The Lieutenant

After the yards, we picked up the “Lieutenant”.  He was a nuclear trained officer, and I stood many hours on-watch in Nukeland with him. 

Every Sunday morning underway, the Engineering Officer of the Watch was tasked with updating the primary plant status board.  This was a schematic piping diagram of the reactor primary plant systems that showed the open or shut status of all the manually operated valves.  This drawing was located on the cover of the bookcase that hung on the back wall of the Maneuvering Room.  The drawing was about sixteen inches high and about four feet long, and was mounted behind a plexiglass panel.  Each valve had its position, NO for normally open or NC for normally closed, printed next to it for normal plant operation.  If a valve was out of its normal position, its status was marked on the plexiglass with a grease pencil.  The EOW would call the AMR2 UL or LL watch stander on the 2JV and review valve positions.  It was tedious but required work. 

One Sunday morning, the Lieutenant was the EOW and I was the Throttleman.  Rather than stand behind the Reactor Operator and update the status board, the Lieutenant, being one of the shorter officers, would kneel on the top of the EOW desk located behind the Electrical Operator, so he could reach the valves towards the top of the status board.  He spent the morning, precariously balanced on his knees, on top of the EOW desk reaching out to mark valve status. 

We had been faithfully boring a hole in the ocean at three knots for the past several days, so things were rather dull.  Once an hour I would record all my log readings, and then stand or sit and watch the dials and gauges on the SPCP not change for another hour, before recording them again.  Fun stuff. 

I was standing with my back against the Steam Plant Temperature Monitoring panel watching the Lieutenant.  He was reaching for a valve that was almost out of his reach.  When he was fully extended, on impulse I plucked the grease pencil from his fingertips.  This pulled him over center and out of balance.  He fell forward and turned, as I stepped up and caught him in my arms.  As if on cue, at that moment Captain Garverick pulled back the curtain on the Maneuvering Room door. 

So here I was, standing behind the Reactor Operator away from my watchstation, holding the Lieutenant in my arms, like a father cradles a child.  We were had, cold.  Not missing a beat, Captain Garverick looked the Lieutenant straight in the eye and demand to know with command indignity in his voice, exactly what he was doing with the Throttleman.  

 I have never seen a man blush so deeply or stammer so profusely since that day.

Charlie Winterfeldt

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