The Fund Raiser

By Don Opedal



Somewhere along the line in 1976 on the WESTWIND the CO, CDR Tom Volke came up with idea to raise money for the Coast Guard Academy visitor center.

Why he would do that, I don’t know; he wasn’t a ring knocker. In fact he and the XO, CDR Tom Lain, were both mustangs. So was I. My OCS classmate ENS John Lubar and the two warrant officers also occupied the wardroom with 16 or so ring knockers. The Academy Ensigns like to point out they were senior to me as they had graduated a day earlier. I like to point out I made more money since I had five years of service.

The plan was to allow officers to be “hired” to do any task on the ship. Participation was voluntary and the rates ran from something like $1/hour for a Warrant/Ensign/LTJG to $4/hour for a CDR. There were many benefits to this program. Of course, the primary benefit was a morale boost. Officers got an opportunity to do things and see parts of the ship they would have otherwise not done or seen. Enlisted folks had the opportunity to train and supervise the officers.  Alliances were formed, strategies decided, and battle plans drawn.

CDR Volkle and I were prime instigators and fundraisers. We sought contacts within each other’s realm of acquaintances (e.g., family, friends, old shipmates) for funding support. I even approached VADM in charge of the Atlantic Area who had served with CDR Volkle at one point. (CAPT Volkle and I still stay in touch. He says to call him Tom and I say, “Aye aye, Captain.”)

It was not unusual to go on the bridge to find the Quartermaster and Helmsman replaced with an officer. (Of course, the real QM and helmsman were there to supervise.)  I hired the CO to stand my OOD anchor watch at least once.  (I was busy building a computer and TV in my stateroom.)  I was hired to clean the inside of the boiler. Still gives me creeps to think about squeezing inside that steel coffin thinking about the possibility of it firing up. My buddy ENS Dennis Thorseth kept his blackened overalls from his boiler foray in a paper bag in his closet for several years. Dennis and I live near each other and still talk about the experience. I believe he was the #3 fundraiser.

Another sidebar:  One night while in port Dennis and set out to find the lowest parts of the ship. Unlocking hatches and going down we eventually found the forward shaft alley. How many wind-class sailors have been there?

Speaking of going down, the CO got someone to hire me to clean the bilges. Dennis also remembers that task; laying on your belly scooping “stuff” out from under hot, noisy, machines and passing it up to be dumped. But hey, I hired the CO to be the recipient of the stuff and dump it. So who was taking crap from whom?

I was also hired to empty the #2 holding tank (I think that is what is was called.)  Best I recall is scooping buckets of sewage out and dumping them. Right next to that was our “Post Office”. It was a small compartment, maybe 6 ft. by 8 ft. with a lockable gate of steel bars, like a jail cell. I guess it would also double as the brig. In fact, the CO had been hired to paint the space and I came by and locked the gate. Hearing him beg me to let him out was interesting.

Over the period of several months were earned several hundred dollars for the Academy Visitor Center, had some fun, and learned some things!


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