Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hidden Treasure

With expressed permission… I bring to you a funny story written by Dino Myers from USS Buchanan DDG14 between 1971-75…  With observations by Dino’s Ops Boss, John Howard, LTjg, 1972-74… and Rebuttal by Dino!!!

BUCHANAN at the end of the 72’ cruise was one of six destroyers that were designated Mod Squad ships. Mod Squad - for those not familiar with the term - was one of Admiral Zumwalt’s programs rewarding deserving officers with commands normally given to officers of the next higher rank… Case in Point, the Commanding Officer of a destroyer is normally a Commander, but in the Mod Squad, a Lieutenant Commander was given command. The failure of the concept is the subject of another story. At this point, late 73’ we had been Mod Squad for over a year, and by then we were already on our second CO.

“Not only was the CO one rank junior, the XO and the Department Heads were one rank junior too. And with the Department Heads being LTjgs the Division Officers had to be Ensigns or junior Jgs... That’s how I came to be the Ops Boss as a LTjg and end up with ET's like Dino working for me. I’m looking forward to the reasons why the Mod Squad concept was a failure, Dino. We were on our second LCDR CO because the first… LCDR John Dalrymple, was relieved for cause when the ship got a pretty bad report from the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). Oddly enough, Dalrymple went on to make Admiral and Roche (the guy who replaced him) retired as a Captain and just finished four years as Secretary of the Air Force.” 

The command had made the decision that the reason we had been unable to pass the last FIT REP was because very important warfare things had been overlooked!! Things like cleaning, painting, replacing linoleum in passageways, insuring the Bosn’s Pipe call was played before every 1MC announcement when at sea!!!

“He-he-he… And not being able to get underway without jury-rigging just about every piece of equipment in the entire engineering plant!”

I had been aboard for two years when LCDR Roche took command in June of 73.’ During those two years, I could count the number of times I heard the Bosn’s Pipe onboard on one hand and have fingers left over. And just as important, that all the windshield wipers on the bridge pointed in the same direction …  all to Port or all to Starboard.

“What the heck were you doing on the bridge, Dino? You must have been fixing one of the SPA-25 radar repeaters?!?”

“Actually I had forgotten the windshield wiper tidbit until Jim Roche brought it up at first reunion.” 

“I wonder why Dino didn’t like the pipe… Maybe his rack was right under a 1MC speaker? Or did the pipe wake him from his naps in the Radar Room?”

“I just thought it shouldn’t be played in the enlisted berthing like it was not played in Officers Country. My naps in Radar were at my own risk!”

To assist with resolving some of these problems, Thursday of each week was designated for Captain’s Inspection. This consisted of all hands being reclassified as janitors for a day. In the morning, all passageways and spaces were secured so they could be cleaned. The only spaces accessible were those that had access via weather decks. After lunch… inspection started each team with an officer to find dirt and a Yeoman to record the event! They left the Wardroom on their mission!! Captain Roche would go with a different team each week!!!

“Well, the inspection was really called a Zone Inspection, and they weren’t weekly, they were monthly as I recall. And the purpose was not just to make sure the spaces were clean, but more importantly to make sure all the DC equipment worked and that any problems – of any sort – were recorded so that they could get prioritized to get fixed. We spent a lot of SurfPac’s maintenance dollars during the months after Roche took command.”

“I stand corrected. That was the original definition of inspections. Maybe was once a month but sure seemed like every week.” 

One Thursday a young Ensign asked to look inside a locked cabinet in Radar. This cabinet contained the extra parts all ETs kept outside the supply system – parts like vacuum tubes, transistors, and fuses. There had been some concern by Captain Roche about hoarding unauthorized spare parts- wanting it stopped and all parts returned to stock. I did what any Second Class would do when a green Ensign asked dumb questions... I explained that it contained the manuals for equipment and they were kept locked up because they were classified. This confused the Ensign because he knew he did not have the ‘need to know’ so he wasn’t sure if he could make me open the cabinet. Being unsure how to proceed, he did not press the issue.

“Pretty quick thinking, Dino! The Ensign in question must have been the Disbursing Officer.”

“Good guess can't slip one by you.”

The following week Captain Roche happened to accompany the inspection team that was to do the Radar Rooms. I never knew if this was just their time in the rotation, or if the events of the previous week had anything do with it. Well, whatever it was, the inspections had started and we were waiting to present the spaces when a panicky young Third Class ran into Radar and insisted I follow him to Aux Radio and see something that appeared to him to signal the end of the world. In the space was a ship’s entertainment speaker box about 18 inches square and 6 inches deep, mounted on the bulkhead just above shoulder height.

“Probably just the luck of the rotation – but you’ll never know for sure...”

He had gotten bored while waiting for the inspection party and opened the box – only to discover a half-full fifth of Scotch in the speaker! It only took me a quick second to figure who the Scotch belonged to… based on location and brand. This individual had been discharged and flown home from Subic Bay over a year and a half earlier. The bottle had been fermenting there ever since with no one knowing of its existence. I figured that running through the passageways with a bottle of Scotch with Officers… Chiefs…  and the Master-at-Arms patrolling everywhere was a bad idea! Besides… who would ever believe my explanation???

“Boy, ain’t that the truth… I know I would have had a hard time choking down that story!!!”

The only thing that made sense was to close the box and go through the inspection as normal. I would dispose of it later. After all it had already been there for over a year with no one the wiser…

“Good thinking!!”

Radar was the first space inspected. All went well but as the Captain was just about to leave, he stopped at the locked cabinet. Then he looked at me with a smirk as if to say he knew what was inside but there were certain things officers should not ask… also to remind me not to blow too much smoke up the young Ensign’s ass. I smiled back so he understood that I had gotten the message with the knowledge that the spare parts inventory was safely hidden in the SPS 37 power supply. The cabinet now contained manuals as I had described to the Ensign the week before.

Next was Aux Radio... I was concerned the Third Class would prostrate himself over the speaker box screaming…  

"There ain’t nothing in here that shouldn’t be in here!!!"

so I stepped over to ‘supervise.’ I don’t know what brought the Captain’s attention to the speaker box (maybe I wasn’t as cool as I thought… or maybe the Third Class was staring at it with sweat on his forehead… or maybe it was just dumb luck). The Captain asked what a ship’s entertainment speaker was doing in a working space, so I explained that during the last cruise this space was used by our DJ to transmit from, and there was no longer a speaker in the box. This seemed to satisfy the Captain’s curiosity, and my blood pressure started to return to normal as the Skipper turned away.

“I’m laughing pretty hard right now – I can see the scene as plain as day!”

But then the Ensign reached up and pushed on the speaker screen. There were no screws in the top of screen and it caved in, hitting the bottle which then started to wobble. My ear was only inches from the side of said box so it sounded like a freight train to me! The space was small and with the Captain, Ensign, Yeoman, Third Class and myself… there was no room to spare. The Captain had turned his back so I slid between the speaker box and the Ensign, and glared down at him. After all, what good does being big and ugly do if you don’t use it? This move sent the Ensign to the Skipper’s side for protection, and we got through inspection without disturbing the Scotch anymore!

“Who was the Yeoman? Was it YN1 Leech… or maybe PN1 Bob Bussey? If it was Bob, he was probably in on the whole thing from the git-go!”

“I don't remember who it was but figured if one more guy came in the space we’d have to wear condoms to prevent some nasty disease! “

At liberty call that day the bottle of Scotch left with me and was used to celebrate the fact that I had somehow managed to finish the same rank that I started with that morning!!

“Simply amazing!’


  1. Yes I agree with second comment,made me laugh thanks

  2. Great story, but In 20 years of service, I don't believe I was ever in a command that didn't do zone inspection weekly.

  3. I remember we used to have ZIDLs (Zone Inspection Discrepancy Lists) in every space. During inspections anything out of order was placed on the list. However if we had already placed it on the list it was ok, as long as it had a job order or part # (if missing) assigned.