Talk About A Bigshot!

The Lieutenant briefed the team and put me in charge. HooYAH! The job entailed performing a solidification of a submarine’s radioactive filtration resin while at sea. It seems the shore solidifiers could not keep up with the drums and drums of the radioactive resin such that warehouses were filling with them and the resins were partially caking up to make pouring it into the solidification drum would be very tough.

They set up the area at the lowest HP deck, worried about a spill?  The method included having the dented resin drum on a holder rack that could tilt it up so it could pour into the new drum that had a stir bar in it. As the resin stirred, concrete powder would be sifted in via a PCV pipe with a steel bar twisted like a screw to move it in evenly.

The first trial! We checked all the parts twice and then once more. Commence! The resin poured in well. The concrete did not. Then the pipe broke, the steel had knotted up. The photo is the actual steel screw that was removed, decontaminated and painted black. Ahhh, the Dixon Auger Eaters!

The Auger Eaters Plaque!
A Closer Look at the Inscription

We soon worked it out, got it done with a metal pipe at a better feed angle, did a few more, reported it and went about our business. About a month later I was called to the Captain’s office with officers all about the place watching.

As I stood at attention, the Captain stood to tell me to expect a ceremony in the morning at 1000 hours. I needed to get a clean and spiffy dress uniform ready as I would be present. Dismissed.

Yikes, where had my bravery run off to? A ceremony? Why tell only me and not everybody? Quit worrying and get the danged uniform ready and the shoes shined! While I busily buffed, the word did come over for all to hear.

The entire crew not on duty stood on the main deck in various formations to suit the equipment that could not be moved. All the officers certainly appeared clean and spiffy. I went to line up with my department. The Master Chief pointed forward and walked me to the center area where two older crewmen stood. They said nothing as a helicopter landed at the pier and an entourage boarded the ship. The Captain greeted them and they all arranged themselves in from of us.

The Entourage Chariot

One guy was called up for 30 years of service or some such, I admit to being more than a bit nervous. The Captain congratulated him and shook his hand. The other guy, the same. Then the Captain stepped back and the visitor fellow with tons of decorations on his uniform took the spot. He called my name. I forced myself not to shame the entire crew! I strode up and saluted perfectly. He saluted back. Being thin and tall, I didn’t mind standing at attention as long as I didn’t lock my knees.

I don’t recall all he said. His talk included hard work, ingenuity, teamwork, professionalism, saving the Navy millions of dollars and such. The solidification process we altered, tested and reported was transmitted across the Navy! His aide approached with a small box. He opened it a removed a medal suspended from a colorfully striped ribbon. Loudly he stated that I had earned the Navy Achievement Medal and the whole ship should be proud of me. Then he whispered, “I can’t reach into your shirt to pin it on. Here, you do it.” I did. The crew and visitors saluted me and I returned the honor. Without collapsing. I smiled at the Secretary of the Navy and got back in line with the 30 year guys. Lesson: I can stand up to anything!

Heartfelt thanks to all the veterans who have serve this wonderful United States of America. None of us are perfect, but when we need to, we shine! That includes many in my family, including my Sailor father who served on a minesweeper he called the Ellie Mae during the Korean Conflict and my Sailor uncle who served at Pearl Harbor and went on leave the day before the Japanese attack that started the Pacific’s WWII.

And, I can’t help it …

Hooray for the US Navy! Anchors aweigh!

Veterans AHOY!

I’m posting four short and very true stories from today through Sunday about my life-changing years in the US Navy. I was the only Nuclear-Grade Machinist Mate woman that made it through boot camp in Orlando, MM A School in Waukegan, Nuke Power school part one back in Orlando and part two in Ballston Spa New York, then onto a ship – namely the USS Dixon AS-37.

You see, I could not be assigned to a war ship or boat as a female, however I got to see lots of submarine interiors as I worked with the guys on nuke system repairs! That was in Ballast Point, near San Diego. I left upstate New York to meet the Dixon in Pearl Harbor as it had already broken away from the dock after ten years simply floating there in Ballast Point to go on WestPac! So, I didn’t actually see the big Navy bases, ships and subs, until five months later.

The crew had been kept onboard for a day and a half, then as an angel bringing deliverance they got to go ashore just as I reported in for my HP duty, sort of like a quality assurance cake with radiation-laced icing on top. Some of the guys in the Heath Physics department invited me to go along with them to see what Pearl Harbor looked and sounded like that evening. I eagerly went! At Trader Vic’s I got my first ever alcoholic beverage, a Tiki Liki, and I still have that neato clay cup.

Tiki Liki YUM!
Trader Vic’s! Waikiki

The next day we all set out early and they rented a car. It had rained but the sunlight that morning shined brilliantly. We crossed Oahu between volcanos and I saw the only triple rainbow I’ve ever witnessed. The brightest on top, the other two in parallel arcs below it. We pulled aside just to admire it. I took a picture but crapola, I can’t find it. We ended up on Waimea Bay and they went skinny dipping. No, I elected not to join them with that! I did move all their clothes way up the shoreline and then went exploring. They did find their clothes and me before leaving!

Waimea Bay
The One I Saw Was A TRIPLE!

We drove all the way back around and opted for a supper club.  Lucky us, we got a side front table by the stage where the band had already started talking to the crowd.  We got the beers we ordered and sat back to listen to the Three Dog Night-ish band singing away. About halfway through my brew I needed to sneak off to the head…I mean ladies’ room.

I got partly there when the band stopped and stared at me. I hurried on and back, embarrassed by the folks all looking at me intently. I sat. The lead singer said, All right, then!” They resumed and for the rest of the time there I held it in!  We had a few more beers, a great dinner that I do not remember (only that it was good) and then caught the last boat back to the ship. This is what life should be like?

Tomorrow: The Stormy Pacific!