So No Joke, There I Was

I’ve realized that we don’t have a single unified thread for us to tell our collective “there I was” stories. I know that we’ve all had our chances to intersperse them into the various threads, and even given how much we all enjoy derailing threads, I figure there are some good stories that deserve to be shared for posterity (at least the versions that we can share publicly). So with that in mind, I figure maybe it’s time to start a separate thread for this!

I’ll start off with the Time the Reagan Raced Her Battle Group.

Summer of 2004. The Reagan was in the middle of her transit from her construction yard in Newport News, Virginia to her new homeport of San Diego, California. This was early July, and was the day before we crossed the equator for the second time (on the Pacific side). At the time, we were steaming with the destroyers Mustin and Benfold, and the oiler Camden. We’d just finished playing with the Pacific Fleets in Summer Pulse '04, and were in our final preparations for our arrival party at our new home. Morale was at an all time high, and the command had decided that we’d have a steel beach picnic on the flight deck for the crew the next day.

Word had filtered down to Reactor and engineering the week before that the CO and XO were interested in doing a race of some kind with the ships we were sailing with, and our reactor officer, an old cruiser guy (who I think was one of the last nuclear cruiser CO’s left in the fleet at that time) was very, very visibly excited by the challenge, and making sure that not only would we win, but that we would win by a lot. He immediately started huddling with the technical section heads and they got to work on devising a plan.

I should probably explain that due to the unique intricacies of nuclear reactors and steam plants, getting up to speed as quickly as possible isn’t just a matter of winging open the throttles as quickly as possible and holding on. Because of how a pressurized water reactor’s power level in the application of a propulsion plant is directly affected by the steam demand on the system (here’s a link explain a bit better: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressurized_water_reactor#Control), there are careful parameters that have to be followed to ensure that no protective safety systems kick in from the lag and overshoot that result from the way reactor power level changes. In addition, the effects of shrink and swell in a boiler (which is basically what the steam generators are) also plays a role in limiting how fast throttle changes can happen (that last part will be important a bit later- we’ll come back to it). Add in all the various pieces and parts of supporting equipment, controls, etc, and there’s a lot to do.

The Reactor Officer and other department heavies developed a plan, and the RO passed it on to us personally, a gleam in his eye even brighter than the one when he’d been acting CO in Rio de Janiero a month prior (that’s another story). We didn’t know then exactly when the race would be taking place, so just to be on the safe side, all the watchteams were briefed, even going so far as having each one step through and simulate what needed to be done when and in what order the next time they were on watch.

Race day finally came, and I was lucky enough to be off watch. We all came to a stop and the smaller ships maneuvered into position alongside us, and we waited for the official start to kick off the race. I stopped through Central Control, where the Engineering Officer of the Watch and his team keep an eye on both reactor plants, as well as topside engineering monitoring a lot of other parameters from around the ship (and where I stood my senior in rate watches as well). The RPM indicators for all four shafts would jump from time to time, as the throttlemen in each plant would roll over the mains to keep the turbine rotors from bowing- basically revving the engines.

I went up to the flight deck and grabbed a spot on the starboard side forward and waited for the race to start. Benfold and Camden were off on that side, and Mustin was off to port.

At the sound of our saluting cannon, the race began. I wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall in either of the plants or central to watch how they did everything, but the view was much better topside.

Both of the DDG’s took early jumps as their gas turbines were a bit faster to spin up, and the Camden stayed about even with us for the first little bit, before we saw a sudden large burst of smoke from her stack, and she began falling behind us pretty quickly. Within a couple of minutes we had caught back up with the two destroyers, and we watched and waved as Benfold’s prow slid past our view, then behind us and behind our fantail. On the other side, Mustin was doing the same. We kept going for a bit longer, until all three ships were rapidly receding dots in the distance, before we again fired our saluting gun, and coasted and slowed to a stop. When it was all said and done, it wasn’t even close.

We found out later that in their rush to accelerate and keep up with us (Camden may have had a shot, as the Sacramento-class AOE’s were specifically designed to keep up with fast carrier groups), she’d managed to blow out the fire in one of her boilers, and it took a while to get it re-lit. We’re thinking that it was probably due to a swell condition. Basically, the sudden drop in pressure inside the boiler and steam header due to the massive change in steam demand from winging open the main engine throttle led to a huge inrush of feedwater. This may have led to overflowing the high side of the water drum, and put out the fire. So that was what happened.

Our honor safely intact, we continued on our way, before stopping the next day for a great party topside. The Reagan family and Santa Barbara Navy League had flown out steaks and chefs to cook them (to order) for the crew (MAN those people had deep pockets), and a couple of buddies of mine had started a punk band with a couple of other folks aboard, and they were invited (along with the detachment of Navy Band Southeast who was riding with us) to perform for the crew. Needless to say, a good time was had by all.

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Fantastic story! Did they never give the Camden a chance for a rematch?

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Thanks for posting this @Navynuke99 that was fricking awesome to read! Man, carriers are so badass.

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Sadly, no. The race was pretty much a one and done thing, then we had to get back to work. Plus, according to a guy in my shop who was talking to a girl on the Camden at the time, they broke something in one of their engine rooms. Plus, within the next week or so, we started having our own engineering issues…but that’s a whole different story…

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I swear I could read these for hours…

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In layman’s terms, you try to avoid this:

:open_mouth:

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I mean, so long as there’s not a crazy swinger love triangle (no guarantee of that aboard an aircraft carrier), and no manually-operated control rods (definitely a guarantee), you should be fine, right?

Edit: this is what I’m referencing there:

http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2017/ph241/berrios1/

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OK a great (horribly great) article…where does the love triangle come in?

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http://environmental-defense-institute.org/publications/SL-1Article%20Rev5.pdf

Apparently, the story goes that Byrne was having marital problems, and Legg may or may not have been involved with that to some degree. There are old nukes from way back in the day in a couple of social media groups I’m in who claim to have known the men involved at SL1, or known people who knew people, etc etc. I take the story with a grain of salt, but it does make for some interesting intrigue.

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So the issue here now is that I can’t wait for @Hangar200’s and @Navynuke99’s next stories!

Basically I can fully relate to my daughter who says “Please! More storytime!” every time I close a book :smiley:

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Excellent story and well told. Great picture of what is good about life in the navy. The comradery and playing with the big toys. Sounds like a fun time. Jell-O called it “fun-jail” on the cast the other day. I thought that made a lot of sense :wink:

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From the Harrier Blowing Up track:

Summer of 1986. Flightdeck fire fighting class in Norfolk VA. They have a big pit area, flush with the pavement and covered over by a steel grating, with a simulated (and well burned) steel “plane”- a cylinder fuselage, a pointy nose and a couple of delta wings tacked on. Its got DFM (essentially diesel fuel) lines with nozzles stuck on it and some type of electric spark ignition system. When they light it up it goes “Whoomp” and you get some spectacular, hot, rolling orange flames and thick black, black smoke…did I mention that it is hot…really, really hot.

So we’ve spent most of the morning learning how to hook up the hose and and what the different positions do (nozzle-man, back-up nozzle-man, hose-man (x many), plug man…even this far away in years I remember it). We’ve got two hoses going. They light up the plane and we put it out then switch around positions so everybody gets a chance at the different positions.

Then they teach us how to put away the hoses. How to disable them, how to roll them to get the water out of them, etc.

The they send us off to take a break - 10 minutes - a smoke break (this was 1986) - so we all saunter off about 50-75 yards where the break area is.

I’m chatting with an LDO LT maintenance officer (callsign Spanky because he looked like Spanky in the Little Rascals)…he’s having a smoke … we’re just talking…

WHOOMP!

…we all turn…our instructors are all yelling and waving their arms…the mock jet s seriously on fire…

We all start running…as he’s running Spanky says, “Yeah, they always do this.”

He knew. He had been through this training probably a half dozen times from when he was a sailor n up…and he never let on to young Ensign Hangar200…that is awesome!!

Anyway we stumbled through getting the two hoses set upend started putting water on the fire…not nearly as quick as the guys in the video…I’m thinking if we got it done in 3 or 4 minutes we were lucky. I can’t remember what position I took…I think I ended up being the plug-man because I had gotten there first and started hooking up the hose.

Spanky ended up at as the back-up nozzle-man. He did it on purpose. He grabbed a very young sailor - obviously an E3 fresh in the fleet - and put him on nozzle-man. He told me the kid looked back at him like he was in shock; his eyes were as round saucers–obviously afraid of the fire. Spanky just looked at him and said, “Let’s go man. You gotta do it.” and then put himself into the kid’s back (the position to support the nozzle-man)…and the sailor did it.

…I did mention that the fire was hot, didn’t I?

:fire: :man_firefighter:

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But… Could it melt steel beams? :rofl:

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Although I suspect I would have known it was coming I am not certain if I would have been as aware as a teenager but I knew even before you said it that they would relight the plane. Good way to test and reinforce your training though.

Wheels

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Ah yes, good times in the firefighting trainer. It was the same way going through it at RTC Great Lakes, and even though it was the middle of January, it was still hot afterwards, particularly with an old OBA on.

I was friends with several of the photographers (one of my best friends was the ALPO of the print shop, and as I’m sure you know, they shared space with the photo lab), and they may have had firemen fetishes. Any time word went over the 1MC that we were running main space fire drills, at least two of the ladies from Photo were somehow always there waiting at the repair locker when we came out of the plant, sweaty and wearing our firefighting gear halfway undone. Good times.

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22 yo ENS Hangar200 was caught completely unaware :grin:

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What Happens in Vegas, Doesn’t Always Stay in Vegas:

So the squadron was in Las Vegas for Red Flag. We were staying at some nondescript hotel a few blocks off the Strip. This is 1987 and the drinking culture in naval air was more than adequate. One night one of our pilots finds himself on the wrong floor of the hotel, looking for one of his buddies. He has had a cocktail or two…and hasn’t quite noticed that he is on the wrong floor. He begins banging on a door. Did I mention that it is after midnight? (as my Mother once said, noting good ever happens after midnight)

Well, him being on the wrong floor, it should not surprise you that the door he is (loudly) banging on is in fact, not his buddy’s room. Quite frankly, we all thought he was doing well just getting the correct hotel…I did mention that he had had a few cocktails, didn’t I? He had.

What was a bit unexpected was that the room, upon who’s door he was loudly banging, was occupied by a Japanese gentleman and, we assume, some of his family. The Japanese gentleman in question was evidently part of a Japanese tour group that was visiting Las Vegas. (So, if you think about it, our intrepid Naval Aviator would probably have received a similar reception no matter which door he went to in that hallway…but I digress.)

So, here is the scene: A more than somewhat inebriated US Navy fighter pilot is confronted by an irritated Japanese gentleman at the door to a room that the fighter pilot believes belongs to his friend another US Navy fighter pilot. A rather noisy and accusatory discussion began.

At some point in time, the subject of Pearl Harbor was somehow introduced into the conversation, which is not entirely unexpected given the participants…Navy fighter pilot vs Japanese tourist. Evidently this little tête-à-tête went downhill from there.

Are you aware that there is a Japanese Consulate in Las Vegas? There is!

We did not know that at the time but that is where the Japanese gentleman lodged his international incident complaint later that morning.

So from this thread I may conclude that there were some subtle facial expressions and sounds that. this fighter pilot egresiously missed. My, my. I never would have guessed.

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This should transfer from a derailment of DCS Videos concerning call signs;

By way of background, most know that US Naval Aviation (and anyone ever associated with US Naval Aviation) suffered through the Tailhook Scandal. Had the Tailhook convention gotten out of control? Yes. Did “the culture” need to be reined in? Absolutely. Did it turn into witch hunt? I think so to. roe degree, but those of us who survived put it behind us. (I wasn’t there. I didn’t do anything.)

That said, there were minor “aftershocks” that occurred even years later. One was the “Clean Up Call Signs Campaign”. Every squadron skipper was required to review all the callsigns in his squadron and delete/change any that were considered inappropriate. So my buddy, a RIO called “Casp-Spooge” likely had to revert to the original “Casper” (he locked his knees while standing in ranks and passed out–his face was absolutely white…thus “Casper” the friendly Ghost. The Spooge part came a couple months later and centered around his antics on Liberty…the less said on that, the better)

It was during the execution of the Great Callsign Clean Up Campaign that the following happened. At this point, all aviation commands were supposed to be in compliance. I wasn’t there but I heard this story from more than a couple of guys, who knew a guy that was there.

COMNAVAIRLANT, the 3 star in charge of US Naval Aviation east of the Mississippi, was touring NAS Oceana. One of the places the Admiral visited was VF-101, which at the time was the F-14 RAG (training squadron).

As they tend to do, the Admiral held an All Officers Meeting (AOM) in the VF-101 Ready Room. These AOMs with “the Admiral”–any Admiral–always follow a set pattern: The Admiral tells you how great you are doing, “announces” a couple of new initiatives (that we already know all about) and then throws it open for questions.

When someone asks a question of a Admiral in a situation like this one stands, greats the Admiral, states his/her rank/name and asks his question. US Naval Aviators have a slight variation they employ. They add their call sign.

Picture yourself in this Ready Room…

The Vice Admiral finishes his spear and asks for questions. A young officer raises his hand and is acknowledged.

The junior officer stands and proudly states, “Admiral, I am Lieutenant-JG Smith, Callsign Dog Balls.…”

[Insert your own expletive here] :open_mouth:

…and that’s as far as things went. The AOM was immediately stopped. Everyone was quickly dismissed. The Admiral took the CO of VF-101 to task, in an evidently in a rather loud and pointed manner.

The CO reportedly escaped too much retribution after the initial barrage, when it was discovered that the offending JO had just checked onboard that morning and had not yet gone through the squadron’s administrative “Callsign Scrub” process.

…never heard what happened to poor old Dog Balls but that is not surprising…I’m sure he entered the fleet under a different callsign…probably living like he was in WITSEC.

Yep…them’s the breaks Naval Air. :grimacing:

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Maybe he was neutered

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A buddy of mine was the Mini-Boss on USS GUAM. One night at dinner told this story from his day in the tower.

We are at flightquarters (no unauthorized personnel on the flight deck or catwalks). He is in the tower and looks across the deck to see a young sailor that he immediately identifies as a “Snipe”–an Engineer Dept sailor who works in the “hole” the engine / boiler rooms. He can tell this because the sailor is just wearing his white T-shirt (gets hot in engineering) and is pale from lack of sunshine (they don’t get out much.

The sailor is standing in a catwalk, just kind of looking around at the flight deck activity with kind of befuddled fascination. He obviously is way out of his environment and has no flight deck protective clothing on…no flat coat, no cranial; no hearing protection.

The Mini-Boss also notices that this sailor is a few feet away from one of the 5MC speakers (the 5MC is the loud speaker system for the flight deck). My buddy picks up the 5MC handset in the tower and gently whispers, “Hey you.”

The sailor looks around. My buddy whispers, “Hey you in the catwalk. Come over here”

The kid sees the speaker. The Mini-Boss quietly whispers again, “Yes you. Come over here and listen real close. I need tell you something.”

The sailor goes to the 5MC speaker and leans over to put his ear next to it…

…at which time my buddy, the Mini Boss, yells, "GET OFF THE FLIGHT DECK!!!"

Hey…its a safety thing. :laughing:

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