Tuesday, March 14, 2017

NAD CRANE, INDIANA AND MT B SCHOOL

After seven months of Guidedmissileman A School and three months of Terrier BT-3 C School, I was finally ready to get to my first duty station. As you complete a Navy school, you are given a "dream sheet". Most every sailor knows what a dream sheet is and why they are called such. You put on the dream sheet  three choices of assignment. They are called dream sheets because only in a dream will you actually get your pick. There's the doctrine of "The need of the service comes first". Out of our class of six, two guys got orders to NAND Seal Beach. Arguably the finest shore billet in the whole Navy. North Orange County and not too far from LA. Two others got new construction on the East Coast. George and me got NAD Crane Indiana. None of us ever heard of  Crane and thought that maybe this was some lame brain's idea of a joke. It wasn't a joke and George and I weren't laughing. 
Tom one of the East coast new construction guys was driving his brand new Corvair back to Maine so I bummed a ride with him so we could share expenses. This was in May of 1961 and the Interstate Highway System construction was just getting under way. We drove east on route 66 most of the way. Four years later when I drove the same route it was worlds different. The road was bigger , flatter, smoother and a lot less interesting. 
The Mojave Desert wasn't at all like the deserts that I saw in the movies. Phoenix was still a sleepy little cattle town. The was The Whiting Brothers' chain of gas stations on 66 placed strategically apart. Every time the gas gauge dropped to 1/4 of a tank, a Whiting Brothers loomed ahead. We gassed up at Whiting Brothers  until they ran out around Chicago. Damned near ran out of gas because we were so acclimated to stopping at the trusty Whiting stations along the way. 
While in Cleveland, I bought my first car. I must regress a moment and state what my definition of Cleveland is. Cleveland is anywhere between Harrisburg Pennsylvanian  and Chicago. The car was a 1957 Plymouth Fury. One of the very handsomest cars ever built in that era. It was as crappy as it was beautiful. It broke down almost as fast as I could fix things. For fifty years, I never bought another Chrysler product. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. 
Somewhere between Pomona and Cleveland my advancement became effective. I left Pomona as a lowly GSSN and arrived at Crane as a full fledged third class pettyofficer. Crane was like being in a comedy movie. Everything was very strange. Crane was in the boondocks, 125 miles south of Indianapolis in farm country. The place was 110 square miles of stored ammunition. The central storage facility for both the East  and West coasts. I was attached to Guided Missile Service Unit 219, gumshoe to the sailors. Crane had about 2500 civilian workers  and maybe twenty sailors at the GMSU. At 1600, all civilians went home except for the base fire department. Fire safety was a major concern there. We had special conductive sole safety shoes issued to us to prevent static sparking, you had to grab a brass handle and you had to pass an automated conductivity test in order for the pneumatic door to open and all windows on any second floor had sliding-boards to facilitate a speedy exit should thing turn to shit. As a very small group of sailors exiled in the middle of nowhere, there was no regular facilities such as clothing and small stores, so Claude our Storekeeper made a jaunt up to the very large naval station at Great Lakes. We would make up our shopping lists and Claude would buy everything for us. In 1962, Claude came back from Great Lakes without any GS crows. 
He was told that there was no such thing as Guidedmissilemen in the navy. He was offered no further explanation. Crows are navy talk for the rate insignia of petty officers. It gets it's name from the eagle above the chevrons. The officer in charge of the GMSU had to call Washington to find out what the hell was going on. What was going on was we were re-designated as Missile Technicians, MTs. In typical navy fashion, nobody bothered to tell the GSs, or the MTs or whatever. Next trip up to "the lakes", Claude came back with a bale of MT crows, no problem now. 
We. as sailors, had a reputation to maintain and it was as if the locals expected us to perform. We drank heavily and handled high explosives while in that state. My best friend was Bart Hart a wiry self-proclaimed cowboy from Wyoming. Bart and I remained friends until the day he died a few years ago and I miss him much. We terrorized the local farm country, got into brawls as sailors are required by law to do and wooed the local country girls. Or should I say that they wooed us. Most of the local gals didn't much care for the rural life and they knew that sooner or later the sailors would be moving on. Either by transfer or discharge. Not one of my mates said I like it here, I think I'll stay. Because of this, the local girls wanted to meet and marry a sailor and a lot of them did marry their ticket out. In March of 1962. I reenlisted into the regular Navy for six years for a number of reasons; a large reenlistment bonus, orders out of rural Indiana and a billet at MT B School in Vallejo California. MT B School was, at the time, the most comprehensive school in the navy. Forty hours a week of what amounted to four years of a college level Electrical Engineering program. Very intense but it was fashioned so that after you graduated from B School you could walk aboard any ship or submarine in the navy and take over the missile division. We learned all about the Talos, Terrier, Tartar and Polaris missiles. The idea of my going through MT B School was so I could get accepted into NESEP, Navy Enlisted Scientific Educational Program. In NESEP you reenlisted for six years and would study Electrical Engineering at a school such as UCLA, Northwestern, MIT etc. After two years of successful studies, you would extend for another two years. This meant that if Uncle Sam gave you four years of collage, fully paid, you would give Uncle Sam back four years of your life. It was a very fair exchange in my humble opinion. As it is said, the best laid plans of mice and men... For political reasons, a feud between the FBI and the US Navy over my secret clearance, I was denied NESEP. I didn't cry about it. To this day very few people know about this, so I just carried on as a proud and loyal sailor. I had received an excellent technical education that has served me well to this day and I got to be a real sailor. A real blessing.  
I finally got orders to a real ship as a PO2 with a hash mark on my sleeve without ever actually  being on a ship. She was the aircraft carrier USS Constellation CVA-64. She was the second newest CVA in the navy, Enterprise CVA-65 was the newest. Apart from the nuclear power plant and the square island on the Big E, they were the same ship.   
  

Friday, March 10, 2017

TERRIER BT-3

It was February 1961 and freezing cold when we left  the East Coast. We arrived at LAX at about 2100, nine PM to you civilians, and I bundled up before deplaning. I had on dress blues over a wool jersey with a scarf and peacoat. This was still the era when you came down steps and walked to the terminal. I walked off of the airplane and was engulfed in heat. Not jut warm, or very warm, but heat. This was February and I immediately knew that I was home. That this is where I wanted to live. We had transportation to the Convair plant in Pomona where the birds were built. Did you get it the missiles were now birds. I was picking up the lingo. You have to walk a very narrow line when you are a young sailor. If you look babyish, you get shit from your shipmates. If you have a squeaky voice, more shit. For whatever reason, maybe it was because I was already in for two years and had learned the "ropes" I didn't get too much crap. Terrier C School was fun. SoCal was paradise to me. The Navy had two and a half surface to air missiles back then. The Talos was a very long range bird. It had an approximately eighty mile range and was powered by a ram jet engine. FYI, ram jets don't even work under Mach 1. The first stage booster takes the Talos up to supersonic before separating. There was the Terrier also a two stage missile with solid fuel propellants. That's what we learned. The Terrier had a little brother the Tartar. Tartar was basically a single stage Terrier with a DTRM, duel thrust rocket motor. It was much smaller destined for use on Destroyers. It was the quarter horse of missiles. Very fast off of the launcher but it only had a little less than a twenty mile range.
I bought a tricked out 41 Ford coupe and was excelling at school. Sure there was state of the art electronics to learn, but there was those beautiful missile airframes that just took my breath away. I was the top dog in my class. The big kahuna. C School was far too short, only 11 weeks. And then I got my orders. I joined the Navy to see the world and I was being assigned to Guided Missile Service Unit 219, GMSU or gumshoe to the sailors, at Crane Indiana. It was the worst of times and the best of times. Crane is huge about 110 square miles and is where there is enough ammunition stored there to make a very big bang if the shit hits the fan. I pinned on my third class crow as I arrived. 
I bought a '57 Plymouth Fury  a very beautiful car but a real turd mechanically. Things broke on that Fury faster than you could get them repaired. The ammunition depot is surrounded by farms and the farmers used to burn their fields once a year and if the fire got out of control, they would call the base and say something like oh dear my fire is headed toward your ammunition and I'd hate to see the whole state become the sixth great lake. 
This is how and why I taught myself  how to sail. If I heard the base fire engines tear out sirens a blazing, I'd look out of the window and if the OOD was heading towards us, I'd jump in my car where I had the sails, rudder and centerboard stored in my trunk and head for Lake Greenwood which was rather large and completely on the base. No cell phones back then and no-one could get to you. My old buddy Bart Hart beat me to the dock one day and was bitching like hell. He said that he couldn't find the gear for the sailboat. No trouble, I said, I know exactly where everything is. Locked up in the trunk of my car.    
I made second class pettyofficer while at NAD Crane and reenlisted into the Regular Navy for six more years. I still wanted to see the world. Part of my reenlistment incentive was B School. Being that we were literally in the  back woods of Indiana, we sent the Storekeeper to Great Lakes to get us clothing and small stores. He came back after one trip and said that they no longer carried Guided Missileman crows. The OIC of the GMSU called someone and asked what the hell was going on. That's when we found out that our rate was changed to Missile Technician. 
I got married to my first wife while in Indiana and three months later we packed up the car put Tiger the wiener dog in the back seat and moved to Mare Island MT B School in Vallejo, California.
Next exciting chapter B School.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

IN THE BEGINNING

For a few years now various people have suggested that I chroniclize   my life's story. I'll start out with my first years in the Navy. My life didn't really start until I went into the Navy. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it. In May of 1959 while I was a junior in high school, I joined the US Naval Reserve. During the summer vacation between my  junior and senior year, I went to boot camp at NTC Great Lakes north of Chicago. I remember we came into The Windy City on a New York Central passenger train. We then had to transfer to The Chicago & North Shore railroad, which looked like it came straight out of a cartoon. It was very old elevated train and wound through Chicago until it got out of town and rumbled up the west shore of Lake Michigan. 
I should go on record that even though I started out as a titless wave. as reservists were called then, two years after going on active duty, I reinlisted into the Regular Navy with much pride. Navy boot camp wasn't all that difficult, at least to me. Instead of being the usual eight weeks, reserve boot camp was only two weeks. In my senior year in high school, after having been to boot camp, I was probably a very large pain in the ass. If a teacher thought he was being a hard ass, I just let him rave on. Monday evenings were reserve training sessions and due to the rigors of the bar(s) with other sailors I was usually too hungover to attend school. Most of the Chiefs were retired USN who just couldn't let go of the lifestyle. 
It was at the Reserve Center that I first realized that just maybe I was pretty smart. After taking the usual battery of test that all recruits take when joining, I was called in to see the head man, the captain of the base. He commended me and told me that he hadn't seen scores that high for years. He told me I could have any rate, job, in the Navy. I told him I wanted to be a Guided Missileman. He paused for a minute and told me that they didn't have any training or trainers for that rate. He then said that when I go on active duty next year that he was sure that I could work something out.
A month after graduating from high school, I was on a train to the receiving station in Philadelphia. When I talked to the personnelman in Philly, he explained that could go to Guided Missileman A School in Virginia but I would have to extend for a year. I figured that the three years was a bargain because the regular Navy guys had to extend their hitch from four years to six.
Two days later, I was on a Greyhound bus headed for Virginia Beach and A School. I sat near the back of the bus and bullshitted with another seaman apprentice from Chicago, who happened to be black, about what our lives would be like in the big bad world. When we got off of the bus in Virginia Beach I noticed that the whole bus station was all Negros as they were called way back then. When we walked out of the front door of the bus station, some old guy wearing a short sleeve shirt and clip on tie started screaming "Nigger lover". Neither me or my black friend from Chicago knew what that was all about. The old man pointed to a sign over the door that we just walked out of and the sign said COLORED. Then he pointed to another sigh over another door which said WHITES ONLY. Welcome to The South. 
I caught a gray Navy bus that said NAATC Dam Neck over the windshield. NAATC meant Naval Anti Aircraft Training Center.  Dam Neck was where it was located in the heart of The Great Dismal Swamp. 
I settled in and two weeks before my class started it's seven month run, I was informed that our trigonometry refresher course would start the next day. It was being taught by one of my classmates. The guy who was just bounced out of "The Academy" for behaving like a sailor. He was sent "back to the fleet" which is where he started out from. I told the guy that it may well be a refresher for most everyone else but that I didn't know nothin' about no Trigonometry. He and 
I went to the EM club every night for the next two weeks and I got "horsed" up. 
During the day, I had to stand watches at "The Old School" because my secret clearance hadn't come in yet. My first day as I was walking around I opened one door and there it was right in front of me an entire Polaris ICBM was lying around in pieces.
The first hour of our first day at Guided Missileman A School, the instructor started out with Ohm's Law. I assumed that a GS worked on ultra fancy missile airframes. When I asked why he was wasting time on electrical knowledge, who cares. I was told that I should care because this job was mostly electrical and electronic. Class standings were published each week and each week I moved up a notch or two. You couldn't get promoted to be a pettyofficer while in A School. Navy rules. Most didn't care because they didn't have enough time in rate to be qualified. Being a reservist, I had enough time in rate. A School ended on a Friday and on Monday was the Third Class Pettyofficer exam. It was the first time of many that I squeaked through.
On Wednesday, those of us going to Terrier BT3 C School were taken to the Norfolk for our flight to Washington National Airport. I had never been in an airplane so this was a real adventure. We took off in a DC-3 and ten minutes later the captain came on the horn and announced that we were turning around because it was too rough. We sat in Norfolk for an hour, or so, and waited for a Capitol Airlines Vickers Viscount turboprop. That beast went where angels feared to tread. At Washington, we boarded a Douglas DC-7 for a ten minute hop to Baltimore, and finally for our cross country flight a United Airlines DC-8 four engine jet.
Next time Pomona.


Friday, March 3, 2017

When It Rains, It Pours Part Two

Well today went much better than today. Not great, mind you, but better.
We got Carlos the Friendly Mexican Mechanic to come out this afternoon to replace the broken radiator hose.  I was expecting the archetypical shade tree guy to show up, but Carlos was in a word, good.
I had done my homework on the internet and knew absolutely all there was to know about changing the hose. In less that one minute, I knew that I should put my pie-hole in park and listen to the guy.
The hose clamps had no means of loosening and all of the "experts" on the web said cut them off and toss them in the trash. Then get new ones with screwdriver slots. As I started to splain myself, Carlos said no need to cut them and showed my why. 
He promptly removed the damaged hose and installed the new proper BMW type hose instead of a rubber tube. He added a gallon of new coolant and topped off the remaining with water and vented the air out of the system. I wouldn't have done such a good job myself. 
Because I was so impressed by his professionalism, I inquired about whether he could take a look at the tranny. He produced a very large professional looking SnapOn fault reader. I was already prepared to fork out $4500 to have the tranny rebuilt which is the going rate. I did show him how the BMW manual said to reset the Electronic Transmission Control manual. I am, after all, not just a pretty face you know. We got the damned thingy to finally reset and took a successful test ride. 
I asked him if he could service the tranny and he said he wasn't a transmission guy. Hell, nobody's perfect. Carlos' opinion was that the tranny was OK and it just had a sensor or solenoid problem.
He gave me the phone number of Jose, his amigo who has a transmission shop which is fairly close. Jose was a pain in the ass. He said he couldn't even look at the car for over two weeks due to his heavy work load. I told him all I really wanted him to do was take a look and figure out whether we can drive Loretta back home to Long Beach. 
I'm going to drive around Palm Desert tomorrow before heading back to the beach. If all goes well, we'll come home on Saturday when the traffic is lightest.
I know that you make your own luck,  but wish us luck anyway.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

When It Rains It Pours Department

When it rains, it pours department.
I had Loretta serviced at my friendly BMW mechanic yesterday.
The tranny warning light was coming on sporadically so I took it in and had the fluid level checked and decided to change the fluid. I have never changed automatic transmission fluid before in my entire life, maybe because I usually had stick shifts. I have considered changing the fluid just another ploy to have a fool part with his money but the FBMWM said it could help and it certainly wouldn't hurt. While there, we also topped off the coolant as it was a wee bit low.
When I left the FBMWM the car ran better than ever and we loaded up the trunk and set forth to place where elephants go to die, Palm Desert. Please humor me a bit more because this is when the shit storm started.
Picture it, we're on the 91 freeway at rush-hour. We even took the seven buck toll road option because of the traffic. It didn't take long to figure out that all of the traffic was on the toll road because we were sitting in gridlock and the freeway, emphasis on the word free, cars were whooshing past us.
About the point where the toll road ended, we started to finally pick up speed, IE seven to ten MPH. Soon the dreaded light on the dash that contained a gear and an exclamation point and the notation about how we were so screwed came back on and the car went into "limp" mode and defaulted to third gear as the speed picked up to seventy.
That's when the little light that indicates when coolant is low came on. I was starting to feel like a commercial pilot who just had one of his jet engines fall off with all of those dash lights coming on. I absolutely knew that we had sufficient coolant as we had just topped two hours ago but never disbelieve a German car when it is trying to tell you something. Heed the warning(s). The steam wafting from under the hood is yet another sign that this isn't one of your best days.
We got off of the freeway and LIMPED into a Mobil gas station, gas station not SERVICE station. The long slide into the abyss was almost over, but not quite. I'll spare you some of the details but after waiting over an hour the AAA flatbed tow truck showed up. The world class hand wringing then started. There were four of us, the driver, Jamie, me and the dog. We all couldn't fit in the cab of the truck so Jamie said she'd get an Uber to take her to a hotel/motel that was dog friendly. Oh wait, Uber won't take dogs. I suggested that we humans sit in the cab and miss fur storm ride in the car now on the back of the truck. No, the poor dear doggie can't ride back there all alone, it will cause irreparable harm to her mental state.
OK, what do you want to do? Oh, I'll ride with her in the car. The driver chimes in that state law forbids that. By now, I'm in silent mode having made the only pragmatic option. Now we're in audible hand wringing mode. Alas, the frau suggests that we people ride up front and miss doggie rides alone in steerage.
Good choice dear, good idea.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

I came across this and wanted to share it with everyone.
Typhoon
By Garland Davis
 There is not a roller coaster or amusement park ride anywhere that can hold a candle to riding a destroyer into heavy seas at high speed trying to maintain station on the carrier.  If you like carnival rides, then this is the place for you, it doesn’t cost anything and lasts for days.
It comes with swells that look like a three-story barricade moving toward the bow that bounce those in the ship around like a flea on Miley Cyrus’ twerking butt. The extreme pleasure of being thrown around like the peas in a baby’s rattle is something that the average person cannot even imagine.
The big assed carriers roll a little and just push through with a slight pitch and roll.
Not so the Tin Cans. It’s “roll and toss and pitch you rusty son-of-a-bitch.”
There is a majesty to heavy seas.  It is damned near impossible to witness the incredible power of heavy seas and deny the existence of a creator.  Only a God could wield that unrestrained power.
One moment, it seems the bow is pointed toward the heavens and the next moment is buried in a forty-foot swell with water streaming through the scuppers, scouring the decks of any unsecured objects, and smashing up over the pilot house.  “Put another quarter in Mama, I want to ride it again.”  Accompanied by lateral motions, figure eight stern gyrations, the slamming of the screws as they come out of the water, and the visible flexing of the expansion joints.
Inside the ship, men are tossed about, forgotten items fall out of hiding places in the overhead vent lines and wire ways.  Meals become an endless succession of soup, canned chili, cheese and horsecock sandwiches, coffee, bug juice and milk if available.  Now we know why they pay us sea pay.
If you are lucky and have bunk straps, you lash yourself into your rack to try to get a couple hours sleep, or else you hang on and hope to stay in the bunk.  Your teeth hurt from clenching your jaws. Your smokes go flying from your pocket to never be seen again.  Guys shoot their lunch.  Cockroaches are packing to go ashore as soon as you hit port.  The cooks in the galley are cussing as they try to put together a meal.  And guys safely in their racks who need to take a whiz ask themselves,
“Do I really want to struggle to get to the head to wade in vomit and water swirling across the deck and try to piss in a moving target while trying to not puke myself.”
“Stand by for heavy rolls,” means that all the shit that just flew by you from starboard will be coming back from the port side and you wonder is there anything left in the overhead that hasn’t fallen and hit you in the head.
“Now supper for the crew, watch standers head of the line.”
“Hey Dave, do you think it is horsecock sandwiches?”
“Does a hobby horse have a wooden asshole?”
“Bring me back some crackers, I’m afraid if I go to the mess deck and try to gag down another horsecock sandwich I’ll puke again?”
“Damn, who is steering this son-of-a-bitch?  Who has the helm?”
“I do, next watch.”
“How did I end up on a sea going vomit barge? Fuck it, I think I’ll strike for Corpsman and hide in Sickbay for the rest of my career.”
“Hey you know you love it, where else could a redneck like you from North Carolina with the I.Q. of a cockroach get a job throwing trash in the Pacific Ocean?”
“Hey, you assholes knock it off, grown folks are trying to sleep.”
And so, it went, for days at a time, crap banging around in lockers, shit sliding back and forth across the decks, the acrid smell of gastrically dissolved cheese and horsecock sandwiches mixed with stale coffee permeating the berthing compartments and heads.
Stumbling around, zinging off bulkheads, doors, piping and each other and being seventeen or eighteen years old and realizing that the recruiter who promised you a thrilling life of wonder, oriental girls, and adventure was a lying shore duty son-of-a-bitch.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Jackie, the movie

We saw the film 
Jackie last night.
It was fascinating. It was as if you were actually watching history being made first hand. 
I was at sea on an aircraft carrier when JFK was assassinated. So I missed a whole lot of what was actually going on ashore.
The pilots on the carrier were convinced that Castro was behind it, as I still am, and wanted to go bomb the crap out of Havana. It didn't matter that they probably didn't carry enough fuel to go from the Pacific Ocean to Cuba and then get back to a air station to land. They just wanted their pound of flesh.
We remained at sea for about three weeks after the shooting probably for security purposes being nobody actually knew, and still don't, what was going on in Havana and Moscow.  
By the time we returned back to North Island, most of the worst was over. The president was dead and LBJ was the new POTUS. Oswald was apprehended and Jack Ruby gave the poor schmuck lead poisoning. I don't remember whether, or not, JFK was buried by then. Parts of the whole wretched affair are somewhat blurry in my old head by now.
We all muddled through life for a few months and then I got orders to go to new construction in Seattle where I was part of the precom crew for Waddell. The veil was lifted up in Washington state and life took on meaning once again.
If you are too young, or too old, to remember those gray days, you should go see the film. It will maybe fill in a few blanks for you.