My time on the USS Caron was some of the best times of my Navy career. Also some of my most frustrating. But, I choose to dwell on the good times. I served in both capacities, as the Leading Gunner's Mate and the Command Master Chief. I have written about this before. It was the Captain's view that the Command Master Chief also be a working member of the crew. It was terribly demanding on me, but I agree with him now, more than ever. It gave me creditability and kept me from becoming a ward room bureaucrat like today's Command Master Chief's seem to be. I believe making Command Master Chief a permanent rating and taking the Master Chief out of his/her speciality is a waste of experience, training, and turns that person into the same useless wart on the ass of progress that the Command Career Counselor and the Master at Arms rating has become. Again, all of these were meant to be collateral duties! Not professions for people who can't do their real job. You might as well add Musician and Religious Programs Specialist into that quagmire of no loads also!! OK, I feel better now.
I had some great Gunner's Mates on the Caron, and three of them were unique characters. My leading GMG1 was a big, dedicated, hard working, fellow who everyone in the crew and the Captain called "Fred" That was not his name, but he looked like "Fred Flintstone", so that's what he was called. He was on the Caron doer 11 years when I came aboard. That's right, 11 years! He stayed on the Caron until he retired from the Navy with 20 years of service! He knew the ship.
Then there were two Third Class Petty Officers, (GMG3) one nicknamed "Cone Head" because one day while doing Pre-Fire checks, the test casing for firing primers to check the firing circuit fell from the gun and hit him in the head. Now this thing weighed 20 pounds and it fell about 10 feet. His statement upon getting hit was; "ouch". And then he went on with his duties. Tough man. His running mate was a slightly overweight, like able, individual who's name escapes me. These two had taken to building broad swords from scrap metal they retrieved from the ship fitter's shop. They would work for hours at night, shaping the swords on a grinder, wrapping the handles with old hemp line, and just having a good time. After all, underway for 30-60 days, no where to go, how many times can you watch a rerun of "Conan the Barbarian" before you just have to have a broad sword?! One evening, after dinner and "Eight O'clock Reports", I was relaxing in the Chief's Quarters when the telephone rang. I answered it and it was the Executive Officer. The first XO I had on Caron was an exceptional officer and leader and I would follow him anywhere, any time! In any case, on the telephone, he asked me; "Master Chief, do you know where Smith and Jones are?" ( not their real names) I replied with an inquisitive; "no?" He said; "I do, they are in the helo hanger having a broad sword fight!" I asked him how he knew, and he said he could hear the clanging of the steel swords as they beat together from his stateroom. It must have been loud, because his stateroom was one deck below, behind two doors, and down a passageway 20 feet! He asked me to make sure they were not doing permanent harm to themselves. In XO speak, that means, stop them from sword fighting. Both of my GMG 3's were fine, sweating from throwing these heavy swords around, buy no blood flow. They were also very disappointed that I mad them stop their "work out". But, in the interest of medical safety, I though it best.
Those two were best friends and could find the most interesting and creative ways to entertain themselves. They never got in trouble, worked extremely hard, and were dedicated to the Navy. What more could I have asked for! I miss those days and those shipmates. But their memories still make me smile.