During the overhaul, there was a concerted effort by the command to continue and maintain training of the new crewmen. Unfortunately, the act of overhauling the ship did not support this.
The scope of the overhaul touched every system in the ship. Forward of the reactor compartment saw the conversion from Polaris missile systems to Poseidon missile systems, including all of the support systems. The torpedo launch and fire control systems were replaced to handle the new Mk 48 torpedo as well as the Harpoon and Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Aft of the reactor compartment, all of the seawater systems were upgraded to SUBSAFE II. In the reactor compartment, the reactor itself was converted from S5W to S3G Core III. This required the change out of all the reactor support systems; rod drive, nuclear instruments, etc.
With the massive conversions and upgrades, all the old, pre-overhaul knowledge was no longer applicable. The old equipment was gone, but the new equipment had not yet been installed. How do you train anybody on a gonna-be?
Well, we tried. The new SIBs and TABs were not yet published, but Nukeland had the new Reactor Plant Manuals. The RPMs were the bible for Nukeland, so we could conduct classroom training even though the actual equipment was not yet there.
To support the submarine tradition of training, we were given lectures on the various nuclear systems during the week, with a weekly comprehensive test Friday morning. Flunk the test and you were “dink” for the following week. This meant your Saturday and Sunday and weekday evenings were given over to mandatory study on the barge.
Given the large number of NUBs (nuclear unqualified bodies) in the overhaul crew, this policy motivated a rebellion of sorts. We NUBs felt that it was not fair to have our liberty endangered over tests of knowledge about non-existent equipment. And so a contest developed between the NUBs and the training officers.
The Reactor Controls Division officer, Lt. “Pickle”, was charge with training the NUBs. He would write the weekly test and lock in his desk for safekeeping. Friday morning, Lt. Pickle would send the Assistant Reactor Controls Division officer, Lt.(jg) “Goose” with the test master copy to the ship’s office to have copies made for the morning’s test.
This was too easy.
Lt. Pickle’s locked steel desk drawer was a cinch to defeat. You simply inverted the desk and shook it to get the test paper to slide out of the gap between the top of the drawer and the desktop. There were plenty of NUBs in each duty section to accomplish this. After that, it was simply a matter of taking the test, looking up the correct answers, then disseminating that information to all of the other NUBs. The master copy was then slid back into the locked desk drawer.
This did not sit well with Lt. Pickle. He suspected that something was up, after all, how could all of these NUBs be smart enough to past his tests? No failures obviously meant that something was a foot. But what? The test was safely locked in his desk…but maybe that was vulnerable. So he took to taking the test home with him in his locked brief case.
Friday morning, Lt. Pickle would bring the master copy of the test into the office in his locked brief case. He would leave the locked brief case at his desk while he attended officer’s call and any early morning meetings. When he returned to the office, he would unlock the brief case and have Lt.(jg) Goose take the master copy to the ship’s office for copying.
Unbeknownst to Lt. Pickle, while he and Lt.(jg) Goose were at officer’s call, it was a simple matter to pick the lock on his briefcase and access the test master copy. We had many NUBs with diverse backgrounds and talents. Still, there were no test failures, so now he was sure that we were compromising his testing, but how?
The next step was for Lt. Pickle to keep the test master copy on his person at all times.
Friday morning, after officer’s call and about ten minutes before the test, he would transfer custody of the document to Lt.(jg) Goose, who would take it to the ship’s office for copying under his direct supervision. A foolproof plan. But the NUBs were bigger fools.
During the overhaul it was fall-off-a-log easy to distract any of the officers with division or department business. The overhaul was not going smoothly and things, real or imagined, were always coming to the fore that needed immediate attention. Any officer letting his minor overhaul emergencies reach Captain Overhaul’s attention was in for a verbal dressing down. Captain Overhaul did not tolerate poor performance from his subordinates, and he considered everyone his subordinate.
And so, an arrangement was made between the NUB representative and a sympathetic yeoman. The NUBs would provide desirable COMSHAW items to the yeoman, who in turn would provide the first copy of the test to the NUB representative while Lt.(jg) Goose was being distracted. Often, copying the test was interrupted and delayed due to a “malfunction” of the ship’s mimeograph machine. Many times, we had the answers to the test literally before the ink was dry.
This contest went on for several weeks during the darkest days of the overhaul. The Law of Unintended Consequences produced the effect that us NUBs actually started to soak up some of the test information and retain it. Who’da thunk it? Lt. Pickle’s training program actually worked, though not as originally planned.
But more importantly, our liberty was secured!
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