Saturday, March 24, 2007

Welcome Aboard!

Saturday, March 24, 2007
Welcome Aboard!

Larson took me to the Operations berthing compartment and showed me where my rack and locker was.

Oh joy, another top rack. Wasn't expecting that. At least they have curtains, which means some privacy.

"What's that?" I asked, pointing to a metal tube and what looked like those "fans" on airplanes.

"That's the air. When you turn it on air blows out on your face and chest. It's not A/C but it's better than nothin' when it gets hot," Larson said.

I clicked it on. Nothin'.

"It doesn't work. The yardbirds are fixing it or somethin'. It was supposed to be fixed months ago," he chuckled.

"Terrific," I said, disappointed.

"Get used to it. Bein' in the yards sucks," Larson said.
"There's always stuff that's broken, like some of the showers, plumbing problems galore, electrical problems. The strike isn't helping matters," he continued.

"Strike? But I saw some yardworkers welding on the way here," I said.

"Scabs. Those are the guys the bosses call in during strikes. But there aren't enough of them, and we're now behind schedule. Know what that means?" Larson asked.

"We will be here longer?" I answered, somewhat bewildered.

Larson laughed, shaking his head no.

"No way! Do ya think the Captain and his bosses are going to tell their bosses the Duluth isn't going to be fixed up on time? Not a chance!" Larson exclaimed.

"Well, then what?" I asked.

"We are going to do what the yardbirds are supposed to do. At least until the strike is over. We are working a few hours extra each day on top of that. If we don't catch up, you can count on even more hours. Welcome to paradise," said Larson, sarcastically.

Oh joy. I can hardly wait, I thought.

"Anyways, hurry up and get your stuff stowed, then I'll show you where Combat is,"
Larson said.

I quickly unpacked my seabag and locked up my lockers.

"Should I change to dungarees?" I asked.

"Later. You won't be doin' any dirty work 'til tomorrow. Besides, you want to make a good impression. Gotta learn to play the game, you know?" Larson said matter of factly.

Game? I never really thought of work in the Navy in those terms.

"My uniform is dirty," I said, looking at my sweat-soaked shirt and the smudges the dust had made.

"You look alright. But if you wanna change your shirt then go for it," he said, lighting up a smoke.

"Do I have time to take a shower?" I asked.

"The water is off down here until 1800. They're workin' on the plumbing or somethin'.
Just throw on some extra deoderant," Larson chuckled.

Crap! This sucks! I thought. What kind of welcome is this?

I changed my shirt and t-shirt, spraying on alot of extra right guard.

"Hey! You'll get used to it. We all stink most of the day, some more than others," Larson said laughing.
"They're gonna think your a french whore," he continued.

Ha ha! Very funny, I thought, not feeling the humor.

"Okay! Let's go then," I said tersely, buttoning up my shirt.

"Now don't get mad. I was just funnin' you. My name's Al, but everyone calls me Larson," he said, putting his hand out.

"Ben Conrad," I said, shaking his hand. "Sorry. I just wasn't expecting this," I said.

"No bigee. The love boat this ain't," he said, laughing.

I folloed Larson up the ladder, down the passageway, took a detour back down, then back up, across the mess decks, forward and up, and up to the 0-2 level, until we finally reached Combat.

This Combat is big, I thought, compared to the Henderson.

"Hey Chief, here's the new guy, Conrad," Larson said.

The Chief looked up from his desk in the back of Combat. He was a small man with Navy issue thick-framed (black) glasses, which were popular in the '50's.
Apparently, the Navy saw no reason to change it's fashion statement.

"Chief Manning. Welcome aboard Conrad," he said, getting up and shaking my hand.

"Thanks Chief," I said.

"Want some coffee?" Chief asked.

"Aye Chief. I sure do," I said, suddenly very thirsty.

"Help yourself. We have some styrafoam cups, but we run out often, so you'll want to get your own cup from the ship's store if you drink much java," he said.

I grabbed the cups which were covered with dust of course. I took a cup out and wiped the dust off, and poured a cup.

"Have a seat, Conrad" Chief said, pointing to the chair on the other side of his desk.

I sat down and sipped some java. Damn! That's bitter and strong! I thought, but thankful nonetheless.

"Coming from A school?" Chief asked.

"No, the Henderson," I said. "They're sellin' her to Pakistan."

"Damn shame. Let me see your orders and records." Chief said.

"Right here Chief," I said, handing him both.

Larson lit up a cigarette, and I followed suit. It felt good to relax, even though the coffee wasn't good.
I wondered where everyone else was, looking around at all the radio handsets and headsets, RADAR repeaters, DRT, Navigation table, status boards, IFF, TACAN...what was that room to the side?

"Nice evals!" Chief said, still reading.

"Thanks Chief," I said, sitting up straighter.

"Is this right? You were the Captains cook?" Chief asked.

"That's right. The real cook went AWOL," I said.

"Ha ha ha! Poof! Your a cook! That's bizarre," Chief said laughing.

"You have no idea Chief," I said, smiling.

"93% in A School. Pretty good," Chief mumbled, flipping through my records.
"Looks like your up for Seaman in November," Chief said. "Ouch! Dislocated shoulder?
Those hurt," Chief continued.

"Man, they sure do!" Larson said. "I dislocated my right shoulder when I was a kid.
We were..."

"Wait a minute! This is a private conversation Larson. This is personal information. Take a walk for a few minutes. Go find Mike while your at it," Chief said.

"Okay Chief!" Larson said, leaving.

"Sorry about that. I didn't know he was listening in," Chief said.

"No problem Chief," I said.

No harm done, I thought. At least Chief didn't read out loud how I dislocated my shoulder.

"Ha ha! Did all this really happen with your shoulder, and concussion?" Chief asked.

"Yes it did Chief," I said, embarrassed.

"Don't worry. The only one's who will know is me, the Division officer, Department head, XO, CO, and Doc's," the Chief said, smiling.

Wonderful. Why not announce it over the 1MC, I thought. Was that dust in my coffee?

Chief closed my records, and handed them back to me.

"Muster is at 0700 sharp on the foc'sle. We normally work until 1800, depending on our progress. Hopefully this is temporary, depending on when the strike ends. Did Larson tell you about that?" Chief asked.

"Aye Chief," I said.

"I'll tell you up front, I don't care what you do on liberty as long as you stay out of trouble. I hate drugs, so don't let me catch you with any onboard, understood?"
He asked, staring into my eyes.

"No problem there Chief," I said.

"Good. I know some of the men smoke pot and maybe do drugs when their on liberty.
I don't like it, but there is nothing I can do about it, unless they are caught with drugs onboard. Stay away from those guys, they are nothing but trouble! I wish we had a urinalysis program, but right now we don't. Drugs are a big problem, and so is gambling and slushers, or loan sharks.
I can't emphasize this enough. Stay away from those guys!" Chief said, looking upset.

"Aye Chief!" I said.

"Work hard and stay out of trouble and we'll get along fine. If you have any questions or problems I'll be glad to help out, but go to Mike, OS1 Martin first.
I believe in the chain of command, so I expect you to use it. Never, ever go over my head, or anyone elses, or you will regret it. If you don't like what OS1, or I say or do in regards to any problems, you can go higher, but you have to see us first.
I just want to be clear on that," Chief said, still staring me in the eyes.

"Aye Chief! Perfectly clear!" I exclaimed.

He's starting to bug me with that staring, I thought.

"What's up Chief?" A first class, I assumed OS1 Martin, asked, as he entered CIC.

He was a big man, and looked somewhat like a Samoan or Native American.

"Mike, this is OSSA Conrad. I need you to get him checked into Personnel, and show him around," Chief said.

I stood up and shook his massive hand. No test of strength, fortunately, I thought.

"Okay, follow me," Mike said. "And welcome aboard," he added.

"Thanks Petty Officer Martin," I said.

"Mike. Call me Mike, unless officers are around," Mike said.

"Okay Mike," I said.

"Larson, go help those guys on the mast," Mike said, as we were leaving.

Mast? Did he say mast?

"I thought I was showing Conrad around," Larson said.

"I'm doing that. Tell Rutherford we need another needlegun," Mike said.

"I'll tell him, but I know they're out. Whatever we get in the morning is pretty much it for the rest of the day," Larson said.

"Damnit! Then tell him to get more chipping hammers and sand paper. We'll do it by hand until we can get more pneumatic and power tools," said Mike.

"What about the sander?" Larson asked.

"It broke too. Look, I don't have time for this. Return the broken tools and get the hammers and sand paper," Mike said. "Rutherford is in charge until I get back."

"Alright Mike. See ya later," Larson said.

We are working on the mast? I wondered.

As we made our way to Personnel, Mike looked at my orders.

"You were on the Henderson?" He asked.

"Aye. For 3 months," I said.

"Why only 3 months?" He asked.

"They sold her to Pakistan," I said.

"Sh^t! Are you serious?" Mike asked.

"Yeah, sorry to say," I said.

"I had a friend on there. He got transferred before you arrived. Jim is going to be pissed when he finds out!" Mike exclaimed.

"I don't blame him," I said.

When we arrived at Personnel there was a line.

"Hurry up and wait," Mike said, looking at his watch.

"Ain't that the truth," I said.

"Did Larson get you a rack and locker assignments?" Mike asked.

"Aye, no problem," I said.

"Good. When we get done here, Conrad, you can go change into your dungarees. I doubt you'll see the XO or Captain today. They're both off the ship right now," Mike said.

"Ben. Call me Ben, unless officers are around," I said, smiling.

"Ben it is," Mike said, laughing.

"So Mike, what are you doing on the mast?" I asked.

"Getting the rust off, and old paint. When we finish that we will put some primer on it and then paint it," he said. "That includes the yard arms," he added.

"Damn," I said.

"Damn is right. The yardbirds were supposed to do it. Now we have to. F*cking union," Mike said.
Posted by USS Ben USN (Ret) at 2:48 AM


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