First Class, The Easy Way?

By Bernard Lehrer


I was 20 years old when we debarked at Ketchikan. I was of course assigned to the radio shop under the command of a Warrant Officer.  The ratio of woman to men was roughly 20 to 1 so there was not too much to anticipate in the way of a social life.

Because my class at Groton was one of the first to be Radar qualified I would be summoned to service ships that reported that type of problem. They designated Radar technical material as being top secret and I recall having to be escorted on the service call with an armed guard.

This Buoy Tender was not receiving radar signals and I had to climb the mast to check out the radar antenna. This was no easy task for me as I did suffer from a slight fear of heights. Both the receiver below and the antenna above checked out fine, a real problem, because I had to go up and down  that mast several times. Luckily I decided that looking straight ahead at the mast was less fearful than looking up or down as the ship swayed and banged against the dock. In doing so I discovered a break in the coaxial cable fastened to the mast that evidently occurred the first time the tender equipment was used after the radar was installed. That! was an electrician's job and I was able to claim a moderate success. 

I heard or read that a non-com could request an exam to advance in his rate. I had nothing to lose making such a request as no other technician at the shop was radar qualified. The Warrant had to agree to the test although he was at a loss on how to do it. I didn't blame him for being resentful of this brash youngster.  I assumed I had a good chance.

A week or so before the scheduled exam a contingent of my classmates made a stop at Ketchikan before being shipped northward. One of the guys, who was easily the tops in the class, and who loved to show his prowess, was asked to write the exam for the skipper. I was doomed !! He could torpedo me just on principal. Vainly thumbing through the manuals on the evening before the test there was a knock at the door. The roommate of the exam writer handed me a copy of the test. It was real engineering stuff requiring slide rule, etc. It  took me most of the night to digest that most difficult set of questions and answers. 

I got a 98.  

What would have happened if it were a fair test?  Who knows.

A follow-up to this story finds the test writer smelled that the testee was being sand bagged and decided to level the playing field. What the heck -- It was wartime!

Next, a breakfast visit to the ladies of the night in Sitka. But that`s another story.

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