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Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Thanks for remembering me."

I met the NFL Super Bowl winning quarterback, Ken Stabler for the first time when I was the Force Master Chief.  He was the guest of honor at a banquet on the USS Mobile Bay in Pascagoula.  He was a very personable man and handled the crowd of admiring sailors with class.  He passed his Super Bowl ring to me and let me see it, up close!  He was a real gentleman.

A few years later, I was retired from active duty and working for FTSCLANT.  I was flying out of Mobile airport and I ran into Ken Stabler again.  He was sitting alone, quietly reading the news paper at an abandoned gate, waiting for his flight.  I walked over to him and introduced myself, bringing that event on the USS Mobile Bay back to his memory.  He said he remembered the event and me, and was very congenial again.  I only spent a few minutes talking to him because I respect the privacy of celebrities and did not want to be rude or intrusive.   As we parted company with a hand shake, he said to me; "Thanks for remembering me."  That seemed very strange to me.  Who could forget a Super Bowl quarterback who was also a TV sport personality.  Impossible!!

Now, I understand Mr. Stabler.  As we fade from our professions, as we are replaced by younger talent, as our long time friends retire or pass on, there are fewer folks to remember what we did, our victories and our defeats.  What we did no longer matters because it has been done, quicker, better, cheaper, than we did it!  We are yesterday's news.  Yet, sometimes, I see a friendly face in the crowd, and that individual remembers me.  It makes me feel important, all over again.  Thanks for remembering me!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fast thinking in the midst of cascading failures.

During our Med cruise on the USS Caron (DD 970) in 1985/86. We were moored in Naples, to the quay wall.  The procedure to moor to the quay wall was called "Med Mooring".  That meant we were backed up to the quay wall, with 5 mooring lines from the stern of the ship to the quay wall.  There was no shore power available in this area, so we had to remain on ship's electrical power.  We were running one gas turbine generator with another in stand by.  Two thirds of the crew was on liberty and the duty section was aboard.  I was not on duty but Naples was not my favorite liberty port, so the Chief Hull Technician, Dave Kelly, and I were running on the flight deck, trying to stay in shape.  It was about 6:30 pm (1830).   Dave suddenly spotted is Division Officer, the Damage Control Assistant (DCA) toting a P-250 pump out onto the fantail.  The DCA and a couple of sailors were attempting to start the pump.  Dave chuckled at their efforts while wondering what they were doing, starting a P-250.  Then, another pump appeared on the fantail, carried by two other sailors.  Dave's curiosity was peaked and he headed for the fantail.  I kept running on the flight deck.  Pretty soon, Dave was jumping up and down on the fantail and waving his arms while calling out my name.   I ran down to the fantail and Dave told me the ship was hot, dark, and quiet.  We had dropped the electrical load and the stand by generator failed to start.  I make a quick trip to CCS to find out exactly what happened and what the status was.  I do not remember who the Duty Engineer was, but I quickly deduced that we did not have any monitoring for fire or flooding in any space, no fire main pressure, and we needed to go back to the old way of monitoring spaces for safety, roving sounding and security watches, all over the ship!  The Duty Engineer and Command Duty Officer, took my recommendations to set up Repair 5 as DC Central and run the roving patrols from there.  I assumed the Repair Locker Leader position and organized the teams.   We immediately began checking all the spaces below the water line every thirty minutes and posting the status on the DC Charts in Repair Five.  This all went smooth and Dave and the DCA did a miraculous job restoring fire main pressure for the ship by hooking up four P-250 pumps to the fire main jumper stations.  While this gave up fire main pressure, if we would have had to fight a fire, we still would have been in trouble because the P-250 pumps did not provide the volume of water that the normal electric fire pumps did.  Just the same, it was great!  

Then, about 2030 or so, we faced another problem, the crew members were beginning to return from liberty, some under the influence of adult beverages, and the ship was totally dark!  This was a perfect formula for tragedy.  But, what to do with the crew?  Where do we put them?  A few minutes with the Chief Master at Arms, who's name escapes me, and the CDO and we came to the solution of sequestering the crew on the mess decks.  Not the best place, but all what we had.  The Chief Cook, Al Williams even wrestled up some snakes for the crew.  He was always someone we could depend on.

Some of you may be asking at this point, why were we still hot, dark, and quiet?  We went Hot, Dark, and quiet because one energetic, young, inexperienced, Fireman was chipping rust off of the bracket that held the Uninterrupted Power Supply batteries for the Gas Turbine Generator that was on line.  He struck the battery post, grounding it to the bracket it was mounted to,  and shutting down the generator.  The stand-by generator was all lined up to start and it tried.  But, somebody removed the Air Start valve without authorization, for maintenance.  The start circuit operated and blew all of the compressed air in the flasks out into the space.  Hence forth, we could not start ANY generator!  We even tried to align the four small flasks I had in the two gun mounts, not enough volume.    So, we were without electrical power until the port services folks could get us a generator barge, in the morning, after working hours had started.

So, there we were, no electrical power, doing Damage Control like they did in World War Two, with some inebriated sailors sequestered on the mess decks, and a Mac Guiver fire main system set up on the two boat decks!  The end product was, the ship was safe, no one got hurt, and we restored power before noon.  No harm no foul..  Except, the embarrassment of ending up in that situation because the Duty Engineer did not have control of the situation!  In his defense, things happen!  People want to do the right thing, and in their eagerness, they make mistakes.  These mistakes are not malicious, they are just things that well meaning people do when they try to do more than they should.  Both of these causes to this catastrophic failure can be related to this syndrome.

There were no medals of letters on commendation issued for this event.  Too much embarrassment for the command, but everyone involved knew we did a good job.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What the Hell did I spend my life defending?!

I love the United States of America!  I must, I spent 40 years defending her.  I am affected by a progressive, terminal, neurological disease that is directly related to my service.  As some people say, I love my country, it's the government I hate!

When I grew up in the 1950's, America was the land of opportunity.  The people were free to succeed, or not.  The Nation was a Christian Nation, just as the founding fathers set it up to be.  For those of you who will argue that point, people fled England to the new world, to seek religious freedom.  The Church of England was the only church permitted and it was supported through a mandatory tax. That is why, when the Constitution was written, 11 years after the founding of our country, Thomas Jefferson penned the Amendment that stated no state Church would exist.  That Amendment did not mean religion should be stomped out or that we should be tolerant of every foolish religion in the world.  Our entire legal system is based on Judeo-Christian values.  Regardless of what President Obama say, America IS a Christian nation.    

In any case, our freedoms, the one's those of us who served our country in combat fought to protect, are being eroded by the very government that is sworn to support and defend the Constitution that guarantees those freedoms.  We are being required to pay for the life styles of individuals that will not provide for their own needs and the needs of their families.   Now, we are being directed to purchase things we don't want, drive vehicles that don't meet out needs, and we are prevented from defending ourselves from the religious Islamic Jhadists that seek to destroy us because to single them out would be profiling!

Well, I for one am sick of it.  I am all for living peaceably with my neighbor, regardless of his or her religious beliefs, as long as they afford me the same respect.  But, step across that line and  reserve the right to defend myself, my family, and my faith.

America must return to our roots.  We must become a nation of opportunity for all who will work for it.  A nation of freedom to succeed or fail, as one desires.  And, if someone chooses not to succeed, it is not my responsibility to provide for them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The feeling of being a new Chief!

It's Chief Petty Officer indoctrination time again!  I have written before about my views on Initiation verses Indoctrination.  No need to rehash old news.  But, I remember the feeling of that first day as a Chief.  Not my initiation day, but the next morning.  Look back in my postings and read about my initiation.  I was stationed on board the USS Stein, (FF 1065) for the second time.  I was initiated on board, underway, with a brief stop in Seal Beach for an major ammo onload!  So, by the time my initiation day was over, I was worn out!  Naturally, they had a top rack in the CPO berthing all set for me and I crashed.  I remember how comfortable that spring backed mattress was.  MUCH better than those Northampton style Locker/racks were.  Two inches of foam mattress on a solid metal platform.  Not good.    In any case, the next morning, the Mess Cook woke me up and asked me what I wanted for breakfast!  If you read my posting, I needed help putting my collar devices on my Khaki shirt, but as I walked out into the mess, I was greeted with a group; "Good morning Chief!"  I felt like a million dollars.

And wearing Khaki's was like having on a $1000 Brook's Brother's suit!  I really did feel like the "Fount of Wisdom",  I was a Chief!   That was a long time ago, 32 years to be exact.  But I still remember how I felt, how my Wash Khaki's felt, how proud I was, and how overwhelmed I was with being a Chief.  I hope, that the new Chief's feel the same amount of excitement, and pride that I felt that first day.  I hope that those of you who greet your new Chief's on the morning after the Indoctrination, greet them with a resounding; Good morning Chief!.  That's when they will know that they are really Chiefs!