What is was like to have sea duty aboard a submarine tender.
The first thing I learned about being in the Navy, is that if your duty station is a ship, and it’s moving across the ocean, sometimes it takes you, a long time, to catch up to it, to get on it. That was the deal with this ship, and the destroyer I was on also. It took me almost a month to catch up to the destroyer I was stationed on. It did not take me as long, to catch up to the ship. The ship was on its way to Subic Bay, in the Philippines. And I was going to meet it at the pier, when I got there finally.
After arriving in Manila, me and some other guys that were headed to the ship, stayed the night in Manila, for the first night. That was the first night I had spent in another country, ever, in my life. There were several of us, that flew into Manila that same day, and we needed to take a taxi about 2 hours south, to meet the ship.
We got a nice hotel room in Manila, it was overlooking the streets below, where all kinds of vendors, and jeep like taxis were everywhere, honking their horns non stop. We did not know what to do, so we stayed in the lounge of the hotel. That first night, we all drank right there in the lounge, and just stayed there. We had been traveling for awhile, and we were told not to go out and party, but we did party a little bit, but just in the hotel lounge.
The next morning, a white little van, with air conditioning, came and picked us all up. It drove us to the town where the ship was waiting. Along the way, you could see many different types of taxis, and tons of fields, that we all guessed, were rice fields.
The taxi drivers seemed to drive more crazy than in the United States. They swerved at stuff, hardly slowed down to let anyone cross the street, had tons of decorations glued all over the hoods, and it was all of them, that decorated their taxis heavily. They would honk their horns constantly, and sometimes if you are watching the driver, he is just honking the horn, to honk the horn. There were 3 wheeled motorcycle taxis that they called trikes, all over the place. They were the cheapest way to get around.
I consider myself to be a good motorcycle rider, since I grew up with dirt bikes and motorcycles all the time. One day, I asked one of the trike drivers, if I could drive his 3 wheeled taxi motorcycle. He said I would have a hard time, since I never did it before. I told him I rode motorcycles all my life, I can ride his thing. He bet me 50 pesos, which is about $1, that I could not ride it from one spot, to another. Boy, I drove it just a little bit, and I could not get it to turn around for me, so he was right, you have to practice riding on of those things, to figure it out.
I was the “fresh meat” guy, again, on the ship. This was finally going to be, the real Navy. A ship with over 1,300 people on it. Our office was almost at the very top of the ship. All the admin offices, legal, public affairs, recreation, the CO, XO, and Command Master Chief offices were connected together. The offices are connected together, so we can all use some of the same spaces. You had to do the standard duties anyone aboard a ship would have to do. Fire fighter training, drills, man overboard, abandon ship, nuclear spill, and other type of drills.
Everyone does special training, and you learn other things about the ship. One of my first duties besides being a yeoman, was you had to stand a watch, or serve on a flight crew, or salvage crew, or something like that. Even thou you are working in an office, at any moment, and even at 3:00 am, they might decide to do a drill, or the real thing.
One of my jobs as a seaman in the Navy, and working in the admin department, was during special sea procedures. We might be getting supplies from another ship, that is traveling threw the water, at say for example, 20 knots, and we are traveling threw the water, at the same speed also. We can transfer, fuel, supplies, food, mail, people, you name it.
They might use a helicopter to bring supplies over, from one ship to another, and during all this time, the Captain is up on the bridge, standing out on the wings, directing the ship at what speed it should be at, what course it should be on, and during all this time, he always has a young naval officer, at his side, since he is always training officers, at any given time.
The captain, who I must of saw train 50 different officers with the same thing, over and over again. Here we are, traveling at high speeds, two ships not more than 100 feet from each other. There will be a young ensign, or lieutenant junior grade, standing out on the bridge wings, trying to give the speed, and course, to the quartermaster and helmsman. Also, at the same time, he has the captain right behind him, putting a little pressure on him, telling him what to do, and asking him lots of test questions, and always testing them, and training them.
My job was to keep track of what speed and what course we were on at all times. The young officers would get confused, and could not remember what course, or what speed we were on. You usually just have to fine tune your course and speed, every so often, back and forth, just a little bit, but always back and forth, and the ships will be fine.
It looks really impressive, awesome, and powerful, to be out to sea, thousands of guys working, bright sunshine, crystal blue waters, and your cruising across the ocean, at pretty fast speeds, and you can see cargo, and other items being transferred from ship to ship, and you just think, wow, how cool looking is this.
One day, the captain was up on the bridge, and he was a pretty nice guy, he said, “Petty Officer Stead,” even though I was still only a seaman at the time, he always like to call people by a bigger rank. He said, “You must of heard me say these things over, and over again, a thousand times by now, I bet you could drive this ship better than these officers.”
I always knew when it was time to change course, I could of did what those officers were trying to learn, only because I was up there each time with the captain, when he was always training someone. It was never just the captain doing anything by himself, it was always either a drill, or an exercise, or a supply mission, he was always training junior officers, on everything he did.
One of my jobs was being the CO’s phone talker during emergencies and drills. During battle scenarios, and other things we do, each department would have one person that was a phone talker, like the repair department, the medical department, the damage department, and all the other people connected.
The captain would bark out orders, and I would bark out orders to the other departments, it was kinda like I was barking out the orders, and it was kinda fun, because everyone took it so seriously, and from wherever the captain was at, there was always a good view.
On this ship, the captain had his own kitchen and cook. The cook was part of our department, as the Supply Department, and Executive Department, shared the same berthing space together. So we always shared our berthing with the cooks, and the supply guys.
The cook to the CO, was selected as sailor of the year, for the ship, and he was a good guy. His dream was to work at the white house, and he applied, but was rejected for the job. The captain had his own regular house size stove, refrigerator, and all the things one would have at home, in a kitchen. The cook, would ask the CO, what he would like to eat for each meal, and then make it for him. The skipper might reply, I want a light salad, steak, and whatever else he desired.
Everyone that is brand new to the ship, and is just starting out in the Navy, must perform 90 days duty, somewhere in the cooking section. Either as a cook, helper, cleaner, or whatever. My job ended up being in charge of about 3 frozen food lockers. Now on the ship, there must of been, at least 12 storage lockers, for milk, food, bread, hamburgers, you name it.
We had an elevator at each entrance, and at the top of the ship, we had our own crane. Before we would go out to sea, some semi tractor trailer trucks would come, and we would load the ship up with fresh food, and lots of it. On the ship, you usually get to have 4 meals a day, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and one at midnight again, called mid rats, for people that are still hungry, or people going on watch, or getting off watch. When you have 1,300 people it takes a lot of food.
Working in the food storage department for 90 days was fun, the guy in charge of us was pretty cool. We were always allowed to have the day off, as soon as you got your work done. That meant all of our work, so if someone was done, we would help the next guy get his work done, until all the things were done, and a lot of days, we were done working by noon, and we would be off for the rest of the day. Not too bad a job really.