SUBMARINE SOCIOLOGY

Introduction and Initial Query

 

A visitor has recently asked about social structure onboard a submarine.

I find this topic fascinating, and think it's a great one. Submarine social organization could fill volumes: Describing in detail how some guys end up with a particular nickname or why some people wash-out, or how a group of watchstanders (like in Maneuvering) become an efficient cooperative team after some time. These topics are excellent examples of what makes submarine life different from other occupations, and how it affects the people who check onboard - how their attitudes are shaped by sub service.

Hopefully, by now, you think this is a great discussion point, too.

 

My explanation, EM2 (SS) Tom Jordan

 

Below, you'll find a copy of my response to this visitor. It's a quick email message, and closes his question. However, I have bigger ambitions for this idea, which you'll find afterwards.

 

The sociology onboard a submarine, interestingly, is the finest aspect of this particular career field. There are many varieties of social structure and behavior within the military, and even outside the military in close conditions (such as a space station or field research team). However, few groups of people compare with the close knit crew of an attack submarine. I can try to explain: but I'm not working and reworking the words, so it may fall a little short.

Given that there are about 120 men onboard the sub, and it is an organization, you can imagine there must be a hierarchy of authority. One man is the Commanding Officer, and he reports to nobody at sea. He is "the man". His authority is complete over the entire crew. Below him stands the Executive Officer, and he has no peer. This may be compared to the President of the United States and the Vice President.

Below the Executive Officer, there are a handful of senior officers, with the title, "Department Heads". These men are responsible for the major facets of the ships operation. One man is the Engineering Officer, another is the Weapons Officer, another Navigation Officer.. I think that's all of them. The remaining officers ("Junior officers") are generally first timers for submarine service. In other words, this is their first submarine tour, they haven't been in the Navy more than 5 years and they're learning. In fact, the Junior Officers come onboard with "few" qualifications (except educational) and work their way through Engineering (nuclear propulsion plant supervisor) and ship's controls (actually giving depth and navigation orders). They have alot to learn, and once they've learned the tasks - they just "stand the watches" - periodically working in shifts to supervise shipboard operation.

That takes care of the officers. There are a total of 10 officers.

The enlisted chain of command starts with the "most senior enlisted man onboard", and he is the Chief Of the Boat (COB). The COB reports to the Executive Officer and Commanding Officers. He represents all enlisted men onboard, and acts in their interests. Additionally, he schedules clean up sessions, assigns racks (beds) and stands watches. The watches are too extensive to get into with this email, so allow me to skip that topic. There are other "Chiefs", about 8 total. Each Chief is responsible for a group of enlisted people. Think of it this way: There are about 10 occupations onboard a sub - including Sonarmen, Electricians, Torpedomen, etc etc.. Each occupation is composed of several workers, and one Chief. Each Chief is responsible for scheduling maintenance activities, making sure his guys are learning about their occupations, and stands his own watches. Just about anybody can become a Chief if you stay in the Navy long enough. Between 7 and 13 years ought to do it. And the Chief of the Boat is the "Chief for the Chiefs".

The enlisted guys are the majority of the crew. Probably just under a hundred crewmembers. These guys learn and stand their watches, in addition to running drills (practice casualties) and going about the business of the ship (might be shooting torpedoes, listening to sonar, navigating, running the power plant, whatever).

I was an enlisted crewmember for 4.5 years onboard TUNNY. I received 1.5 years of Navy schooling prior to checking onboard TUNNY, and then had 4.5 years of shipboard work onboard TUNNY.

Now that you know who the "players" are, let me describe the social environment. Close quarters and a full schedule set the pace.

Even if we're at sea, not at war, we're practicing around the clock. It seems the submarine community has evolved and become competitive in every aspect, between submarines who share a squadron and squadrons against squadrons. By this I mean, the subs performance is measured and compared to her peers. Within a squadron, 10 subs may compete for awards. And each squadron's efficiency is measured and compared to others. A submarine is routinely evaluated for its ability to handle routine operations (leaving and returning to port / navigation), maintain the power plant operational, combat nuclear accidents, prevent nuclear accidents, reactor plant knowledge, weapons abilities, ability to track a target, etc etc. This list seems endless. We are just barely able to complete an examination in any one topic before the next is due, and we are constantly preparing for all of them. This schedule is maddening. In order to practice power plant casualties and control, the engineering watches are divided into 3 shifts. The day is also divided, into the following shifts: 0200 to 0600, 0600 to 1200, 1200 to 1600, 1600 to 2000, 2000 to 0200. Or in other words, 6 hours, 4 hours, 4 hours, 4 hours and 6 hours. Assume there are 3 watch sections, and follow your shift through the sequence of a few days. Now add the complication that you WILL NOT SLEEP during the 1200 to 1600 and 1600 to 2000 shifts, because the entire ship is awake, conducting drills (practice casualties). And there may be maintenance conducted on the 2000 to 0200 shift. We have now developed a scenario where you will work almost two days on 4 hours of sleep, until you finally get 6 hours down. As a matter of fact, this happens routinely - every 3 days - unless Sunday interrupts the schedule - there are no Sunday ships drills (usually).

Let me re-state my point:

Periods of time (that civilians call "days") are DELIBERATELY MANIPULATED using years of submarine experience to MAXIMIZE THE DRILL SCHEDULE. Sleep is NOT the primary consideration. Days don't start and stop with distinction, they roll into each other. Weeks roll into each other. An underway has a continuous and persisting concept of time unlike the one you use at home.

The command doesn't care if you're getting alot of sleep -- we MUST be proficient and maintain a high level of readiness. This is easy to "say", but really starts pissing you off after a couple of months at sea. My point? The schedule reduces men into constant, informal, task-at-hand relationships. It's like watching a team of lawyers the night before a trial - the scope of the work is so huge that they call each other by their first names, effortlessly draw from their technical and professional vocabulary, use shortcut phrases to evaluate and manipulate a situation, and make decisions on the fly. Running drills is like this, except its all happening fast, there are people watching, and it goes on every day. A watch section, therefore, can develop a personality, and predict each others behavior, and become recognized by the command as a team of bulldogs. "You can't run a drill these guys can't handle."

 

The other major contributing factor to the social environment is the size of the submarine. 300 feet, mostly filled with gear. There isn't alot of room to walk around, almost nowhere to sit and read (except your Watchstation - where reading is prohibited except materials related to your watchstation). There isn't 2 square feet anywhere for moving about. There's gear in the way. Now, add 120 men, and you have a constant refrain of, "Excuse me" and "Coming through" etc etc. Lots of cramped quarters. This could be described similarly to a crowded equipment space in building maintenance department. If there are 5 people trying to move about a room, sometimes 4 have to move to let 1 do his thing. Anyway, it's cramped. Gear everywhere. With this in mind, and remembering that sub sailors (underway only) are ALL DRESSED ALIKE - no rank insignia displayed - there is a courtesy involved in walking around. Another analogy would be a Japanese city. You allow people to pass when they need to, and you try to minimize rude behavior. You make another pot of coffee when you take the last cup. people who are inconsiderate are quickly straightened out. Usually name-calling. Peer pressure is unreal. Conform, conform, do a good job, don't be an asshole, do a good job, be faster, I can do that better than you, etc etc. This mentality feeds off itself, until each group of men have really learned to act as team members within their watchsection and occupational group. I was a fine Electrician, and pretty good power plant electrical operator. I was the best throttleman onboard (ability to control the speed and safe operation of the main engines and steam plant) in the power plant. I eventually qualified Engineering watch supervisor, which means I could be the senior most enlisted person in my watchsection. This accomplishments were SOLELY due to the highly aggressive nature of my training environment. Professionalism was demanded all the time, for four years. I didn't have much time to relax, but I spent alot of time becoming a good power plant operator and electrician.

I was workaholic in an enclosed environment of workaholics.

It wasn't our choice to become great submariners. It is a credit to the organization of the United States Navy and the submarine community - which exerted its lessons learned on us - to ensure we prevented accidents and knew what the hell we were doing. This giant task takes alot of effort - and we were TOLD how it was done. After I understood the strategy - I expected no less from new crewmembers. And today, when I stop and think about the 100 or so U.S. submarines on active duty in various time zones across the world's oceans, I know those 120 guys are sleepy, miserable, and could out shoot and out perform any other submarine force on Earth. I am grateful that I am no longer onboard TUNNY, it can work you to death - but I am grateful to my country that there are crews out there - living that nightmare.

 

Hope that answered your question. It was kind of a broad approach to a big topic. Let me know if you have more questions.

 

 

Check my facts

OK TUNNY sailors, I have a couple of questions for you.

 

1. How many officers are there?

2. What are the jobs of all Dept Heads (think I forgot some)

3. What are all the enlisted rates onboard Sturgeon class subs?

4. Did I offend anybody with me description of Junior Officers?

5. Is there more to officer quals than I described?

6. Anything else I said which isn't generally accurate?

Please respond here

 

Expanding the topic - My questions to you

 

I would TUNNY sailors (former or present) to contribute descriptions of the following topics:

 

1. Submarine nicknames (TUNNY sailors only) and their origin

2. Reasons TUNNY crew members were involuntary removed from submarine duty (You should send a name, too, but I'll keep the names anonymous on the web site).

3. Your most embarrassing moment underway.

4. Your opinions of what submarine service changed about your attitude towards work, family, self.

5. Describe TUNNY's social environment when you were onboard.

6. Your opinion about my version (above), trying to explain submarine life. Accurate? Missing a major point?

Please respond here

 

Question # 1: Submarine nicknames (TUNNY sailors only) and their origin

 

Name

Year checked onboard

Response

ET2 (SS) Carsten Poulson

1992

List of nicknames for EM2 Lancaster:

Mulch, Sandblaster, Sandman, Sandie, Sonic, Hedgehog, Captain Caveman, Stagnent, Stagcaster, Swasblaster, Swancaster, Funk, Masterblaster, Dead II, Compost, Swascancer, Ass Scratcher (all names we called him, during the '95 WP)

STS2 (SS) Brian Thomason

1981

That would be "Scooter" and it came about when someone made a comment about me scooting around during my qual studies.

I used to use various "stay awake" pills and actually brewed coffee in my mouth by putting a tablespoon of grounds between my cheek and lower gums. To say I was energetic and alert was an understatement. I qualified in just over 6 months aboard the Tunny.

Scooter stuck with me the whole time I was aboard and disappeared for ever when I left. I have attempted to resurrect my scooter nickname on my submarine vets website at http://www.primenet.com/~thomason

 EM2 (SS) Tom Jordan

1989

Most of E Div was actively shooting the shit in AMR2LL during field day, discussing nicknames of personnel onboard, and brainstorming new tools of humiliation. Craig Homb concluded, "We need somebody to call Corky."

We agreed "the next Electrician that checks onboard" would be re-named Corky -- in reference to a television character. (There was some retarded kid on "Life Goes On").

Indeed, when the next Electrician was introduced to our division, we shook his hand and said, "Hi, You're Corky." And everyone called that guy Corky until he left the boat, about 4 years later. He may still go by Corky.

Coincidentally, this guy's real name was Taras Perales, which wasn't an everyday sort of name, and I never used it.

 EM2 (SS) Tom Jordan

1989

There was always some guy onboard who was a hick. Generally a good natured and slightly overweight good old boy, who (in civilian life) would have WWF season passes. You know the type.

And whichever bumpkin was the most glaring personification of this - that guy would be re-named Hucklebuck. We called him Hucklebuck (yes, to his face) and in conversation. Regularly a new guy would check onboard, who would say or do something so cornball that he would become the new Hucklebuck. The guys in his division - generally A-gangers, made this decision. "Hey, you're the new Hucklebuck". The former-Hucklebuck would get his "old" name back.

Interestingly, most newly appointed Hucklebucks just shrugged and kept going. I don't remember anyone taking offense at this - although you might think they would - they didn't. Maybe they didn't really get it.

After leaving the boat (in my civilian work place), I sometimes observe behavior that would have certainly earned the Hucklebuck appointment. And I think to myself, "This guy would have been perfect."

RM2 (SS) Ken Baumgarten

1991

"Douggie"

This nickname was used by the Radiomen because Mr. Blue's wife fondly referred to him as Douggie in family-grams.

RM2 (SS) Ken Baumgarten

1991

LCDR Merkel - "The Pink Panther"

The XO had the cunning ability to sneak up behind someone at the worst times.

RM2 (SS) Ken Baumgarten

1991

ET3 Jim McManus - "McRackus"

Jim McManus spent the majority of his enlistment in the rack.

RM2 (SS) Robert Heck

1991

"Hairy Ball" - Travis Ball's nickname.

(Tom Jordan note: We didn't call Travis "Hairy" very long or very often... his real last name was Ball, and when we started playing around with his name, like "Sweaty Ball" or "Hairy Ball" he got really pissed)

"FrankenSneed" - MS3 Sneed

Always tense, muscle bound, and pissed off. Popped positive for coke and got kicked off TUNNY.

 MM2 (SS) Richard Banks

1992

 "Tard" - self

Feed and Condensate interview with MMC Choate... Most hosed up drawing of the system ever devised (good possibilty, anyway)... Well, he looked at it, looked at me, and said, "You 'Tard, what are you thinking???"

Well, it stuck... Perison overheard it and made sure it hung around... I was just being smart Make 'em think you are stupid and they won't expect anything from you. Eventually, Choate realized I was far from stupid and hit me with everything he could....

ET3 (SS) Aaron Wolbach 1993

-IC3(ss) Donald Mize (now IC2 or ET2) - Was sometimes referred to as "Donny Crisis" - He had a hard time maintaining a calm demeanor.

 

 

 

Question # 2: Reasons TUNNY crew members were involuntary removed from submarine duty)

 

Name

Year checked onboard

Response

STS2 (SS) Brian Thomason

1981

We had a MS3 that "disappeared" at the next port of call after it was discovered that he could no longer hold a secret clearance.

I guess he somehow mentioned or displayed gay feelings to another crewmember who reported it. As much as everyone joked around about gay sailors on submarines it was actually the exact opposite. Submarine qualified sailors that were really gay where immediately reassigned to a sub tender, shore duty or other surface craft

We had a good time talking with a lisp, pinching asses and general grab assing when someone brought their parents or girlfriend down for a tour of the boat. I'm sure that there had to be some a couple closet gay guy's onboard but in reality I believe that generally everyone (in at least the enlisted ranks) felt confident enough in there heterosexual life to be able to get in real close male relationships without it becoming a sexual thing.

The COB (EMCS Ackerman) was 'removed' for punching out the Duty Chief (ETC Newton AKA Booger) after he took his truck keys after the Change of Command party.

 MM2 (SS) Richard Banks

1992

Diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in March 1995. XO asked the Corpsman when told I would probably not be going on Westpac, "What the hell is wrong with him now?"

YN2(SS) Lorne Galloway

1993

One of my best friends was involuntary separated from Tunny due to Psyche problems. His name was John Litzenburger EM2(SS) nuc. He was in the battery well jumpering out two cells when the boots slipped off both ends of the cable. This started to arc and spark across him and caught the insulation on fire. He was out of the well and back in seconds with a CO2 extinguisher. After things settled he was never able to go back into the well, mentally he would black out.

Another person that was transfer involuntary from Tunny was an ex Bonefish fire Sailor, IC2 Rice. He mentally lost it when the boat ran a simulation of the Bonefish fire and his EAB main was cut off, just like it happened to him on the actual Bonefish.

Also, one thing you forgot about the boat mentality was the definite separation of the forward and aft guys, with the exception of the YNs, HM, and MS divisions.

ET3 (SS) Aaron Wolbach 1993

A certain IC2(ss) came aboard prior to the '95 Westpac. He had previosly served on another ship - the USS Bonefish. This was his most recent sea command, and he had spent the years in between at an IMF (San Diego or Norfolk... I think).

About a week prior to our Westpac, the Captain decided to use he experience to benefit the crew and decided to conduct an "end of the world" drill. This drill was as you might expect it to be, fire in the battery well turns into major conflagration - every body is in deep s___. The drill was conducted at the pier (fast cruise), and we were all informed of what the drill would be. Considering the scope of the drill, it went quickly and we failed to save the ship. This is what the Captain had in mind I think, and the lesson sank in.

It in fact sank in just a touch too much for the IC2(ss) in question, because he did not end up making the westpac with us. It was rumored that he had approached the chaplin, and requested that he be transferred. It brought too many memories for him.

 

 

Question # 3: Your most embarrassing moment underway.

 

Name

Year checked onboard

Response

ET2 (SS) Carsten Poulson

1992

Bobby Q standing Erll, Marc C standing Amr2ul, Jimmy H standing ERS, Chief Choate was EWS, and I was off watch, visiting Bob in Erll. It was during the 2000 - 0200 watch, Bob and I weren't expecting anyone, and Bob got the great idea to call Jimmy down to Erll over the dial-x, and see his reaction when he comes down the ladder while we are stark raving naked. Typical bored hyjinks.

While I start stripping, Bob calls Amr2ul, and Marc answers the phone. Bob tells Marc our plan, and asks him to send Jimmy down asap. Two seconds later, the phone in Erll starts ringing, and Bob picks up the reciever, and starts yelling into the phone in his best Indian merchant voice, "YOU!! You are not talking to me like that!! You need learn respect, young man!!! I KILL YOU for talking to me like that!!!", and hangs up, hysterical. I'm laughing, and still stripping.

The phone rings again, and again, Bob gives the caller a louder blast of his raving Indian merchant. The phone immediately rings again, and sensing trouble, Bob answers, "Hello?" The only thing Bob heard was Marc saying, "C.O." He turns and yells C.O. at me at the same exact moment we both heard footsteps on the Erul-Erll ladder.

I jumped into my poopie suit, threw my underwear behind a bench, and had just enough time to put my arms into my unzipped poopie suit, and hug the port MSW pump with my bare chest as the C.O., Eng., and Chief Choat all go parading past me, thinking that I am trying to get out of their way. Or maybe just too afraid to ask me what the hell I am doing half-naked, hugging the MSW pump. Whew!

Close call.

QM1 (SS) David Marshall

1983

I had just reported onboard in June 1983. And found myself, almost immediately on the galley, "cranking". One of the cooks, MS2/SS Sandburg convinced me of what was called the "Nuclear Cow"

A machine in the aft engineering spaces that produced milk. He had me on a wild goose chase in the engineering spaces, looking for the "Nuclear Cow". With a picture in hand to carry it back.

The Nukes got a good laugh.

FT2 (SS) Eric Hoffman

 1991

Its WestPac 93-94 and we had been on Spec Op for about 4 weeks. I had just come off the midwatch and battle stations with the rack calling my name. My rack anchor was heavy with those tasty powered eggs and pancakes and I was making my way down middle level to the 38 man dreaming of sleep and my walkman.

Once through the water tight door I see Stew Burner Adler digging around in his rack (which was right below mine) looking for who knows what ......maybe a pan of biscuits although I think that was Mexiel's gig. I was in no mood to play around much less utter a single word when Adler starts into his antics of pushing and being as irritating as possible(We all know how much fun it was to push each others buttons).

I had enough for one day and just snapped!! I turned my hat around backwards on my head, grabbed Adlers face and head butted him right on the forehead. Adler stumbled, fell back against the dive locker and collapsed. Thinking that he was just playing around, I kicked him a few times and with no response, stepped over him and walked back up to control to get something out of CCC.

On my way back to the rack, I found a couple of people trying to rouse Adler. Man, I had no idea how hard I hit him and I felt terrible:)!!! I helped Adler to his feet and we both agreed to keep this thing quiet. Yah right!! It was all over the boat within hours or even minutes and the next day Mr. Zieser called my name from across control "Hey KoKo Head, just what the hell do you think you're doing". Nothing came about from that little incident thank god.

RM2 (SS) Ken Baumgarten

1991

It was the Christmas party of 1992. I, along with a few buddies, drank a little too much alcohol before the party. In my drunken state, I found myself dirty dancing with LCDR Crag's wife.

The next day was an underway and after puking into Pearl Harbor, I was taking a shortcut through the CO's and XO's staterooms. We must have been loading weapons or something. The XO stopped me, closed his door, and said "If you ever touch my wife again, I'll kill you". I said "Yes Sir" and went into the Radioroom. To this day, I'm not sure if the XO was being serious or just kidding around but I'll tell you this; My life onboard didn't get any better until LCDR Zieser relieved LCDR Crag as Executive Officer.

 DS1 (SS) Dennis Grenell

 1979

My most embarrassing moment happened in late 1980 or early 81. Having won the battle efficiency award we were honored with hosting SubPac's PCO (Perspective Commanding Officer's) class for some training. The PCO class contained half a dozen or so former XO's who were ready to take command of their own ship once they completed this class. The PCO instructor was Captain Bacon (I'm a little fuzzy here, was Roger Bacon a Captain or Commodore at this time, either way he was senior officer onboard). I knew Captain Bacon from my last command at Naval Submarine Training Center Pacific (NSTCP or Nasty Pac).

We were at BARSTUR doing mine laying exercises. I was one of 2 qualified to stand torpedo room watch. All day long it was load tube, fill tube, equalize tube, open muzzle door, fire tube, close muzzle door, drain tube, open breech door, load tube. This was a continuous cycle with all 4 tubes involved.

The next day we loaded the tubes with Mk48 exercise torpedoes. The PCO's were tracking a target and fired a weapon. I closed the muzzle door and was getting ready to drain the tube when I heard over the 7MC (is that right after all these years?) Torpedo Room, Conn, we have lost status on the weapon. It was like being hit by a train, the 48 is wire guided and I just broke the wire by closing the muzzle door. Conn, Torpedo room I shut the muzzle door I replied. For the next half an hour I was pretty nervous, what is the old man (Cmdr. Kaup) going to do. After what seemed an eternity Captain Bacon came down to the torpedo room to confront me. "Petty Officer Grenell, you are one lucky sailor, the tracking officer recommended a course change on the torpedo but the weapon acquired the target anyway". Cmdr Kaup never said a word to me about that incident and I kept a low profile while the PCO's were onboard.

EM2 (SS) Tom Jordan

1989

Sworn to secrecy, I'm going to divulge this story without implicating the accomplice. It was really my fault, anyway.

We were underway, shaft was turning normally, performing a clean and inspect maintenance on switchgear for a particular motor. I was impressing young Petty Officer M. with my description of components in the switchgear. "This here is a resistor, this here is a limit switch" etc etc etc. Ex nukes know the electrical interlock associated with this equipment to prevent its accidental operation, and possible result. During this maintenance, the motor was disabled.

I was convincing Petty Officer M. that the electrical interlock was not "very important" because the circuit was "open" at that moment (not electrically intact). And therefore not in danger of inducing voltage in the motor windings (!) which - we had been warned since our earliest checkouts - would render it an unwilling generator.

"So", I explained, "this interlock circuit," (I flipped the limit switch, overriding it), "has no importance while the circuit is open. In fact, I could even use this handle (I turn the handle) -

WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!

TUNNY's aft section SHOOK and light SHOT OUT the motor when I did this.

I rapidly disconnected the circuit and agreed (with Petty Officer M.) that it never happened. We sat there for a minute, collecting our nerve. We never told anyone.

RM3 (SS) Matthew Marting

1993

First day I report onboard Tunny, I'm getting toured around by the RMC (Darren Reed). I meet all the bigwigs, and I tell them that I need to know a time about 9 months away that I can definitely take leave for my sister's wedding, so that she can plan the wedding. They all tell me that April 22 would be a good day for them to sched the wedding. So, I pass on that info to my sister, and she schedules it for that day. A few months before the wedding day, I put in the leave chit. It gets approved. Three weeks before the wedding, they cancel my leave... I try to tell the command that I REALLY need to go to the wedding, because I'm in it and they scheduled it around me. They don't change the status.

So I tell my parents, and they ask if they can do whatever they can to change the decision. I say, "sure, go for it". They write and call everyone in my chain of command from my captain to the president. EVERYONE.

So, congressman Tom Sawyer (Ohio) calls the boat, demanding a reason why I can't go on leave. The XO blames it on me, but says that I can go. The congressman says that it doesn't matter where the problem was, just as long as I can go.. They screwed with my leave, so I screwed with them back.

STS3(SS) Curt Hardie

1993

I was acting as section leader for one of the forward duty sections at the time, due to the fact i was the most senior person..go figure!?

I was "checking" up on the topside watch to ensure that person was all right (translation: I was up topside shooting the shit) and Carsten came topside to retrieve some soda from the vending machine nearby. I said something stupid about him not being able to leave unless he supplied the unfortunate watchstanders(me and topside watch) with sodas also.

Carsten replied" bite my ass!" and continued. I, always up to the challenge proclaimed, "you show me the moon and I'll have myself a bite!"

Well, being a nuke and having to fulfill that wild reputation, plus the fact that the others hanging around topside for the gab session swore up and down I wouldn't do it, he dropped his pants and bent over slightly to give me a clear shot.

I didn't hesitate for a second, and drove my top teeth into the right buttock briefly, which caused Carsten to jump up startled. I don't think he figured I would actually do it!

Boy, did that one get twisted by quarters the next day!!!

ETN2(SS) Barry Lebens

1972

We were returning from 6 months on the Med run. Maybe 1 or 2 days out of home port of Charleston, SC. Weps Off, (don't remember his name), confronted me with working on a "sabotage drill scenario."

I agreed to do it, but he never got back to me with any specifics, but that he had a time when I was not on watch, and neither was he. Well the time came around, (Big Red had decreed the time for it to happen), so I adlibbed as best I could. I placed a note on one of the MK45's in the T-Room, saying something about a "Bomb going off if anyone attempted to open the tumbler of the secure ESM/Radio room." I probably didn't detail it enough for any demands.

I was a WLR-6 type, and because I had the Conn Open Mike to listen to, I knew everything that was happening on the boat. Now, the CO was nearly in the blind to this situation and when Weps got to the conn and explained this was not the drill he was supposed to brief me on, they took it as the real thing.

Once I realized I could be in "Real" trouble if I let it go on too long, I ended the whole scenario after only about 15 minutes. But that was more than enough time to get up to periscope depth and make ready for an explosion of some kind, some where, and surfacing immediately if necessary.

Collision Alarm and everything that goes with that.

After it was over, and everyone accepted me back into the fold, I approached Red's quarters, and personally apologized. He accepted, and gave me a 'well done' without any help from Weps. Whew! I think I got lucky. He said it was a 'good' drill, even for him.

MM2 (SS) Richard Banks

1992

Let me know that I could do almost anything. Certainly when it comes to mechanical equipment...

Now I do electrical... That is easy too. It also let me know what kind of people I like working around... People with integrity and reliability. People like those I worked with onboard Tunny. Not many of them out in the real world.

 

 

Question # 4: Your opinions of what submarine service changed about your attitude towards work, family, self.

 

Name

Year checked onboard

Response

QM1 (SS) David Marshall

1983

Teamwork, Attention to detail, strive for excellence,

These are the first ideas that came to mind when I asked myself this question.

I've been out of the Navy for 5 years on the 31st of this month. I'm now 35 yrs old, yet many of my memories and daily thoughts still linger around a most important 10 years of my life. 12 December, 1982 to 31 March, 1993. Remembering half way nights, losing the griminess of polly-wogdom and becoming a shellback. War games. Traveling to cities where the language and scenery were different than anything a Kansas boy had ever seen.

How doing a good job was driven at first by how fast could I get on liberty. Then slowly shifting to how much pride I had in doing a job well done. The job was entrusted to me and I would be responsible to complete it well.

I was a Quartermaster, navigating a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art machine over an unseen terrain. I would ask myself, "Who else in my High School class was doing this?" They were all probably stuck behind a stove or washing dishes.

Since I got out of the Navy I haven't done anything related to what I did when in. I've been in retail sales of sporting goods and electronics. With the management I learned in the Navy I was able to move into Assist Manager within 10 months of getting out of the Navy.

And achieving full Management within 4 months after becoming Assistant Manager. I credit this to the Navy! And the blessings of the Lord. I am a Christian. (Just had to throw that in!) Before the Navy and Subs I know I didn't have the ability or the backbone to achieve this kind of success.

I try to get everyone I work with involved in the process. You can't run a store, a shop, a Submarine, an office, without teamwork. I can't stand to work with anyone who can't tow the line. They are deadwood. In Submarines that don't work. And you are right, those people are quickly sent on their way. Not so in the "civilian world", slackers, slackers everywhere!

Cross training was important to me also. I have gone through several jobs changes since getting out. I've had to work at other jobs in between. And amazingly enough I get high praises no matter what I do. Not to blow my own horn. (Remember, you asked how subs changed my life.)

But Submarine duty taught me that I can do anything I set my mind too. I have been a Youth Pastor, Sales clerk, Retail Manager (3 different stores in two different industries), Grocery store supervisor, Digital Satellite Installer, Car Audio Installer, Police Dispatcher, Substitute School teacher. Now I'm starting to work on the Alaska Marine Highway system. Yes, I stay busy, something I have to do. I get bored standing around. That probably comes from the submarine life also.

RM2 (SS) Ken Baumgarten

1991

 I definitely have an elevated feeling of Pride, Self-worth and Confidence. My attitude towards life in general is very optimistic. Once I tasted a little bit of success on Tunny there was nothing stopping me. This has carried over to my civilian life and has grown over the years.

I started out on Tunny like most. I cranked for 62 days, drove the boat for a while and cleaned the Head. But when I left, I was qualified Chief of the Watch, Duty Chief Petty Officer, Diving Officer of the Watch and had seven ribbons on my chest, including the Navy Achievement Medal. Knowing that the Command had confidence in my abilities gave me the confidence to qualify DOOW and stand COW during an ORSE. And I was a second class with only five years in the Navy. My entire experience on Tunny has helped shape me into the person I am now....Highly motivated, extremely successful and unstoppable.

 RM2 (SS) Bob Heck

1991

 After being on a Sub, I realize that I can do anything I set my mind to, no matter what the obstacle. If I can get through 4 years on the pig, I can do anything. I also realized that happiness is more important that money. My attitude toward stupid people (no matter what there rank/position) is now, shut the hell up and get out of my way. I dealt with enough dumb ass's on the boat that I now have no patience for them. If I don't like you, I tell you. Life is to short to kiss anyones ass.

 RM1 (SS) Tim Billings

1985

 I think I learned some very important lessons while stationed aboard submarines...

Whatever comes up...just deal with it. There's no place to run, especially on a submarine, so you deal with whatever comes up and move on. Move toward the problem and fix it (all those flooding/fire/etc drills) don't try to avoid it. And be able to take the initial actions even if you're tired/sleepy/disoriented. I can't remember how many times during pre-ORSE/pre-deployment workup drill sessions that I would be dressed and already have the compartment bill in my hand in preparation for rigging the compartment when I actually woke up.

Being mission oriented is a positive thing. So many times since returning to civilian life (my time on submarines was simply a nine year hiatus from civilian life) I have run into people that give up too easily when trying to accomplish something. You get stuck out there in your submarine and told to accomplish a mission and they don't like excuses or failures so submariners knock down whatever obstacles that are preventing them from accomplishing the mission. This is a very useful attitude in civilian life. I don't know how may civilian work performance evals I've signed that contained some form of the statement - If everyone else has failed to accomplish a task and it still needs to be done we give it to Tim because we know that he'll get it done.

Submarine life taught me to be eternally cheerful--- No matter how seemingly stressful or unpleasant circumstances are around me (like right now as we recover from Hurricane Georges here on Puerto Rico) I can always think of times onboard the Tunny (and the Patrick Henry before that) that were more stressful or more unpleasant and I know since I survived those times that these are survivable too.

Always wipe down the sink when you're done--- as a metaphor. In reality the lesson is always go that extra step to leave things the same or better than you found them. While it is essential when you have almost 100 guys sharing 3 sinks, two showers, and three toilets (I think I got those numbers right for the crews head) it also make life in the larger world alot easier also.

Always know where your pants/shirt/shoes are when you go to bed..you never know when you'll have to get up suddenly (has happened twice since I returned to being a civilian - someone was breaking into my car and later my house caught on fire)

 MM1 (SS) Mike Trujillo

 1978

 The watch rotation was different during my day. The day was divided into four 6 hour watches. The individual watch standers were in a rotation based on these increments depending on the number of personnel qualified for that watch. If only two people were qualified, each person had to stand 6 hours on watch and six hours off.

Given the fact that normal divisional/departmental work and training had to be conducted plus drills, this type of rotation resulted in two very worn out watchstanders. New personnel were pushed very hard to qualify so that this situation could be rectified and none pushed harder than the two guys stuck with the port and starboard watch. Three section was the norm. You stood watch 6 hours and were "off watch" for twelve. Of course, as we both know, there was plenty to do during those "off" hours to keep you busy and awake. I think the singular phenomenon that resulted from these 18 hour days was experiencing the effect on your body's internal clock. Your body just gets whacked. I think this, more than the work itself, contributes to the quick aging I noticed among the guys who'd been in for more than ten years. Finally, if you were lucky and had plenty of qualified people in your division, you could be on a four-section rotation. I only experienced this once. On my final trip out, when I was standing Engine Room Supervisor. Six hours on and eighteen hours off! Even with training, maintenance, and drills you could still get enough sleep. Added to this was the fact that I was a short timer with nothing else to qualify for and it made for a fun time.

The schedule you describe is interesting. It appears to be similar to the watch schedule I experienced on a Fast Frigate that I was stationed on between A-school and Nuke school. Are you saying that the submarine force has adopted something from THE SURFACE FLEET? Tell me it ain't so, Joe.

Your description of the close quarters is brief but pretty accurate. What isn't emphasized, though, is that a submarine sailor's "personal space" shrinks. We just get used to being very close to people. In civilian life, people are overly polite about being near you and politely won't proceeded until you give them about as much room as a tractor trailer rig to get past you in a hall way. I've had someone stop dead in their tracks and say "excuse me" and wait for me to move when all they have to do is STEP OVER MY LEG! Conversely, I think nothing of reaching around co-workers if there's something behind them I need or squeezing by them if they're standing in a door way I need to get through. Then I have to put them at ease when they profusely apologize, "I'm sorry, I didn't realize I was in your way" by admitting, "You weren't".

Submarine life is one of those things that can't be fully appreciated unless you've actually experienced it. In the past seventeen years, I haven't had a chance to talk to anyone who's shared the experience. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to read somebody else's take on the whole thing.

  

Question # 5: Describe TUNNY's social environment when you were onboard.

 

Name

Year checked onboard

Response

STS2 (SS) Brian Thomason

1981

Work hard play hard! Best boat in the squadron with the best crew (CO on down), got the best WESTPAC runs and assignments. We had a blast and ripped up the entire Pacific in doing so.

There was no rank, no real complaints and no real bitching. Total crew cooperation a real cohesive team. We even changed our menu to better suit our tastes and brought onboard the best pastry chef in the fleet to boot.

RM2 (SS) Ken Baumgarten

1991

I'm not going to go into much detail on this. I can spend days trying to explain the social structure so I'm going to break it down into three groups....Lifers, workers and slackers.

Lifers: These are the people who are in love with the Navy. They can't wait until the next underway. They create the policies but don't have to follow them. They schedule drills and field day around their schedule without any consideration for the Workers and Slackers who have to stand the mid-watch.

Workers: Workers can be people who stay in for twenty years or get out after four or six. They have realized that they signed a contract and have to honor that contract. Workers may not like their jobs, but they are going to do their best at it anyway because bitching really doesn't help matters. Workers can get along with Lifers and Slackers.

Slackers: Slackers hate the Navy and hate their jobs. They are always bitching and would leave at the drop of a hat. They really need pushed to do their jobs and usually they don't do it correctly the first time. Slackers hate Lifers but can tolerate Workers.

 RM2 (SS) Bob Heck

1991

 Life on Tunny, this could be a book. The unique things I remember was that whenever we got a new guy from New York, the other guys from NY would pull him aside and tell him that he would have to change his ways. The way New Yorkers normally act was considered rude on the boat, and they would be getting regular ass kickings if they didn't change.

The social standards were a mix of everyone's hometown, but still, New Yorkers were not accepted.

Also, I remember that homophobics were quickly cured. Also, everyone talked about your mother and your sister, so you had just better get used to it.

MM2 (SS) Richard Banks

1992

It seems the longer you are away from it, the more you realize how necessary it all was. The regimenting of all that existed in our shipboard lives, even if it did not make any sense to us at the time.

 

 

 

Question # 6: Your opinion about my version (above), trying to explain submarine life. Accurate? Missing a major point?

 

Name

Year checked onboard

Response

STS2 (SS) Brian Thomason

1981

I agree with most of what you said except for I would have to disagree with the end of your last paragraph about it being a nightmare. I had fun and I know you actually did too. It's not human nature to want to relive a nightmare and you chose to create this site.

 RM2 (SS) Bob Heck

 1992

Something you said (or actually didn't say). Not all enlisted were sleep deprived. Remember, I was a Radioman. We usually got our full 12 (except for drills or CRE/ORSE/etc, or down gear.) We did our maint. On watch. And we worked harder than some rates (ESM ET's were port and starboard, but they could sleep if we were not at PD.)

 

 

  

 

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