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Gunboat1

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About Gunboat1

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    Tennessee! Freedom lives here.

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    Shooting, sailing, kayaking, cycling, reloading, debunking liberalism

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  1. These days, they are one and the same. 40+ years of progressive seeding and weeding operations have just about emasculated the warrior officer corps. And it clearly shows.
  2. Good catch, I did forget about USS COLE. 17 dead and 39 wounded.
  3. Sea Stories: #40 - Firefighting and Damage Control Training Navy ships are first and foremost fighting machines, equipped and intended to engage in mortal combat. And when engaged in that contact sport, is it all-too-likely that you are going to take as well as give battle damage. The Navy therefore sets great store by being prepared and trained to conduct firefighting and damage control operations. Many sailors attend formal firefighting and damage control training schools. A Navy ship is essentially a big metal box, full of lethal things, and living sailors. Fire inside the box is incredibly bad juju. Just look at this year’s news reports of a catastrophic fire aboard USS BONHOMME RICHARD (LHD-6). She is now severely damaged, and unlikely to ever sail again. She will cost $4 BILLION to replace. Other historic ship fires which occasioned many losses of lives include USS FORRESTAL , USS BELKNAP, and USS ENTERPRISE. None of these were occasioned by battle damage inflicted by an enemy. A ship’s crew is therefore her first line of defense with regards to firefighting. And the crew must be organized, equipped, trained and drilled to perform this task effectively. There are four basic types of fires, each requiring a different type of firefighting effort and agent. Class “A” – combustible solids, like paper, cardboard, mattresses, wood, and other conventional materials. Class “B” – flammable liquids, such as fuel oil, gasoline, lube oil, cooking oil, or hydraulic fluid. Class “C” – electrical fire, in an energized circuit. Class “D” – special metals, such as sodium, magnesium, aluminum. These burn at extremely high temperatures, and are self-oxidizing and therefore very difficult to extinguish. The main firefighting effort on a ship centers around a team attacking the fire with a 1.5” or 2.5” seawater-charged firehose, with a heavy nozzle. (This may be augmented by special liquid or aerosol agents to deal with Class B or D fires. A Class C fire is fought with a CO2 extinguisher. ) The charged firehose is stiff, heavy and unwieldy. Water itself weighs 8 pounds per gallon. A firefighting team is actually two hoses, side by side. One fights the fire, the other keeps the fire and heat off the firefighting party with a cooling spray screen of water. This is a brutal, hot, exhausting and dangerous affair. The nozzlemen and hosemen need great physical strength, stamina and courage to traverse up and down ladders and through hatchways, and to approach a blazing fire in a dark, smoke-filled compartment and do battle with it. Nozzlemen require frequent relief, so the shipmate behind them moves up and takes the nozzle and the nozzleman falls back to rest, taking a more rearward position on the hose. All of the party are wearing a heavy breathing apparatus, fire protective gear, boots and gloves. They are sweating profusely and working at a high rate of physical load. Firefighting school simulates this environment on shore, by constructing multi-story metal structures similar in design to a ship’s interior. Ladders, gratings, mesh catwalks, bulkheads, doorways, and bilges are all present, giving the students the same kinds of obstacles they will face on board ship. Diesel fuel pipes run throughout the trainer, and can be controlled to spray fuel to put the fire wherever it is wanted, and to graduate its severity. So a fire is lighted, and allowed to heat the metal structure to hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit and fill it with impenetrable smoke. The team is then sent inside to battle the blaze, under the watchful eye of instructors. It is as real as it can get. And I can tell you from personal experience, it is HOT. You can barely see a thing in the smoky, sooty darkness. All that is missing is the charred bodies of dead shipmates getting in the way. Now imagine doing it at sea, inside a ship full of flammables and explosives, and with no one manning shutoff valves if the fire gets too intense. Damage control training is similar. A training facility (usually dubbed “USS BUTTERCUP”) contains decks, hatches, doorways, pipes, flanges, and ladders, It is built inside a larger box, so that it can be flooded with cold water, quickly, simulating seawater ingress due to battle damage. Pipes can “rupture”, flanges can cut loose, bulkheads can weaken and threaten collapse. A team is sent in, to deal with each type of damage. They patch pipes spraying water at high pressure. They plug holes in decks and bulkheads, shore up collapsing bulkheads, and pack leaking flanges. This must all be done quickly, before the compartment they are in floods so deeply that the ship “sinks”. You are soaked to the skin, shivering, and in simulated theory, about to drown. And the most modern of these trainers can be made to list several degrees from level, adding a realistic feeling of a sinking ship. Motivation to succeed is certainly instilled by the experience. Now imagine doing it at sea, in the dark, deep inside the ship, with your ship sinking under you. Eternal vigilance is the price of safety at sea. And Damage Control is a brutally physical business. Author’s note: the US Navy has not taken significant battle damage from enemy action since 1987 (USS STARK (FFG-31)) and 1988 (USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (FFG-58)). Both of those ships had all-male crews, and they still nearly lost their ships due to the severity of their damage. The US Navy has simply forgotten what it is to have to fight battle damage aboard their ships on a frequent basis, and has sacrificed damage control readiness in the interest of political correctness. It should be readily apparent to any person with a shred of intellectual integrity that a policy of manning combatant ships with as many as 20% female crew members who on average have 45% - 75% less upper body strength than their male counterparts is not a recipe for successful damage control under combat conditions. Greater losses will definitely result in our next major sea war. This is simply a fact.
  4. The problem with this is the not unusual phenomenon of women lying about having been raped to escape the consequences of a poor decision after the fact. But in clear-cut, evidence-based convictions? Fry 'em.
  5. Sea Stories: #39 – Cumshaw A time-honored Navy tradition and method of getting what you need, when you need it, is the ancient practice known as “Cumshaw.” This is basically bribery, offering an inducement in goods or services to the provider of something you need who does not have to meet your requirement, but who may then decide to do so. You provide something of value to someone, who then provides something of value to you. This may work as follows. You need something from a particular work center aboard your ship. They are busy, so aren’t particularly energized about providing your need immediately. So you offer to send over one of your junior enlisted men to help them in some menial tasks, easing their workload temporarily. And presto, you get what you need on an expedited basis. Cumshaw. In my day, the gold standard of Cumshaw material was ground coffee. The Navy runs on coffee. No matter what anyone may say about nuclear power, jet fuel, diesel, or gasoline, ships and shore stations require prodigious quantities of hot coffee to function. Pretty much every work center, watch station and mess facility has one or more pots going, whenever work or watchstanding is being done. If some future enemy ever corners the global market on coffee beans and threatens war with the US Navy, capitulation will occur without a shot being fired. Navy coffee is traditionally prepared about double normal strength to that of a civilian supplier, and each pot has a pinch of salt added “to settle the grounds.” THAT is what Navy coffee tastes like, at least in my day. What with the ongoing PC wussification of the fleet, it is possible that Keurig cups of mocha-choka latte soymilk blech have found their way aboard ship, but I sincerely hope not. Keurig cups won’t win our next sea battle. Let’s say that your ship is looking a little the worse for wear, and the Captain wants a new sparkling white overhead awning made for the Quarterdeck. These were traditionally made from white canvas, but today are probably constructed of a thick PVC material called Herculite. The First Lieutenant (Deck Division officer) passes this requirement on to his Leading Chief Petty Officer (A Chief Boatswain’s Mate,) who directs a less-senior petty officer to put in a work request with the Canvas Shop in whatever shore-side maintenance facility supports the ship. The word comes back that the Shop is fully booked, and filling this requirement will likely take 1-2 months. The Captain is not going to be best pleased, and everyone knows what happens when the Captain isn’t pleased. So the Chief Boatswain’s Mate takes a little walk over to the Canvas Shop with a seabag over his shoulder. He speaks privately with the Chief Petty Officer who supervises the Shop. Mystical incantations and secret signs known only to initiated Chief Petty Officers are exchanged, and a couple of #10 cans of ground coffee change hands. The Canvas Shop guy works a bit longer that evening, on his “personal time”, or perhaps a subordinate is assigned extra duty for some infraction. Either way, the work gets done, a sparkling new awning appears on your ship within a few days, the Canvas Shop has a supply of hot coffee for the next week or two, and the Captain is pleased. Cumshaw wins again. An even older tradition of Cumshaw used to be practiced aboard ships back when daily rum rations occurred. From Wikipedia: “The UK Navy rum ration, or "tot", from 1850 to 1970 consisted of one-eighth of an imperial pint (71 ml) of rum at 95.5 proof (54.6% ABV), given out to every sailor at midday. Senior ratings (petty officers and above) received their rum neat, whilst for junior ratings it was diluted with two parts of water to make three-eighths of an imperial pint (213 ml) of grog.[1] The rum ration was served from one particular barrel, also known as the "Rum Tub", which was ornately decorated and was made of oak and reinforced with brass bands with brass letters saying "The Queen, God Bless Her". Note that the rum ration was only stopped on 31 July 1970 in the UK Royal Navy, and it lasted until 1990 in the Royal New Zealand Navy! Spirit rations were important to morale in an age when sea service was arduous, painful, and dangerous. The alcohol basically helped anesthetize a sailor who spent much of his life cold, wet, sore, hungry and tired. So a sailor’s rum ration was a valuable commodity which could be traded for other things of value, like standing a watch in his stead, or ironing his uniform, or making him a fancy knotwork lanyard for his Boatswain’s Pipe. And as all services rendered were not of equal value, the inducement offered was likewise graduated. A shipmate’s rum ration might be apportioned in several ways: “Wetters” – you could just drink enough to wet your lips for a flavor of rum. “Sippers” - you could take a sip, but not a full drink. “Gulpers” – you could take a full gulp of rum or grog, enough to make your Adam’s Apple bob once. “Halfers” – you got exactly half of the man’s daily ration Or you might be traded the entire draught of rum or grog. Old ways got to be old ways by being effective. And sailors usually find a way to get the job done.
  6. Oh, brother, my heartfelt condolences. My 10 year old tripod tuxedo cat is my best friend, and I can't imagine the hurt you must be feeling. They are such a light to our earthly lives. Prayers for you and your family.
  7. No, our national "leadership" simply chose to put the wrong people in charge of it. And they continue to do so, for PC reasons.
  8. Sea Stories: #38 - Gundecking The US Navy is, among other things, a soul-crushing bureaucracy. Administrative paperwork is elaborate, often antiquated, and seemingly the first priority of all priorities, except perhaps the Holy Grail of 21st Century military service: “diversity and inclusion.” Combat readiness and actual seamanship expertise rank far behind political correctness and paperwork in order of importance. (Author’s Note: Take a look at the news over the last few years, documenting serious Navy mishaps. This is detrimental to our country’s defense, and hopefully may be rectified in some future, clearer-thinking age. But I’m not holding my breath.) The reality of shipboard service is that there are far too many tasks and requirements to be accomplished in any 24-hour day, and the marine environment, the press of work commitments and the limits of human endurance simply make it impossible to accomplish everything that the system demands to be done. So sailors, with too much to do and pressured to have their paperwork in perfect order, sometimes resort to falsifying records – a practice known as “Gundecking.” What kind of paperwork, you may ask? In my active duty and reserve service, there were several administrative systems which were intended to serve readiness needs, but which became the petty tyrant masters of all who served under them. One of these was the Planned Maintenance System (PMS.) The theory behind PMS was sound. Each piece of equipment should be maintained periodically, to ensure that it is operable when needed. So some committee of geniuses sat down and determined what maintenance actions ought to be performed, how, by whom, and how often. Each action was then categorized according to periodicity. Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. A Maintenance Requirement Card was prepared indicating what skill level was needed to perform the task, what tools and supplies would be needed to do it properly, and approximately how long the maintenance action should take. This MRC card then listed in excruciating order, how the task was intended to be performed. Step. By. Step. (I should note at this point that the PMS System was first developed in response to a US Air Force requirement and was presented to the USAF for adoption. The AF said “hell, no, this is way too unwieldy and burdensome. No thanks.” The Navy then adopted it. No kidding.) Preventative maintenance sounds good, right? Well, in practice, this became a self-licking ice cream cone. Because PMS schedules, records and tasks became INSPECTABLE, with poor grades being assessed for minor infractions, bookkeeping errors, or missing scheduled maintenance actions due to the press of other business. These grades factor into performance evaluations and awards. So there was considerable pressure for the paperwork to look great. For example, let’s say that a particular piece of equipment required disassembly, inspection, cleaning, lubrication and reassembly. The system says it has to be done monthly. The task ought to be performed by a E-3 Fireman in an associated occupational rating. All of these aspects are important, inspectable priorities. But perhaps the system is being operated, so can’t be taken off-line to maintain it, or perhaps there are other things requiring the Division’s time that week. Or perhaps no fully-qualified technician is available. You can see how reality intrudes. So the work center supervisor might find himself making record entries indicating that that piece of equipment (which is online and working flawlessly) was maintained properly, on schedule, by the right man. But then the PMS Inspection rears its ugly head. Shipboard supervisors are required to perform periodic checks to ensure that maintenance was done, and occasionally, a team of inspectors descends on the ship and audits the records, looking for discrepancies. And they perform the dreaded “spot check.” The records say Fireman Finorky did this maintenance two months ago. “OK, Let’s see Finorky’s training records; is he qualified? Show me the man. Well, hello, Fireman Finorky! Grab your MRC card for this particular check, and show me exactly how you do/did it.” And if Finorky has a bad day, or makes a mistake, or doesn’t explain well, or is just a muttonhead, that check is failed and your grade suffers greatly. Another rich environment rife with Gundecking? The Personnel Qualification Standard (PQS) system. For each significant task aboard ship, some big brain sat down and determined what a person needed to know or be able to do to accomplish it. These were listed in a softcover PQS book for that task, which was issued to the new man. That person went through the PQS book and tried to learn each task, either through book study or hands-on training by an accomplished shipmate who was qualified to do it. And when the shipmate decided that the man knew what he was supposed to know for that line item, he affixed his signature to that line. When the book was full of signatures on every applicable line, the man was examined by some senior supervisor, who signed the book, and the man was now officially qualified. The problem? Well, these books are GENERAL in content. Ships are SPECIFIC, and systems vary greatly between ship types, classes and variants. Some qualified personnel aren’t great at administrative tasks, some are nearing the end of their enlistments and couldn’t give less of a rat’s ass about affixing their signature to someone’s book, and memory fades in the time it takes to complete some books. And again, records are kept and are INSPECTABLE. Another self-licking ice cream cone. The worst case of Gundecking I ever saw was during my first year aboard my first ship. The ship was undergoing a one-year baseline overhaul. This is an extended period of very thorough repair and refurbishment, performed by a shipyard. And of the many thousands of tasks to be accomplished, some are allotted to the shipyard, some to the actual manufacturers of installed equipment, and some to the crew itself, called the “Ship’s Force.” Renovating a berthing compartment, for example, might be assigned to the Ship’s Force. Now all of these maintenance tasks need to be finished by the overhaul completion date, and some need to be completed in time to support other actions which depend upon them; for example, that berthing compartment needs to be completed before crew move-aboard date, to support the first post-overhaul sea trials. And to keep progress generally on schedule, keep the crew busy, and keep the brass happy, general, steady progress needs to be shown. Enter the Ships Force Overhaul Management System, also known as SFOMS. In this masterpiece of military industrial bureaucracy, each work center of each Division of the ship’s crew was tasked to accomplish particular jobs, and to submit WEEKLY reports showing their progress on their assigned tasks. “Job #1098 is 14% complete today.” With details. Etc. And the statistics generated by these reports were scrutinized by senior leadership, shipyard managers, and the larger Navy bureaucracy to make sure the ship was doing its job properly. I was given the unenviable task of supervising the collection and data entry of these weekly reports from every work center of a 900-man ship’s crew. I was (ta-DAH!) the SFOMS Coordinator. So my ambitious first Captain and his evil minions decided the best way to keep the Shipyard and Navy Brass happy….was to show them what they wanted to see. And every Division aboard the ship was ordered to submit weekly reports indicating that they were exactly on schedule for whatever tasks they were assigned to perform, regardless of the actual facts on the deckplates. “This is week #32 of the overhaul. We are 62% through the time allotted. Job #1098 (B Division Berthing Overhaul) is 62% complete as of this date.” Despite the fact that the Berthing Compartment renovation had not yet begun. Etc. It was all a colossal waste of time and a Gundecking masterpiece. Yet, somehow, the overhaul got done, we returned to sea and to duty on schedule and in fighting trim. So how necessary was it to saddle the crew with SFOMS reporting in the first place? The US Navy somehow never got around to asking that question.
  9. Sea Stories: #37 - Collateral Duties One of the banes of existence for a junior US Navy line officer is the concept of “Collateral Duties.” These are additional responsibilities given to an officer, to perform in his so-called (often mythical) “spare time.” Often, these jobs consume far more of an officer’s attention than might be expected. What exactly does a Navy junior officer (JO) do, anyway? Each young officer assigned to a ship is expected to perform several functions. First and foremost, he is assigned as a Division Officer, the first-line officer supervisor of a functional grouping of enlisted sailors. (A Division is analogous to a Platoon in Army/Marine parlance.) His division will be part of a larger Department of sailors; on a typical combatant ship these departments comprise Operations, Weapons (now called Combat Systems), Engineering and Supply (although line officers do not work in the Supply department, Supply Corps officers do.) To help him in leading his division (and in fact to teach him his trade and the basics of leadership,) he is “assisted” by a senior enlisted man, usually a Chief Petty Officer (E-7) or above. Depending upon the size of his division, he may have more than one CPO, but one of them will be designated as the Leading CPO, his primary enlisted advisor. The young officer is responsible for the welfare, training, performance and discipline of his men. He writes their performance evaluations and keeps the chain of command informed of all matters pertaining to his Division’s responsibilities. A Division has a well-defined mission function. Communications Division, for example, would be comprised of Radiomen, and part of the Operations Department. In addition to this formal job assignment, the JO is also assigned numerous additional, or “Collateral” duties. Some of these don’t take much effort. Others are very time consuming. For example: CMS Custodian: responsible for inventory, issuance, control and destruction of all shipboard communications and other cryptographic material. This may include Nuclear Weapons Control materials, for ships equipped to carry them, whether or not such weapons are actually aboard or not. This is a big one, and a ZERO DEFECTS job. One screwup can get you cashiered. Intelligence Officer: maintains custody of classified publications, gives the Commanding Officer daily intel briefs when deployed. Conducts intelligence reporting when something of interest happens by. Laundry Officer. Yes, I’m not joking. Morale, Welfare and Recreation Officer. Tries to think of things to improve morale. Plans sporting events, movie nights, special tours and events when in a liberty port, holiday celebrations. Maintains inventory of baseball bats and gloves, soccer balls, boxing gloves, etc. Wardroom Mess Caterer. Develops and proposes the menus and decorations and special events for the officers’ wardroom mess. This walks a fine line between food quality and cost. (Officers personally pay for their food in the USN; enlisted men’s meals are paid for as part of their enlistment contract.) The Wardroom can have steak and lobster every night, but the bill will be enormous and no one will be happy. Ditto franks and beans every night: cheap, but a mutiny maker for sure. Bottom line is, the Mess Caterer can’t please everyone and is usually being criticized by somebody. It’s a thankless task. Wardroom Mess Treasurer: Actually bills officers and collects their monthly mess payments, transferring funds to the supply department to cover the costs incurred. This includes visiting officers and certain civilians who are temporarily assigned to the ship and welcomed to the wardroom mess commensurate with their status. A relentless pursuer of mess bill scofflaws. Must maintain careful records and ledgers, undergo periodic audits. Another thankless task. The Bull Ensign: The most senior of the most junior officers on the ship. This Ensign usually wears a set of oversize gold bar rank insignia, engraved “BULL” to indicate his “seniority”. He is expected to ride herd over the other Ensigns in the wardroom, keeping their decorum and humility within due bounds. He is happy to pass these rank insignia off to the next-most-senior Ensign when he makes Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG). The “George” Ensign: The most junior Ensign aboard, the newest, greenest officer in the Wardroom. Traditionally called “George” to his face, he is the recipient of much verbal and practical abuse (all in good fun, of course.) Something not very pleasant, menial, or humiliating needs to be done by an officer? Call “George!” He is EXCEPTIONALLY happy when a more junior Ensign reports aboard and assumes the title. Movie Officer: Selects what movie (nowadays a DVD, in my day, a reel-to-reel projector film, which he had to cue up and change reels during) is shown in the wardroom each night. Is under constant pressure to select films everyone wants to watch (explosions and female nudity being a plus!) Another “can’t please everyone” thankless job. Mess Sample Officer. This one is rotated, not a permanent collateral duty. By regulation, EVERY meal served on the mess deck to enlisted crew members must be sampled for quality, taste and appearance. Some officer must sample a bit of each one, inspect the serving line and mess decks themselves to make sure the crew is being properly fed and cared for. Small Arms Custodian: maintains control and inventory of all the small arms (pistols, rifles, shotguns, perhaps light machine guns) assigned to the ship. Another ZERO DEFECTS career killer if screwed up. Needless to say, the modern USN JO is a busy creature, with plenty to keep him occupied. The "Bull Ensign"
  10. Boy, that's a permanent boner wilter.......
  11. And return greetings, Brother Shellback!
  12. Sea Stories: Crossing The Line One of the more ancient traditions followed by mariners for centuries is that of holding initiation ceremonies when crossing the Equator. Called “Crossing The Line” ceremonies, these events are a throwback to centuries past, when sailors had a bit more free rein to test new hands, and coincidentally, to have a bit of fun at their expense. These were elaborate hazing rituals, steeped in tradition. The fact is that on a few occasions across the centuries, the festivities have gotten out of hand, and there are a few recorded instances of serious indignities, injuries and even a few deaths having occurred among the various fleets around the world. (Since the advent of putting women on USN ships, the traditional Crossing The Line ceremonies have been significantly watered down and scaled back, lest someone be offended and complain. In my opinion, this is not progress.) I will describe what the experience was like at my initiation on January 10th 1985. A sailor who has already been initiated through a Crossing The Line ceremony is called a “Shellback.” This professional mariner has thereby proven himself to be tough, resilient and respectful of tradition and possessed of a sense of humor. This is a nautical being worthy of some respect. He has been admitted into the Solemn Mysteries of the Order of Shellbacks by the personal order of His Majesty King Neptune, Ruler of the Raging Main. Having once earned this distinction, he need never undergo this trying process of admittance ever again. Once a Shellback, always a Shellback. On the other hand, a sailor who has not formally been granted admission into the Realm of King Neptune is termed a “Pollywog”, or “Slimy Pollywog”, if you prefer. This is a pitiful creature, untried, unproven, ignorant, and unworthy to walk upright among his Shellback shipmates. He has not yet earned admittance into the maritime realm upon which he travels and works only through the forbearance of King Neptune. He must gain this formal admission by passing through an arduous process of examination. I was awakened well before dawn on the day my first ship crossed the equator for the first time on our deployment to the western Pacific, at coordinates Latitude 00 degrees 00 minutes N / Longitude 105 degrees 35 minutes E (this is a point in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sumatra, Indonesia.) Two Shellbacks (enlisted men assigned to my Signals Division) appeared at my stateroom door and pounded on it like sledgehammers. I was ordered to put on my uniform clothing, but with the trousers and shirt on inside out and backwards, with underwear worn over the clothing vice under it (also inside out and backwards), and with socks worn inside out, with the trousers tucked inside them. I was made aware of my status as a lowly Pollywog, and instructed not to address any Shellback unless spoken to, and to avoid making eye contact with so lofty a being. I was ordered to crawl on hands and knees, as I was unworthy of walking among true seamen. I joined over a hundred of my fellow Pollywog shipmates, all dressed in the same fashion, as we were not-too-gently herded onto the forecastle (the foredeck) of the ship, up at the pointy end. This herding process was encouraged through the liberal application of “shillelaghs” (pronounced, “Shillaylees”) in the hands of the Shellbacks. These are about 15” lengths of rubber-lined cotton-jacketed 1.5-inch firehose, with one end duct taped into a rudimentary handle. (When gently applied, these are unlikely to cause injury; sort of like a spanking from a parent who doesn’t really want to spank you.) On the foredeck, some well-meaning Shellback had smeared the contents of a 5 gallon can of cooking lard all over the forecastle. (I learned later that our appearance-obsessed Captain, the legendary Screamer of previous Sea Stories, just about popped an artery when he learned of this. Significant efforts were made to degrease the ship later in the day.) We all crawled into a tightly-packed mass in the darkness while Shellbacks played cold seawater over us through firehoses, shouting orders and critical “encouragement” for us to sing, make marine animal noises, and generally debase ourselves. The lard made crawling to our positions on the sloping forecastle somewhat difficult, and certainly made an unusual first coat of what became an encrustation of other emollients as the day wore on. This inspiring beginning lasted probably about an hour and was broken up as the sun rose over the calm ocean. I remember that it rained, a lovely, tropical Indian Ocean shower, which both warmed us and rinsed us of some of the salt. We were then formed into line and ordered to crawl on the deck around the ship in a counterclockwise direction. This ship was 564 feet in length, so a lap around the ship was not trivial. Exposed steel deck was coated with a thick layer of deck gray non-skid paint. This practically left your palms tattooed and your knees sore in short order. The shillelagh herding process continued. Every so often a nautical question would be asked, and if one did not know the right answer, a punishment might be levied. I remember one shipmate being told to lie on deck, put his head though a mooring chock extended outboard, and loudly call for Flipper the Dolphin to come to his assistance. (Flipper never came, obviously having better things to do.) We were eventually assigned duties. I was assigned to stand by in the galley as meals were prepared. Bring sacks of potatoes, open cans, wash dishes, or take bags of trash to the stern. Etc. Others got other assignments. The day wore on. In the afternoon, the actual ceremonies got underway. The ship’s bell rang ten times (the usual maximum for the most senior of officers is eight), and the arrival of King Neptune and his court was announced over the 1MC general announcing system. King Neptune (an older Warrant Officer member of the crew) was resplendent in his imperial robes, complete with a flowing white fake beard and of course he carried his trident. He was accompanied by Queen Amphitrite and several sirens (crew members in outlandish mermaid-esque drag) and by a cast of other costumed characters including the Royal Doctor, Royal Dentist, and Royal Baby. He demanded to know by whose authority the embarked Pollywogs passed through his realm. And when he learned that we were there seeking his approval, King Neptune ordered his court to assemble on the helo deck aft, and for the trials to begin. He took his seat on a throne at the end of a line of several members of his court. Each Pollywog in turn made his way to the line, on hands and knees, first passing through a long wood-framed plastic-lined tunnel, which had been filled with all the garbage scraps from a couple of days’ worth of galley meals, cooking oil, seawater, and who knows what else. It reeked and was thoroughly unpleasant. Did I mention that one had to squirm through it on one’s belly, and occasionally roll completely over in it? Suffice it to say, when a Pollywog exited the tunnel, he was thoroughly coated in noxious effluent. The Royal Dentist first examined his teeth, and administered some dental hygiene assistance (a squirt of a garlic and hot pepper sauce from a plastic squirt bottle. The Royal Doctor then had a look, and pronounced the Pollywog fit for duty, but only after having administered some deep-sea medicine (a spoonful of castor oil.) The Royal Baby was next. This was the most obese crew member available, dressed in a diaper and with a large pacifier hanging about his neck. His prodigious belly was smeared with some kind of grease, and each Pollywog was grabbed by the ears and had his face rubbed in the greasy mess. Finally, each man appeared before King Neptune, and was adjudged to have been found worthy of admittance into the Solemn Mysteries of the Order of Shellbacks. He was ordered to arise and was welcomed into the ancient company of professional mariners, now and forever pronounced a Shellback. When all of this was over, it was time to clean up. Someone had thoughtfully rigged a 2.5” firehose with a 12-foot aviation firefighting applicator nozzle, forming a forceful cold seawater shower, right on the forward corner of the flight deck. Most of us felt that the working uniform we had been wearing for the day was totally ruined, and simply stripped it off and threw it over the side, then showered naked in the bracing salt water, getting the first coat of goo washed away. We would have a hot freshwater shower later. Freshly cleaned and re-uniformed, we new Shellbacks resumed our shipboard duties as full-fledged maritime professionals. Once all was done, everything was disassembled, stowed or discarded and the ship thoroughly cleaned from all traces of the event. We had Crossed the Line. Note: While I saw nothing untoward happen on my Crossing The Line Initiation, it’s easy to see how things could get out of hand if not properly supervised. I did notice that throughout my day as a Pollywog, there was always some member of my Division nearby, apparently keeping watch over me to make sure that some other Shellback shipmate did not take undue advantage of the opportunity to heap excess abuse on an officer. I appreciated the gesture then, and remember it now with some pride, as it speaks to the regard which my men and I held each other in. It made even more sense to me a few years later, when as a Shellback I participated in a similar ceremony aboard another ship. That ship’s wardroom had among its members a young Ensign, a recent graduate of the US Naval Academy, who was a bit egotistical and who had unwisely made some comments indicating that he felt that officers were superior to mere enlisted men. That guy was herded mercilessly with considerable shillelagh attention, all day long. When he showered on deck at the end of the process, his butt was so badly bruised and reddened from the beating that the ship’s corpsman took note and had him drop by sickbay for a closer examination to make sure that he was not actually injured. I gather that he learned a bit of humility from the experience.
  13. Dude, way to hang in there. Persistence and patience pay off. Better day tomorrow.
  14. Incredible talent. R.I.P., Eddie. Rock on.
  15. Kind words are much appreciated. Thanks.
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