Friday, February 20, 2009

Submariners Need Knives

After reading this piece about the fine heroics of FT3(SS) Caleb Auten on the USS Rhode Island (SSBN-740), I got to thinking. It seems that young Petty Officer Auten was on watch as lookout when the weapons officer got his radio lanyard caught in the radar mast. As the radar tried to garrote LCDR Christopher Lord, Auten called down to the control room for a knife. Fortunately, LCDR Lord recovered.

Now, while I whole heartedly applaud FT3(SS) Auten's quick thinking, I can't help but ask why didn't he have a knife on him. Maybe I have a Deck Div. bias, but a sailor without a knife is pretty useless. We can have ships made of titanium and steel that dive under the sea but when you need a plain old knife, it may save a life.

I seem to recall an "incident" on board one of Subron 6's tenders in Norfolk sometime after the beginning of the Gulf War. OPSEC had required the installation of shipboard metal detectors on skimmers. This made crossing the quarterdeck a real pleasure. The tender's Petty Officer of the Deck got a huge ego charge out of strip searching sub sailors.

Now, first off, you had to be a real idiot to make every blue jacket take his boots off every time he came aboard but that's what these fools did.

Anyhow, the Ustafish was outboard of one of these LoveMeTenders and little ole me was coming back aboard after doing some pretty nasty Deck Div. detail. I set off the metal detector and PO1 Pierweld decides I might be an Iraqi commando. So off come the boots and out come the pockets. He looks through my pocket litter and comes across my bosun's knife and my 6 inch marlin spike.

So then PO1 Supersalty asks, "What are you doing with a knife? Then he asks, "What is that?" I end up getting detained by the Master at Arms until the 1st Lt. can come spring me. (The tender screws never could figure out how a Chief could be a Lieutenant!)

Flash forward 2 weeks and we shift berths away from the LandSpearFultonetc. back to the pier. Yours truly draws PoD during the daywatch when guess who shows up to work on the fish? PO1 Stripsearch from the tender. He tries to flash his ID and run down the brow until my retribution gene kicks in. The exchange went a little something like this:
"Aw, comeon. You're not really going to make me empty my bag are you?."
"Is the Pope Catholic?"

Result: No more shakedowns on the tender. When you mess with the bull, you might get the horns. And, oh yeah, let the boys keep their knives close and ready. You might need to keep an Oganger from getting his head twisted off.


blunoz said...

That's a great story, thanks for sharing. I'm used to seeing a lot of guys with "digit" tools (leatherman) on their belts.

Sabra said...

Years ago when my ex was on, the USS Boise issued everyone pocketknives. Pretty little polished steel numbers with dolphins & USS Boise printed on them. Very sharp.

Four very bored sailors + one loudmouth about to go to diver school + duct tape + said loudmouth's knife = Mast + lots & lots of restriction. Being that I was a month removed from my second c-section, I damn near used the command knife to emasculate the ex when he finally came home.

If memory serves, they subsequently either collected all the knives or banned them from the boat.

DukeRulZ said...

Those multitools didn't come out until I was already on the green side. Funny how they came to called "digit" tools.

Greg Stitz said...

I carry a Gerber multi-tool on a daily basis while working aboard a museum submarine. Wouldn't be without it.

In fact, the submarine sailor GI Joe figure that came out a few years ago (2000?) came with a tiny "digit tool"...

Bigbill said...

When I went LDO nine years ago, my Gerber tool went in the drawer. I can't be tempted by actually fixing stuff now. On the ship I usually carry a small easy-out knife clipped in my belt.