". The, as the next step in the instruction book called for, he placed the sun roof assembly, with the gasket attached, in the hole. It promptly fell through to the front seat without touching the roof. The hole was too big!! WAY TOO BIG!!

So, back to Montgomery Wards auto section he goes, in his car with the hole in the roof. Did I mention it was winter? Did I mention this was the ONLY car he had? Did I mention he had two kids under three? Boy was his wife unhappy. Montgomery Wards auto manager wanted to give him his money back! That was nice of them! No wonder they are out of business. But He did not accept their gracious offer. Instead, after explaining that it was their fault because they sold him a faulty unit, in a sealed box, the auto manager saw the error of his ways, after his ears quit ringing, and procured a rental car for my friend, sent the "K" car with the large hole in the roof to a custom shop to get a custom sun roof installed. That process took three weeks! Again, no wonder Montgomery Wards is out of business. He did get the car back, and the glass roof was nice. It reminded me of a 1956 Ford Galaxy Sunliner, the glass was so big! I would have loved to be there when he traded that car in.

Just a funny story about a friend I miss. His kids are grown, he is long retired from the Navy, like me, and is still working for the Navy, making better sailors. Someday I will tell you how he shot another GMM on a hunting trip to Wyoming. But that is another story.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Firing the Reduced Charge in a MK 42 Gun Mount

OK, reaching back into my past, where I often live, I wrote a few days ago about Short Charges and closed with the difference between them and Reduced Charges. That brought back a heated disagreement I had with one of my mentors and hero's, Master Chief Bill Mowery. He and I met in MK 42 "C" school during the Mod 9 difference course. I have written about him, and what he did for my career before, so I will dispense with that history. Bill and I were both MK 42 mod 1-8 experienced Gunner's Mates. I will confess that he had a lot more experience that I did, but at the time of our disagreement I was a brand new GMG2 and he was a seasoned Chief. Just the same, we were on the USS Stein (DE 1065) and getting ready to shoot Naval Gun Fire Support (NGFS) for a grade that would impact the ship receiving, or not receiving the Battle Efficiency "E". A big deal to many of us! One of the events was to shoot a reverse slope mission. The idea was to shoot the gun at a high elevation and drop the rounds behind a mountain or just beyond your own troops line. To accomplish this, we use less gun powder. For case ammunition guns, like the MK 42, the engineers have already made up "Reduced Charge" powders.

On the MK 42 mod 1-8 gun mount, to shoot "Reduced Charge" mode, the Gunner's Mates had to reduce the counter recoil air pressure from 1800 psi to 1200 psi. If you failed to do this, the gun would not fully recoil and the breech would not open and eject the expended powder case. I remembered that the MK 42 mod 9 & 10 had an extra valve in the breechblock control assembly to compensate for the shorter recoil and therefore, we did not have to reduce the counter recoil air pressure. Well, then Chief Mowery, remember he retired as a Master Chief Gunner's Mate, did not agree with me. Maybe he missed that part of the course because he was at the Navy Exam Center straightening out my Second Class exam . In any case, we could not continue our "Discussion" because I had to get ready for an anti- air shoot. We were supposed to shoot three runs, 8 rounds a run. We would be shooting at a target, called a sleeve, towed behind an airplane. We shot VT Non Frag which was a practice round that had a proximity fuze that sends out a radio signal and listens for the return. When the projectile is close enough to the target to do damage, the signal sets off the projectile. With Non- Frag, it sets off a puff of smoke. The scoring calls these "Puffs of Smoke" Time Triggered Bursts. (TTB) So, we began the shoot, and the first run was 8 TTB's. GREAT!! The second run was 6 misses and 2 TTB'b. Not so good what happened? The third run was 7 TTB's. We passed and everyone was happy except me and Chief Mowery. He headed to the Chief's Quarters and I set out to find the problem. The GMG3 who ran the magazine crew for General Quarters handed me the lot numbers for the ammunition fired. As I looked at the powder lot numbers, I asked; "Are you SURE?" Why, because 14 0f the 24 rounds were REDUCED CHARGE rounds!! In all the confusion, someone made a mistake in the magazine. About that time, the Chief Fire Controlman, Gary Babcock came up to me and asked "What happened?". He went on to explain that we fell far short in the second run and he had to crank Initial Velocity (IV) way up on the Fire Control Computer to compensate and get us back on target. The MK 68 Gun Fire Control System was a great system and could actually see the projectiles in the air. I told Gary what happened and he said; "Mowery's not going to be happy!" I went to the Chief's Quarters to give the Chief the lot numbers. I handed him the list as I stood at the door. He looked at the numbers and saw the same thing I saw, Reduced Charges! He looked up at me with that angry stare, and I said: "And I didn't reduce the counter recoil pressure either!" and scampered back up the the gun mount. He never brought the topic up again and we did not reduce counter recoil air pressure for the reverse slope mission. I never brought it up either, until today.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Short Charge

I am up early on a Saturday morning, at least early for me. I was thinking about the past as I often do, and believe it or not, the clearing of live ammunition came to mind. Before you fall down laughing, remember my medical conditions, I often "slip back" to my Navy days. In any case, there are times when a naval gun, any version, will fail to fire. That is called a misfire. The resulting condition is called a "Foul Bore". This can be a very dangerous situation if the gun barrel is hot enough to "Cook Off" the ammunition contained in the gun barrel. Thus, the Navy wrote an entire tech manual for "Clearing of live ammunition from Naval Guns, OP 1591". In any case, most times, if the powder did not fire, and all systems check satisfactory, you must remove the powder case and replace it with another. In some cases, the projectile may not have seated all the way, or there may be other reasons, that the Mount Captain, the senior Gunner's Mate in the gun, decides to use a "Short Charge". A "Short Charge" is a powder tank that is substantially shorter in length than the operational powder cases. This allows for any number of issues in the breech including an improperly seated projectile or even trapped air between the projectile and the incoming powder tank. But here is the reason to write this post;

It is a little know fact, but the "Short Charge" has the same amount of propellant powder as the regular length powder! The round will go just as far with a "Short Charge" as with a full charge. I am willing to be most folks, even Gunner's Mates, don't know that!

Now a "Short Charge" is NOT to be confused with a "Reduced Charge" which actually has less propellant powder and is used for special firing situations, ie shooting behind mountains.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Battle for Vertical Launch

Prior to the commissioning of the USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) all missiles, fired from U.S. Navy ships, with the exception of Harpoon and Armor Box Tomahawk, were fired from launchers that moved in train and elevation, just like a gun mount. The launcher was assigned to the fire control system, slewed out, synchronized with the position of the fire control radar, before the missile was launched. Then, General Dynamics came up with the MK 41 Vertical Launching System. (VLS). This system revolutionized the launching of all surface launched missiles. Surface to air, cruise, Anti Submarine Warfare, you name it. VLS was a great idea. No power drives to maintain, no moving launcher, no missile assembly area, no separate missile magazine for stowage. VLS contained everything, even shipping, in a neat, compact, package. We could get more missiles in place for less money, less maintenance, less man power. I liked the idea.

The introduction of VLS happened while I was the Gunner's Mate (Gun) detailer in Washington D.C. That was 1980 to 1983. Let me digress for a moment. There has always been a slight, no, bitter rivalry between Fire Control Technicians, called in the past, FTG, FTM, FT's, now FC's and Gunner's Mates. (I actually helped the Master Chief Fire Control tech in the Bureau design and sell the FC rating.) Fire Controlmen have always seen Gunner's Mates as knuckle dragging gorillas. We were called Boatswain's Mates with a hunting license or a fresh air snipe. Both derogatory terms. We in turn, called the FC's our own endearing terms. Do you know why the Navy invented Fire Control Techs? So Gunner's Mates had someone to dance with at the ship's party! That being said, there was a real battle in D.C. about WHO , that is what rating, was going to own VLS. The FC community was certain since there was plenty of electronics, that they should own it. After all, a Gunner's Mate didn't know anything about electricity or electronics.

In any case, a meeting, to finally determine the out come of this fight was scheduled and I made sure I was there representing my community. Representing the Fire Control community was an out of date, CWO4 Fire Control man who's last ship was a World War two 2250 class destroyer with 5"/38 guns and a MK 37 Fire Control System. He stated the standard case that Gunner's Mates never worked on their own electrical or electronic systems and that the FC's did all of it. I countered, with my back ground on the MK 42 Mod 9 and 10, and MK 45 Gun Mounts, MK 13 Mod 4 and MK 26 Guided Missile Launching Systems, all of which used logic computers to control gun loading and gun laying systems, Hall Effect switches, circuit boards, solid state everything, and all of which was maintained by the Gunner's Mates. The debate got heated, and I may have been a little rough on the old Warrant Officer. It got a little loud as I remember and I remember a certain Captain acting as the referee. Remember my view of Officers and especially, those who quit the enlisted ranks to become Warrants and LDO's. My buddy Jim Smith used to say; " Those who can make E-9, those who CAN'T make Warrant and LDO!" Actually, I have know, worked for, and respected many Warrants and LDO's, but this guy was out of date and out of ammunition in a debate with me. I won! Gunner's Mates got control of VLS, and have it to this day. VLS is an exceptional system, capable of almost anything. It recently shot down a failing space station and saved some city plenty of devastation and misery. I am glad I was in the position I was, to carry the day for the Navy and for Gunner's Mates. I only wish I was there when the Navy gave the maintenance responsibilities for the Close In Weapon's System (CIWS) to the Fire Control community. That system has been poorly maintained from the beginning and continues to be a problem child with a very high cost of ownership.

GD invited me to the "Roll Out "ceremony of the first production VLS launcher. It was an honor to be there, and a great memory of mine.