ALWAYS READY

By Dave Moyer

 

From the Owasco Chronicles...

Now those of us who had the privilege of wearing the shield on our right sleeve certainly are aware of exactly what the above title truly means. Getting the crew to the point of achieving that lofty goal is usually left in the capable hands of those khaki clad crew members otherwise known as Chiefs and Officers. The rather simple technique utilized was repetitive exercises known as "drills." We had man-overboard drills, fire drills, boat drills, collision drills and above all, general quarter drills. Even though all were important, the latter took on a special significance for any vessel sailing into hostile waters. The Owasco was no exception.

After leaving Hawaii on our way to Guam for refueling the number of GQ drills increased. The entire crew began to understand that our target of two minutes to be "manned and ready" was simply nonnegotiable. The methods used to get the point across ranged from disappointed looks from the Captain (not something you wanted to experience more than a few times,) a strong suggestion or two from your division officer (not something you wanted to experience if you ever expected to see a liberty card,) to an enthusiastic and eloquent royal chewing out by an onion loving Chief Bosun three inches from the tip of your nose (not something you ever wanted to experience again!!!) Chief Bosun's were great motivational speakers.

The GQ drills continued and their numbers increased. Two, three and four or more a day at any time were held. Billets were changed and crew duties shifted slightly in an attempt to fine tune the exercise and speed up the time to accomplish the "manned and ready" status around that elusive "two minute mark." We were improving day by day. Most of the crew realized the importance and the usual grousing subsided as we all tried our damnedest to hit the mark. The day finally came while we were somewhere between Guam and Subic.

It was early evening and I was on the rec deck with most of the off-duty crew watching the same movie for the umpteenth time when the GQ klaxon sounded.

"NOW GENERAL QUARTERS, GENERAL QUARTERS, ALL HANDS MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS! THIS IS A DRILL, THIS IS A DRILL! ALL HANDS MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS!"

A rush of dungaree clad humanity scrambled through the rec deck door and scattered in every direction. Up ladders, down ladders, through hatches all trying to reach their stations, grabbing helmets, flak jackets and sound powered phones in an attempt to be "manned and ready" and make the skipper proud.

I hit my station, the starboard pelorus, snapped my flak jacket, keyed the sound powered phone and reported my status to CIC as I fixed my helmet strap. The identical reports were fast and furious. That's when I looked up to the signal bridge and saw Seaman Bourbeau, the starboard lookout. A quick glance told me that he wasn't on the rec deck watching the movie when the GQ drill sounded. That same quick glance also told me that Seaman Bourbeau definitely took the attempt to hit the "two minute" mark seriously. He was "manned and ready." His flak jacket securely closed, his combat helmet at a rakish tilt and the obligatory pair of 10x50 Bosch and Lombs affixed to his eyes scanning the horizon. Only problem was that all he was wearing was that flak jacket, combat helmet and pair of binoculars. You see, Bourbeau was taking a shower at the time and had a choice, a "training discussion" with Chief Bosun Howse for missing the two minutes or running down into deck berthing and retrieving a pair of boondockers and dungarees. The boondockers and dungarees lost.

The skipper hit the starboard bridge wing just as his yeoman phone talker reported that all stations were manned and ready. The stop watch clicked and a smile stretched across his face. We made it! All his (and our) efforts paid off and listening to him announce our time to the entire ship gave us as much pride as it did him.

As for Seaman Bourbeau......well the Captain was impressed and gave him a "well done" but he did relieve him immediately to lay below and get into the uniform of the day. Good thing we were in the lower latitudes.

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