I remember the commissioning crew of the USS Leftwich. We had a lot of fun and some good liberty. I remember a couple of incidents during the training phase of the Pre-Comm. We were in San Diego and the barracks space was at a premium. I was the Chief Master at Arms and there were few junior crew members reported yet. A young Fireman, right out of "A" school arrived one day, The Chief running Engineering Department at that time, the Hull Technician Chief, too the young Fireman and told him to go to base personnel to get his Per Diem and go out into town and find a place to live for three months. Hind sight being 20/20, that was probably a bad idea. In any case, the next morning, the young Fireman was no where to be seen. Naturally, I had to report the Unauthorized Absence (UA) to the Executive Officer. We all agreed, to wait until Monday, thinking maybe he overslept, got confused, or something. We were grasping at straws to give him a break.
Monday, no young Fireman. So, we thought he may have got confused and went home! So, it fell on me to call is parents. I called the telephone number he had provided on his check in card. His Father answered and I assured him that his son probably got confused since this was all new to him. His Dad said he would look around home for him. Check with his friends, check his hang outs. I said thanks and hung up. A day or two later, I was driving into work and heard a report on the local radio station that a sailor had floated up in LaJolla shores. He was wearing a Navy working uniform. I immediately called the San Diego coroner upon getting to the office and he asked me to provide his health and dental records. I had a messenger take them over to the coroner.
Later that afternoon, the coroner called me and said; " It looks like your guy." Just as I was digesting that information, another person in the office answered the telephone and said, that young Fireman's Father is on line two!! Wow, now I was in a pickle. I just heard from the coroner that this Fireman was probably dead. Probably robbed because he had a large amount of money in his pocket to find an apartment or hotel to live in for three months. We sent him out in a strange city, alone, with no experience, an 18 year old kid!! The guilt was overwhelming. Then, I thought, I have no training to tell a parent their son is dead. What do I do?! Panic set in! I was again informed; "Chief, Line 2!" So, I punched line two and said; Hello Mr. young fireman's Father." Before I could say anything else, then Father said; "I found Him! He was spending your money here in his hometown with his friends! I put him on a Airplane and he will be there soon. This time, don't loose him!"
I had a few things to do now. First, call the XO and tell him the young Fireman was found, safe and sound. Second, call the coroner and tell him he needed to get better at body identification! And third, find a bunk in the "Restricted Men's" Barracks for that young Firemen. I was not going to looser him again!!