Wednesday, April 5, 2017

'Gun Decking My Own Little Sea Going Tree House'

In an earlier romp through my Crackerjack memories I’d fiddled a yarn about being a twidget and working in the MK68 Director on the ol’ Baglady FF 1069!  Boy those were some memories!! Looking back there are a number of skills we’ve lost out on over the years with computer aids and the streamlining of training and such!! Message Traffic Hieroglyphics has become obsolete, no more Skivvy Waivers, and what about gundecking?!?

Now as a Fire Controlman, I’d seen weapons go through a variety of phases from the ol’ salty mechanical whizbangs to the analog synchro & servo umpty squats to the digital binary two step! And on the Baglady, we were well equipped with the finest technology the 1950s had to offer!! But as a good ol’ boy Crackerjack Sailor, our job was to show off what this crumbling rust bucket could do!!!

The Baglady weren’t no spring chicken, no Sir! That ol’ girl had saggy tits held up by loose burlap potato sacks and granny panties high enough to hide her girdle if you know what I mean!! She’d had plastic surgery conversion so many times in her old age she was akin to Joan Rivers!!!

To make matters worse, this newly drafted rookie had to be one of the dumbest Fire Controlmen ever to gradiate the hallowed halls of Great Mistakes FC ‘A’ School! I bet I still hold the Guinness Book of World Records for the most modules failed in a full year of training!! Not sure how I got through or what they saw in me… I guess they found out my parents weren’t related and I could count all my fingers and toes!!!

They tried to get me to wear my thinking cap down in Gunplot learning the 53F Radar Console! I’d get lost right after the ‘Enter the diathermic frapazoid ... press the dingus key ... push the middle button down and the antenna thingy that radiates goes round and round!!’  I was a hands on kind of guy and much more interested in soaking up the rays in Sunny Southern California!!!

That must’ve been why they kept me tethered to the Director & Barbette with about fifty feet of anchor chain! I fed off of live seagulls & flying fish and was thrown a banana every so often!! So it was T-shirts topside doing the deck grey shuffle and earning my world class suntan!! More times than not it was like epic epidermal incineration looking like a boiled lobster at sunbreak!!!

The place was my very own built in armored treehouse! It was like poking your head out of a tank turret looking out the bubble end!! We were told the radiation from the radar side lobes could shrink your gonads and change the pitch of your voice!!  And sitting in the silly contraption you could manipulate yourself to the point that five minutes in any one position could cut-off the arterial circulation of your upper torso from communicating with any part of the lower half of your body!!!

Manned directors like this were out of date, even back in those days! Modern directors are just radar antennas!! But the MK68 was nice because it stabilized for rolls!! It was the only place on the ship you could get away from constant rocking if you felt seasick… but you had to Crisco your ass to move around in the damn thing!!!

Now most of my shipmates were raised by wolves at best! Their comedic sadism became evident on a regular basis and being the new dumb guy I caught the bitter end of many attempted fool’s errands!! That just came with the territory of being on the lower end of the bottom-feeding enlisted community!!!

On one particular sunny day, Randy Hansen and one of the other senior techies made their way up to the nose bleed section of the ship for some magnetron tuning fun! Now the magnetron was a high powered vacuum tube used to make radio waves to transmit out the radar antenna, and it sat on the back bulkhead of the director!! It was then they tried to convince me the magnetron was a flux capacitor and wanted me to head down to Gunplot for the triceps tuning wand!! Okay, I’d seen ‘Back to The Future’ enough times to know I was being hoodwinked… but they made a hell of a go at it!!!

Now it doesn’t take long before a Nineteen Year old red blooded Crackerjack realizes the operating advantages of the 'out of sight, out of mind' principle of human behavior and being topside all of the time presented itself with such benefits!  There was plenty of time for goofing off in the barbette with the door closed, reading skin books or some other means of screwing off!! This was my own personal space… my home away from home!!!

But Chief Petty Officers can’t stand the sight of a sailor not engaged in productive work! I would typically get lectured on inappropriate skylarking on a regular basis…

"Petty Officer Swing, the United States Navy is not here for your amusement and this is not your personal treehouse for seagoing shenanigans! When you get that through your thick fuck’n skull you might end up a fine Petty Officer one day!"

He gave me a set of instructions on what was known at the time as a ‘PMS’ card which was a new concept to this fine young boot! I’d just assume he told me how to do the job and I’d get it done!! But what did I know… I had less sea time than just about the whole gauddamned crew and I was still green as could be… so I went to work!!!

Well the Navy had this thing with springing bullshit surprise inspections to check meaningless instructions on this maintenance card to be sure we kept with the spirit of doing good work within the confines of the words contained therein! If I neglected my preventive maintenance, the Chief would have known beyond a shadow of a doubt exactly what butt pocket to plant his size twelve boondocker!! So I was to be very careful and crafty at which end to slide my ass cheeks should he catch me coloring outside the lines!!!

Now one of the maintenance checks I regular got spot checks on was greasing the gears on the supporting yokes of the director! The Director’s roll pivoted on a cross level gear attached to this supporting member!! It was a bi-weekly maintenance check to degrease and paint on new grease with one of them fancy schmancy acid brushes!! It took maybe an hour to get the job done!! And let me tell you, that director was a real bone crusher and could’ve probably smashed me into a bloody pulp on several occasions!!!

Now on this particular long and mundane sunny day I was to stick a speed wrench into the breaking mechanism and wind the director on its yoke one gear at a time! This was a long and monotonous task and I thought the problem could be solved simply by pushing in the brake hard enough with the speed wrench so it would just spin a little faster and I could catch it about every foot!! Boy I couldn’t of been any dumber as the weight of the director came crashing down at ‘Mach Speed!!’ Not only did my heart skip a beat and my arm about got torn off, but five gallon cans of General Purpose & Aircraft Grease went flying all over tarnation with acid brushes and rags in tow!!!

I don’t know if any of you old salts remember what General Purpose Grease could do?!? The stuff was all thick and black and once it got into your chambray shirt, it was only good for the rag bin!!  I had grease in my eye brows, in my ears and everywhere else within a twenty foot radius!!!

Now can you imagine the whole topside from the signal shack to the stack saturated from port to starboard?!? There was so much grease it was like kudzu vines on a Georgia road cut!! It took me three pounds of armpit salt encrustation and a half gallon of working up a sweat to keep the Skivvy Waivers off my back!!!

In hindsight, I’ve come to realize a retarded monkey could have done a better job! But that’s just the way it was!! I’ve also come to realize over the years that when it came to 'games of chance' it’s simpler just to follow the gauddamned directions than try and take shortcuts!!!

I guess a lesson was learned… yes indeed! But in those days we were like a bunch of misfit hobos not fit for normal society… hell I wasn’t alone!! And we steamed on a ship already scheduled for the scrap heap!!!

No, the Baglady wasn’t whiz bang sexy... but we kept that old dinosaur going with a lot of cussing, sweat and cumshaw parts that wouldn’t meet INSURV standards on a rainy day, that’s for damned sure!! In short… we embraced the suck!!!

I never quite understood the inferior hand-me-downs we were given and it seemed we were shortchanged when it came to replacement parts! Later in my career I learned a lot about supply being a Repair Parts Petty Officer!! But then we were operating on new and improved updated gear!!!

If you were on one of them over the hill rust buckets, you know it was operated by young fellas who had to develop armadillo hides to fend off derogatory horse shit from the crusty ol’ salty bastards wearing the scrambled eggs running the gauddamned zoo! It was long ago… the sounds, smells and sights!! Just another chronicle of one of my pain in the ass escapades for all to see!!!


  1. Was on the W.S. Sims (FF-1059). What a piece of work she was. Officers so stupid it's a wonder we didn't sink.

  2. My bucket was only 11 years old when I checked on board (USS Taylor FFG50). She's decommissioned now. I went to the ceremony two years ago and had a blast with my old shipmates again. I'd give up my left testicle to go back to sea again. Never thought I'd say that. But damn, it sure was the worst of times and the best of times.

  3. I was on the USS Wainwright DLG28/CG28, I spend many days and nights in the Guin Director, Learned as you said best place during rough Seas, Once I made FTG2 I spend all my time in front of the 53A Console, during Tracking exercises and I became Work Center Supervisor this was back in 1972-1975, Wow!! how time flies sure miss those days.

  4. Awesome story! I think I remember that escapade. :)

  5. I was a FTG striker on the Ajax AR-6 - we just had one simple MK51 director for all 4 5" gun mounts (that we were not allowed to shoot unless it was the end of the world) so my duties were not very rigorous. I had to run the system every morning and test the signals to the gun mounts, usually by tracking the cars and civilian workers on the Sasebo navy base. (They almost never seemed to notice, but I remember seeing one young Japanese woman look up to see two guns pointed directly at her and say something like "why me?")

    Other than routine maintenance, magazine inspection, and study for my rating exams, the most work the I did in 3rd Division did was help change worn out gun barrels on Destroyers rotated out of Tonkin Gulf - that was real work!
    The barbette on the Ajax was an unlisted space, so it was never inspected! We kept our tools and supplies in it, along with a reel-to-reel tape recorder (this was before cassette tape players) and headphones. We figured out that having speakers would not be a great idea because the barbette was directly above the Captain's ready room! Many hours of skating, especially at sea...

    After I passed my tests and made PO3 I applied for new construction and was assigned to the San Jose AFS-7. Two MK56 systems and all that related hardware to maintain - plus UNREP and VERTREP duties! No skate time at all.
    I eventually learned enough to pass the PO2 tests (without any school) but when they said I would have to add two years active duty to be promoted I decided to go to college instead. Just before I left, the ship was inspected by the new Commodore of SERVGRU3 - the previously Captain of the Ajax! When I presented my duty space (the forward director and barbette) he remembered me (I suppose from many "12 o'clock reports" I made as POOW, not too badly botched ;-) ) and mentioned how much bigger the barbettte was - and so empty!

    I really benefited from my FT training and experiences - got an Industrial Design degree in college and worked in Silicon Valley through the next 3 decades designing all kinds of electronic products and such. I don't think I could have picked a better direction to go in the Navy!