2003 Reservist Trip Report

During last year's (June, 2002) visit to Pearl Harbor, I was mostly thinking about changes in my life. I returned to Hawaii 9 years after leaving TUNNY, and retraced many of the changes in my life since then... most of those difficult issues were still fresh and troubling. This year (June 2003) was different. I spent less time mourning for things that were lost - I didn't even revisit my old apartment, I skipped those memories. That stuff was in the back of my mind of course, but I wasn't afraid of it this year. Instead, I went to Pearl Harbor to see friends we hadn't visited last year, and just to satisfy my obligation for the Navy - two weeks working with submarines and submariners. I mean, I have to do those two weeks SOMEWHERE, and I am pretty happy walking around Subase, Pearl Harbor. This is even better because my (relatively new) wife, Bethany, is with me. We came to Pearl Harbor to do some work on submarines, and Pearl is a great place to do that.

Part One - Arrival

My trip was paid for by the Navy Reserve. If you want to know how that works, I have a description on last year's trip report. Like last year, getting our Government airline tickets for the same flights and seats together was really a struggle. But we managed to get orders, seats on the plane and a hotel room. Although the Navy initially had Bethany staying in the barracks, and me in a hotel. Fixing all the problems involves the standard military run-around routine, just a question of facing the issues and pleading with the right people. Things usually work out.

On my first day, I found TUNNY's former Engineer Officer, Bill Donovan, now retired from the Navy, in his office working for COMSUBPAC. He works in the same building as our Reserve Coordinator Chief (the people that we report to), which made it easy to quickly drop in and say hi. Because he has retired, I don't have to call him CDR Donovan now, so I called him "Bill", which made me laugh for some reason. Bill showed me a photo of his wife Amber, and we made a dinner date for the weekend. Bill was real nice to me, which also made me laugh for some reason. Certainly the important business is how he is doing, and how married and retired life is treating him...But just "friendly visiting" with him completely disoriented me. I thought he hated me onboard TUNNY, but apparently, not as much as I thought. We went to dinner later in the week, and he paid for our dinner, which makes him a Great Guy. I'll tell you more about dinner later.

Standing in line at the Mini Mart, who says hello? MS2 (SS) Adler. He has been in Hawaii the whole time... in the Navy, shore duty and another sub, I think. He is still on active duty, but going Surface due to a medical condition. Here is a picture of us, standing outside of the Subase Mini Mart. Nice surprise, seeing Adler.

Here's another surprise at the Subase Mini Mart. They're still selling TUNNY hats.

After checking in with our Reservist handlers, we each receive job assignments for the next 2 weeks. Bethany is scheduled for some administrative work, which bugs her because she wants to do some Corpsman stuff. The rest of us are told right away, we are going to be grinding paint off the USS Honolulu (SSN 718). The boat needs alot of work topside because they are hosting a change of command ceremony soon, so they need all the help they can get.

Two light bulbs go on in my head at that moment:

1. Reservist Sub Support is not career enhancing. Submarine Support sailors (that is, myself and my Reservist friends) will certainly be screwed every time we show up at Subase. Last year they had most of us chipping paint and grinding. Exactly identical work assignment this year. In fact, there's always going to be a submarine that needs painting and grinding, and the boat welcomes any volunteers. My theory of "Never-ending dirty work" is supported by the fact that - Not once (in the two years I visited Subase) did our duty planners ask what I can do on a submarine that might actually help out the real in-port workload. Obviously, they don't care if I ever do any Navy work that gives me experience that will help me with my advancement exam. We are deck-div slaves, mute and sold as laborers without a second thought. My Reservist Chief tries to paint a brighter picture, "We are here for submarine support, and if the boat says they need preservation work performed then that's what we will do." But this is easy for her to say - she's a non qual, and she's not painting. On top of that, she already made Chief, and I can't make E6.

Some people might argue that I should be grateful that the Navy sends me to Hawaii, and that any work I do there is just payback for spending my off-duty time on a tropical island. I would like to remind those people that I am not a likely deck div candidate. I finished nuke school and qualified EWS as an E5. Furthermore, I made E5 off the test in 1989.. If I ever one day hope to become an E6, I have to acquire specialized job experience during my annual training time. That's 2 weeks every year to teach me anything I need to know. Therefore, if the Navy isn't making me a better sailor during this training period, it's a "stupid" job assignment, and a waste of your tax money. However, those that know the Navy see both sides of this argument.. Yes, it is a wasted training opportunity for the Navy to fly me 3800 miles (each way) to grind paint. But No, it doesn't surprise anyone, and there is no point in arguing about it.

2. I devise a plan to counteract the stupid job assignment I have been given. Yes, I can hang out topside in the hot sun and grind paint for 6 hours a day. But at nights I will come back to the boat and hang out with whichever ET has duty, and I am going to ask him questions about the equipment and read the technical manuals and gain some Navy experience. This is my rare chance to see the gear, and my recent advancement exam results confirm that I wouldn't know a radar set of you mailed one to me... But I know that the guys on duty can point me to the gear and the manuals, and that would be useful. I am still a nuke, you know, I can learn it with just a manual.

With these two conclusions in mind, I put on the white, paper coveralls over my dungarees and cross the brow to survey the work. Wandering around topside, I see a familiar face. I can tell he didn't recognize me (and my name is covered up), so I say, "I know you." A handshake and a smile, it's Sean Mullaney (ex TUNNY EM1(SS)) now he is Master Chief, EMCM (SS) Mullaney, EDCM for the boat (Engineering Dept Master Chief / Bull Nuke / we called that EDEA). He's obviously rushed, and pulling to get away when I ask, "Can you find me some ETs so I can come down here in the evenings and read some manuals and I can learn something?" Sean says, "Let me see what I can do" and disappears. I am pretty confident that this plan will work out. It means I will be onboard some evenings, maybe some slow on watch time for somebody, maybe some coffee on the mess decks, I am looking forward to that sort of opportunity to mingle and learn like it should be done.

Part Two - USS Honolulu

Not 5 minutes later, a Senior Chief comes topside, asking if I am "Jordan." I figure he's come up here to coordinate my evening schedule with some ET. He says, "come below decks with me, you'll be working with the Nav ETs for the next 2 weeks." Well, THAT was good news. By the Grace of a Tunny shipmate, I am a submarine sailor again.

ET2 (SS) Tom Jordan and EMCM (SS) Sean Mullaney

He leads me into Control, where I meet my Chief for the next 2 weeks, and a few members of the Division. They're just now heading out to training, and I am supposed to do everything they do. Cool - training. I haven't been to sub crew training since 1993. Upon arrival in our training classroom, I am surprised that there is no lesson plan. It turns out this is a Gripe session for the Chief to motivate his junior sailors to show up for mandatory ship's PT. At first I was suspicious, no lesson plan, but then when the Griping finally got going, it felt like a submarine crew. And the griping was in a subdued tone, filled with profanity and painful for the recipient. Really, excellent Griping. Later in the week, I learned it was only partially effective. But I was impressed. After "training" we went back down to the boat to tackle the divisional workload.

I estimate there are 6 guys in my new Division. They are all ETs, and this is the Navigation ET group. I don't know how many coners are ETs these days, or if some coners don't have to be Nav ETs, and none of that matters. There are the 6 (now 7) of us, and a Chief. The Chief reads the worklist, and it sounds like about 30 minutes of work, 1 thing for each guy. Like one is "write a tag out for a small control box and Clean and inspect it." I wonder if my TUNNY coners had it so easy. To make this long story short, I think today's coners live a slower existence than did their ancestors, and here is why:

They don't have an electrical tab. (TUNNY visitors, a "tab" is a "Training Aid Booklet", and it has electrical drawings in it for everything on the boat). It took FOREVER to get my Coner Companion to retrieve the technical manual, learn enough to discuss the electrical isolation with him (from the manual), read the nameplate (on the box) and find some prints... and even then it wasn't a complete print. This method of evaluating the electrical isolation took maybe 90 minutes when it should have required 5 minutes to get the tab and find the right page. So, with questionable proof in hand, can we convince the Duty Officer to approve the tag out? Wait. Before that, the tagout has to ALSO be approved by the LPO and the Department Head. Gads, this is alot of signatures for such a simple maintenance item. The Senior Chief gets involved, and he authoritatively dismisses our efforts so far. In fact, he quotes electrical sources that are not in the print or in the manual. Finally he resorts to using the Startup and Shutdown procedures in the Watchstation CPs. (little notebooks with operating and Casualty Procedures.) It makes me laugh when he holds up the CP, handing it to the Coner and says, "Why didn't you use the CP? You know this book is right. This book was written by God Himself and it is all you need."

But my point in telling you all of this isn't to get buried in this "one" tagout. I want to describe the working pace - because it is different than the working tempo onboard TUNNY. Our E4 TUNNY squids wrote a tagout quickly, and electrical-isolation proof was easy. These Honolulu guys have to scrounge around, and then plead for permission. In fact, he wasn't allowed to hang the tags because they weren't in LAST NIGHT's Night Orders. This complicates the process to the point that a simple clean and inspect was an administrative challenge. And this is true of all their maintenance. These Honolulu Coner ETS were all wearing dolphins, and in my opinion, should have the skills to write a simple tag out. Instead, we had a big discussion about what the isolation should be, referencing manuals, prints, procedures, it was too much effort for such a small reward. And every tag they wrote (while I was onboard) involved the same amount of effort. Nowadays, electrical prints are stored on a computer, networked throughout the boat. Our computer (in Nav ET division) wasn't working right. No print. This happened every day, and it slowed us down by a factor of 100.

I had the opportunity to ask (2) former TUNNY sailors, now serving on LA Class boats - if this impression was accurate. Both confirmed that "tagouts have changed". The administrative obstacles are much more of a burden. And the work is very carefully performed, very slowly. Of course, on TUNNY, if E Div needed a MG down for weekly maintenance, this could be done quickly and with little trouble. Instead, the lack of electrical tabs, and the dread of assembling the facts, clearly frustrated the guys in my new division. A Tag out should be quick, accurate, and routine. It just wasn't so.

I then asked the Senior Chief why there weren't any Electrical tabs anymore. He said that they WERE, only none on the Honolulu. When the Navy came out with it's "paperless Navy" initiative and the migration policy to computer schematics, some motivated Honolulu sailor threw away all of the tabs. So now we don't have any.

Part Three - Is it just me? Fish out of water.

Unlike last year, I spent almost all day, every day in the Control Room of the Honolulu. Last year I was working in an office at the IMF (Intermediate Maintenance facility). I had the luxury of time onboard Honolulu - meaning - there were periods of time when I was hanging out with my division and not much was going on. We didn't talk much. I was like a puppy, glad to be around, but mostly in the way. This was due to several circumstantial factors:

So, it isn't a very productive "match" for the Navy, they aren't getting alot of hard work out of me. Here's some of the stuff I did for the division::

For myself, I read some technical manuals and operated (started up) a Gyro / Navigation cabinet. This may help me with my future Advancement exams, it was like training "just for me." And the Senior Chief onboard was very patient and good about explaining Servo motors. That was great.

Just so I don't feel guilty about the small amount of productive work I did for the boat, I remind myself that it wasn't the intent of my Reservist handlers to have me working with the Nav ETs anyway. This opportunity came to me solely because a former shipmate found a place I could hide out and learn some things. Which I did, I really tried to read the manuals, get a feel for the shipboard systems and gain something. I did whatever work I could do for the division.

Part Four - Squid Lunch

One day at lunch, I met ET1 (SS) Chuck Kahl topside and we went to Burger King on base. Chuck is retired from the Navy, he stayed on the island and has a civilian job where he works with former EM2 (SS/DV) Chad Miller. At Burger King, we ran into SENIOR CHIEF ETCS(SS) Rick Marini. I'm really glad Rick made Senior Chief. He deserves every good thing that the Navy can offer him. I'll tell you why I think so: Remember our 6 month WestPac deployments? The boats on the waterfront are doing 8 months now, because of the war on terrorism and the operational schedule. Add in weekly ops and certifications, and that's 9-10 months at sea each year. It's a hard time to be on sea duty these days. My hat's off to Rick, he just rotated off USS Louisville, and onto shore duty, where he will be a NSTCPAC Instructor. He deserves the break.

It was exceptionally good to see Chuck Kahl again. Chuck was my "port buddy". We hung around together when TUNNY visited foreign ports. I haven't seen Chuck in almost 10 years, and he hasn't changed much. He grew a ponytail, but that's about it. I really like Chuck because he was willing to go and do just about anything in Japan.

Also at lunch, we stopped by and took some pictures with CDR Jeff Bay. Mr. Bay was a JO on TUNNY, and a great guy. His picture was taken with a regular camera, so I'll post that picture when I get our film developed. Mr. Bay is still in the Navy, now working for COMSUBPAC. We only had a minute for the handshake and the hello. He looks exactly like he did on TUNNY, but he managed to grow a mustache. Otherwise, it could have been yesterday we were on watch in Maneuvering together.

Part Five - The Mighty Bowfin, that wonderful 282 TUNNY, and Whats-her-name 682

Bethany and I toured the USS Bowfin (SS 287), which is a WWII Submarine permanently moored in Pearl Harbor. There is a museum building there, too. I had visited the Bowfin years ago, and the museum, too. I know a little more about WWII boats now, admittedly, I don't know much. Nowadays I recognize the names and tactics from books that I didn't have time to think about during my active duty time. In fact, on active duty, I felt no kinship with those WWII submariners, which is really a mistake. No sense of greatness about what we were doing, just work.

The brightest brass workI have ever seen. Somebody spent some time shining up the torpedo tubes onboard the Bowfin.

Anyway, Bethany is rushing me through the Bowfin museum, we had read everything, but I could just hang around there and really stare at each little display. And as Bethany and I walk through the place, I start looking for my boat, good old 682 TUNNY. If you look, you can find the 282 TUNNY, mentioned on the plaque outside (near the Regulus missle) and her part in the American wolfpacks, sinking Japanese merchants and warships. The 282 played a role, and therefore is mentioned occasionally. Other boats have a higher profile, sank more ships, saved more aviators, but that's just luck. Overall, a 282 sailor would be satisfied with the recognition.

Regulus missle display, plaque. You can see a 282 image on the left side, second one down.

How about my little boat? The Bowfin museum has a long stretch of ship's plaques, presumably a wooden plaque from every American sub ever commissioned. These are displayed in hull number sequence. So, eventually I found 682 and there it was. In a building the size of a large car dealership, among dozens of life-size displays, the 682 has a 10 inch wooden plaque, essentially buried in sequence next to its sister ships, and continuing right up through the newest hull number. Rather anonymous, I thought. Barely a showing, almost not there at all. Which got me to thinking...

Was my 682 boat just that - a gnat on the elephant's butt of submarine history? So trivial, barely notable? I thought we were Superman. I learned and sweated massively. I was surprised we kept that boat going on spare parts, green tape and battery acid. I felt like we had really been somewhere. Yet, millions of visitors to the Bowfin museum will leave without any new feelings for that boat, that crew, that mission.

Were the famed and displayed boats of WWII so much better? Were they really "great men doing great deeds" and we were, what?

I wondered if every submarine crew felt the way I did. My boat is so cool, we really make a difference, we really pay the price. Your boat can't be as rough and tough as we have become, due to our edge. We are the toughest, smartest, hardest charging submarine there ever was. Well, as I saw the HUNDREDS of plaques on the wall, I wondered about the thousands of sweaty and sleepy sailors with salty egos and unstoppable spirits. Maybe we all thought we were great. Maybe there really are hundreds of great boats, and they are all just as worthy of mention as my boat. Whew - back in 1993, I was sure that "TUNNY tough" meant something unique. But, based on my assessment of our value within the Bowfin museum, we were just one of many many.

I shook my head alot over this. How could 682 TUNNY have been such a small player in the submarine museum?

I came away with 2 impressions from this. It took me a long time to reach any conclusion at all. In fact, Dear Reader, as I explain these conclusions to you, it's almost cheating that you get the answers so quickly.... I thought about this alot.. and then I decided:

1. Bowfin was a WWII museum, and 682 TUNNY didn't do anything during WWII. So, what could they write?

2. Every submarine crew worked hard together.

I'll give the WWII sailors credit for fighting their fight. They had fewer showers, slimier working conditions, depth charges and slower journeys across long distance. Those guys had it tough. But I did alot of things they never did... Like memorizing the BFPL curve and tables of radionuclides just to stand a watch. And then the pressure of managing that responsibility, a high tech problem, unforgiving and my actions closely criticized. Being a nuke is something, too.

I have heard a few other "Cold war" sailors express this self pity... There is a awkward feeling about our roles. We didn't shoot anyone, didn't sink any ships, didn't sew a battle flag. But we did "something". We stood long watches, left home for months, and kept up with the pressure to do our work perefctly. We drilled for long hours every day, week after week. We jumped in the bilge and the battery well to keep them working and in top condition. We did maintenance, worked on energized and damaged gear, we hooked up shore power in the rain, we got underway without knowing when we could come home. But there is no museum for this, no Sturgeon submarine afloat for my kids to see. My boat, specifically, was boiled down and recycled. It's like it never happened, a footnote in our nation's military history. It's like it doesn't matter. However, as EM1 (SS) Finch once told me, "You don't get a medal for just doing your job."

Recently I found a bunch of web sites where Cold War servicemembers are trying to get a special medal for their contributions. You can get a wimpy Cold War certificate from the DOD, but not a medal.

I'll complicate this feeling only a bit more by saying - last year I went to a local VFW for the first time. A couple of the old vets expressed dissapointment that I didn't have a combat ribbon in my record. Once again I stated, my boat never killed any bad guys, but not for lack of willingness. I felt embarrassed. I haven't been back to the VFW. I'm proud of my submarine service, and proud of their combat service, but sorry they aren't proud of mine.

Part Six - The Little Engineer

Saturday night, Bethany and I had a dinner date with CDR Bill Donovan, TUNNY's Engineer Office from my time onboard. Bill Donovan and I had a special bond, I worked for him back aft, of course, but more than that - we kept our demon of an Oxygen Generator running. I kept it repaired, and he helped me explain it's problems to the Captain. It was a challenge, and he used to make fun of me for these boxes of parts I kept in my rack... electrical components I purchased at Radio Shack. At the time, I was learning about electricity and putting together little electronic cicruits in my off watch time (what a nerd). Anyway, these little parts occasionally found use in a ship's emergency repair, and we were sitting around trying to solve a repair problem one day at sea when I looked up and said, "Wait a minute, I have one of those in my rack." That really stuck with the Eng. He thought I could scurry away and find any part, never failing to solve a problem.

Bethany and I met Bill and his new wife Amber in downtown Waikiki. Dinner was great, and Bill picked up the check, which I really appreciated. The girls didn't eat much, but we did ok. I tried to get to know Amber - wanting to learn what she saw in him. I wanted to learn about him as a "person", what was lovable, what he did that made her swoon. Bill seemed content to hold her hand and tell sea stories. We had some laughs, but really the best part of the whole evening was seeing him let his guard down and laugh. He definitely tried to be friends with us. I am smiling just sitting here typing this. It was nice.

Bill and Amber Donovan, Bethany and Tom Jordan

And, because you come to the TUNNY site for news and my unique gift for research and reporting... Here is a a TUNNY web page exclusive: Amber is pregnant. They expect a baby sometime near Jan, 2004. In Bill's words, "Yep, we are expecting a little Engineer."

Congratulations to them both, and thanks for such a great night on the town.

Part Seven - My amateur"688 Class" submariner comparison

I heard stories that today's sailors don't have the unswerving will to get work done that our guys had. I cannot authoritatively confirm this for you. I saw some examples of it, but it's hard to say.

During discussions with a former TUNNY shipmate, now a senior enlisted person onboard a 688, I was told that "688 sailors lack the determination found in a 637-Class sailor." That, "688 sailors expect work to be done for them, or a great deal of assistance."

While I was onboard the Honolulu, an Electrician's Mate came into control looking for electrical isolation prints for a phone cicruit. I was stunned and asked one of the Nav ETs, "Doesn't E Div have this print? Don't they have all prints for every electrical circuit?" The ET replied, "No, they don't. That's our gear. They wouldn't have prints for our gear." I was stunned. Onboard TUNNY, E Div had every print, we never asked a Coner for a print. Of course, this could have been due to the lack of electrical tabs onboard the Honolulu, merely a coincidence that it looked wrong to me.

But I heard this comment from every 637-Class sailor I met.

Part Eight - A visit to the Marini's

Like last year, we wanted to spend time with Rick and Jill Marini. This is because ETCS (SS) Rick Marini has always been a happy, friendly person to spend time with. And his wife Jill is just as much fun. We really enjoy the chance to sit with them, and it's always a million laughs.

Our first evening with the Marinis was at Bucco Di Beppo's, which I realize is a chain restaraunt, but we had never been there. The food was good, the waiter was funny. If you want to have a good time there, you'd better take Rick and Jill.

Man I look fat in this picture. I swear it's the shirt.

Tom, Bethany, Jill and Rick.

Goodnights came too early (it seemed), although we had sat there a couple of hours. We made a followup date to see them at home, and watched Ice Age on their floor with the kids. I wish we could do this every week. It would sure be cool if they could fly to Dallas next time.

Tom, Brittney, Becca, Josh, Zach Marini

Part Nine - Dinner with some TUNNY nukes

I was glad to have dinner with a couple of shipmates, ET1 (SS) Chuck Kahl and EM2 (SS/DV) Chad Miller. We brought along the wives (mine = Bethany, Chad's = Suzanne, Chuck's = Merly), and Chuck brought his kids, Ashley and Josh. We had a good time, but way too short for me. Chad had to run, and do some work. I was able to meet Chad's wife - they are newleyweds, and fun to hang out with. I was glad to see Merly again, I had hoped to find out more about her, but maybe I was too loud and ran her off.

The dinner visit was too short, so Chuck agreed to meet me the next day (at Burger King) for lunch. Which is also the day we left Pearl Harbor, the trip nearly over.

On the day we were to leave, I met Bethany and Chuck at Burger King. We sat there for 2 hours and chatted about just anything. It was nice. Chuck and I are glad to visit again, after 10 years, and hate to see this visit end. So, as we go outside, still talking about staying in touch, finally there isn't anything more to say and we just stand there near his old boat (USS Columbia), in the hot asphalt parking lot. That's it. We've just stopped talking and we're just standing there, silent. The sun is hot. We know we have to say our Goodbyes, and end this reunion.

After a minute, Chuck says, "I don't know what to say..." Which is exactly what I was thinking, I was glad he said that because all I had to say was, "me, either."

Bye, bye, he said. Bye I said. Handshake.

And we turn away from each other and start walking to our cars. And I'm thinking a hundred miles an hour, "wow - there goes Chuck. I'm sure glad I saw him and don't know when I'll see him again - maybe forever - and there he was and if I turn around I can still actually see him, maybe again. And so I turn around and yell, "Goodbye Chuck! Goodbye! Goodbye!", wildly waving both arms up and down like a crazy person. And Chuck turns and looks back and waves a little and it cracks him up for me to be yelling Goodbye so wavey and big, and when he laughs and shakes his head, it looks like when we would hang around together inport... I would do something retarded and he would kind of chuckle and shake his head.

And there it was nice to crack him up again. We felt better about saying goodbye. It felt familiar, and good... which is all we had hoped for.

Part Ten - On Being a Great Submariner

Quote / Rick Marini at his house # 1: ...I've got no problem with people who do their six years and get out - the Navy isn't for everyone.

Quote / Rick Marini at his house # 2: ...You decided to quit because you decided the Navy wasn't for you.

Quote / ETC Gaulden during field day: How come the only mf that's cleaning is the Reservist?

I know you look at me and see "only a Reservist". Thanks. I can accept that I am not a crewmember onboard a submarine today. But during the 2 weeks I spent as a member of a Division abord USS Honolulu, I was glad to pitch in. I found every PMS assignment and repair task was extremely easy. I began to wonder if the ship's workload held any challenges, any strenuous demand, but none arose.The entire worklist, PMS and watchstanding duties were primitively simple. So, I resent the implication that I don't still play a part "aboard a submarine". Maybe as a Reservist, this is a little more than deck div. OK, I didn't go to sea this year, or last year.

Question: Does this make me less of a submariner than the crew onboard?

Or, instead: Does my ego defensively insist that I am "just as good as those guys?" ... Not intimidated by their Iraqi war medals and not ashamed to disappear in 2 weeks. I was not intimidated by their workload, and I was not impressed by their attitide or snobbery. The workload was easy for me.

We look at each other with contempt. They look down on me as a weekend warrior, and I look down on them because I can walk onboard and replace them with a positive attitude and get the work done where they slack and complain. Obviously, I am more capable, I think to myself. Conversely, they think I should be "somewhere else" - not in their way, and not criticizing them. And generally there aren't any reservists working onboard their boat, so they don't have any reason to appreciate me.

If we all put away our egos for a minute, what did we learn during my time onboard?

Enlistment status What they do know What they don't know
Reservists How to read a schematic and use the shipboard procedures to get the shipboard work done. Where the Torpedo Room is. And, where the isolation valves are (this wasn't the same type of boat I qualified on).
Active Duty (the guys I met) They really do run the boat and go to sea and they get it all done somehow - even without me. How to properly use the systems or procedures or technical manuals to create a clear picture.

So, if none of us is perfect - I ask you, "What is a Good Submariner?" I think we all agree my friend ETCS (SS) Rick Marini is, based on his knowledge level, attitude and experience.

I feel like I "was" a Good Submariner / even a Great submariner. And that I easily could be again: I know what to do, it's only a matter of a few weeks and I would be great again. I felt like several of the Honolulu crewmembers that I met aren't "great" yet. Meanwhile, each of us looks at the each other with contempt for the others' career decisions. Each of us goes to bed at night convinced we are doing very good things. None of us insists that everyone must follow our example. Some get out, some re-enlist, some join the Reserves. That variation is agreeable between us all.

In my case (this year), putting a cross rated nuke on a newer boat with a division of coners may be so un-natural that meaningful analysis is impossible. I was glad to see a "synchro" and talk to the Senior Chief who explained it to me, but the rest of the "cooperative" benefits were awkward and insignificant. I helped them in my "support" role, but not at my best potential - it would be better if I had hopped gravities or steam cleaned precipitator elements. This is like sending me to the WWII Bowfin as an ST: What could I accomplish in 2 weeks, working out of my rating experience? What would their crew think of me?

Considering I was a nuke, working with Coners - I guess we have to discard most of the critical evaluation that went on - for both sides. I am sure they thought I was an idiot, and I thought they were lazy and inexperienced. I couldn't trace out their radar operation, or explain any of it, and they couldn't shift the electric plant in 2 weeks.

Let's step back for a moment. ...We are all "qualified" submariners. That includes:

And this community must recognize all its' members to understand its' scope.

As an example, I could even say that sub-qualified Reservists bring special skills and experience to the boat which benefits the active duty crew. In my case, I learned alot in my civilian jobs that active duty sailors have never seen. This experience is a tool that I bring down the the boat and use. I can use this tool to solve divisional tasks.

The scope of submarining doesn't belong to any one group. I am reminded of the contempt that WWII diesel boat sailors hold for the nuke boat sailors. They say that nuke boat sailors "don't understand the hardships of going weeks without a shower, or real combat". OK, we don't. Conversely, they don't know crap about fission.

Here's what we often say about each other.. find yourself in the left hand column first:

If you are a (see below): Diesel boat sailor 637 boat sailor 688 boat sailor Boomer sailor Surface Sailor
Diesel boat sailor Great Guy Spoiled sissy Spoiled sissy Fag / Wimp Target
637 boat sailor Geezer Great Guy Lazy Fag / Wimp Target
688 boat sailor Geezer Geezer Great Guy Fag / Wimp Target
Boomer sailor Geezer Lucky (port visits) Lucky (port visits) Great Guy Target

But in spite of all this name calling, when I see anyone at my Reserve Center (Ft. Worth, Texas) wearing dolphins, I consider this person is probably a better guy than 99.9 percent of the Earth's population. .. I automatically want to like him.

So we have it both ways:

  1. We are glad to meet another submariner, glad to shake his hand and ask the hull number of his boat(s).
  2. We believe that only "our" personal experience on submarines embodies the best and most noble example of submarining. We relate to that part of us which means the most and reflects our own values and strengths.

We can't possibly believe that any other submarine experience could compare to the things we know. It is nearly impossible that hundreds of boats and thousands of submarine sailors are as tough and ready as we are. Could they have all struggled and hoped and succeeded and failed and endured and believed as strongly as my will and the accomplishments of my division and my shipmates? Were they all drunk and smart and sleepy and funny and persistant?

Our minds are too small to admit that they were all great. We can't concieve that they are all such fine, weak, brave, hard working crews. Same as us. How could all these thousands of men who stood (essentially) identical watches be so noble - and so numerous? What a giant idea to consider! And how rarely we realize it.

Yet, when there are only a few of us (from any background) in small numbers, we see those dolphins and we just "know". In the presence of small groups, we believe we are in the presence of Good men. Reliable men. Isn't it ironic that we always think each submariner we meet is the exceptional "Great Guy", yet the rest of his "different" shipmates are probably not so Great? This logic is poor. Instead, I propose to you that our egos are to blame. For a moment, try and imagine the collection of all men who wore dolphins, throughout the brief history of the submarine, and all nations. A few thousand men. The experiences that we don't share seperate us. Some were in combat, some on diesels, some newly qualified. The variety of submarine experience is considerable.

Question: But what do we have in common? Really try to answer this in your own words.

For me, I would say, "You put a boat to sea, and worked hard to do your job and it was a big, hard task, yet you can do it because you were smart and hardworking and I'll bet that you still are." And I hope to keep that in mind whenever I feel that "difference" between us. I hope I remember that no matter which submarine you worked on - You wear the dolphins because you are a reliable, hard worker.

And I hope I remember to:

That will make me a better man than I have been, and less of a ego-centric jerk.

Because everything I fail to realize (when I forget what we have in common) is my own error. I guess it was just too much for me to believe. I'll try harder to understand that I am only one Great Submariner - in a community of thousands of Great Submariners.

We spend alot of time calling the Boomer Guys "fags". Please don't let me do that in your presence. And if anybody gives me any lip because now I am "only a Reservist, lost on their boat" or some old diesel combat sailor gives me trouble, I will just say, "Please tell me what you CAN do - that you think I can NOT do."

I'll let you know how they reply.

Thanks for reading all of that. Alot of soul searching, along of hanging out in Control, a little while spent in the bilge. It was a Good Trip.

Back to the TUNNY Home Page