15 August 2006


One of the guys I work with is away for a few months. This is just a part-time job for him; in real life he’s a TMC (excuse me, I mean MMC), and he’s TAD to a boat that had to deploy without a TMC of its own.

I think just about every boat that deploys has at least a couple riders on board – people borrowed from other boats, either to fill a gap (like this chap) or to provide the rider with some needed experience. I was such a rider once, in fact, though not on a deployment; my first boat was in the shipyard being built, so I was sent to another boat for two weeks to get a little sea time. It turned out to be an interesting two weeks, too: ORSE workup and ORSE, made even better by the fact that we washed the diesel somewhere in the first week. (The head valve failed to close, for some reason.) That meant having to go back into port to have the diesel inspected for possible damage. Not a bad thing in itself, but we found ourselves on our way into Norfolk harbour, at midnight, in a can’t-see-the-bow-from-the-bridge fog, with no radar.... (Ten years later I found myself back on that very same boat, this time with PCS orders, but that’s another story.)

My favourite rider story comes from a WestPac. We had an STS3 on board, TAD from a boat in the yards for overhaul. Don’t remember if it was his idea to volunteer for the deployment, or his boat’s, but he didn’t like us one bit – he was constantly going on about how much better his boat was, his crew, &c. Our sonar girls got fed up with this nonsense, of course, and turned to Radio for help.

And so it happened that when I went up to Radio one day to relieve the watch, Robby met me at the door with a very special message. The sonar girls had suggested that a message saying this kid was being permanently transferred to us would be a good joke, and Robby had done a bang-up job of it. The message purported to be from BuPers, and said that the kid’s transfer had been approved, that STS2(SS) Thingummy was being sent to his boat to replace him, that STS2 would be arriving in Honolulu on such-and-such day on such-and-such flight, and that actual transfer orders for the kid would be forthcoming. Even had a fake TC number for STS2’s orders.

As expected, we went to PD during my watch. After we went deep, I routed the boards with the real traffic, then went back and got the phony message, stamped it for routing, added fake CO/XO/Nav/Commo/RMCS chops, and went looking for the kid. I found him in the crew’s mess, plopped down across the table from him, handed him the board – open to The Message – and told him to read and initial, and to add a ‘C’ after his initials if he wanted a copy of it for his own records. He asked what it was, and I told him it was approval for his transfer to us. He looked absolutely horrified.

It just so happened that he had been sitting at the aft table, next to the chiefs’ table, when I found him, and both PNCS and HMC were sitting there, enjoying their coffee. PNCS pricked up his ears when he heard the word transfer, and said he’d need to see the message. I let the kid finish reading it, made him initial it, ensure he’d marked it for a copy, and then handed the board to PNCS. Then I went around the table, scooted in next to Doc, and whispered to them that it was a fake. PNCS chopped it, marked it for a copy, and handed the board to doc, who did the same. Both of them cheerfully congratulated the kid on his new status, while I left as quickly as I could.

I somehow managed to get all the way up to Control, well out of the kid’s earshot, before I broke out laughing. The COB was in Control, sitting on the edge of the conn shooting the breeze, and of course wanted to know what was so funny. So I told him the story, and handed him the board to read. He was just finishing when the forward door to Control opened and the kid walked in. This particular COB was a QMCM with over 34 years of service, one of the two best COBs I’ve ever served with, and he didn’t miss a beat; he chopped the message, told me he’d need a copy, then looked up at the kid and said, “Congratulations – welcome aboard!”

Broke? This kid was so broke, he was leaving a little trail of crumbs everywhere he went. The rest of us were prepared to keep up the joke indefinitely, but unfortunately it was only an hour or two before STSC told him the truth. Seems he was afraid the kid would break down and cry if he didn’t....


bothenook said...

great story! reminds me of another that i'll have to dredge the details out of the cobwebbed recesses and post.

Mega Munch said...

That's awesome! It helps A LOT that I know you (as a radio colleague) and I've been on 688's, so I can trace your steps in my head. Past the coffee machine, up the ladder into Nav Center, hang a right, scoot by the QM station and into the control room...it's all coming back to me now!

Thanks for bringing back great memories. I really miss being underway. Crazy, huh?

Anonymous said...

sonar girls? is this a story about the norvegian navy? (which is the only navy i know of with mixed crews - and even a female sub skipper .. )

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

Anonymous -

I saw a picture somewhere recently that purported to be of a female petty officer serving on a German submarine.

This post, however, is about a US 688. "Sonar girls" has long been a nickname for USN sonar technicians. They're also commonly known as "Shower Techs," due to the oft-repeated claim that when at sea, they spend as much time in the shower as they do on watch.