A Tale of the Sea and Me (For Sam) – Installment 26

The next lesson Commander Lasell gave me came in another wardroom session between the two of us. It was not pretty. i learned a lot.

In those days, overhauls were conducted in a much different manner than today’s overhauls, even the one in 1982-83 in on the USS Okinawa (LPH 10). Our ship’s company lived on board during an overhaul unless their living quarters had to be part of an overhaul job. The shipyard performed the major upgrades and “ship alterations” (SHIPALTS). The ship’s crew and officers were with the shipyard workers throughout the overhaul, monitoring and learning about the changes. They also performed maintenance and repair not being done by the shipyard.

To perform their work, the crew used shipyard tools: pneumatic chippers, grinders, and other similar equipment. The Tools Officer, aka me, who had no clue about tool inventory, had to check out all of the necessary tools and issue them to the crew as needed, and keep an inventory of what had been checked out and what had been returned. BM2 Carrier, who remains one of the best LPO’s i ever had in a division or department was as naive as i was in bookkeeping. We were also unaware that shipyard workers would take the tools we had checked out for ship’s company as well as the pneumatic hose, the conduit for powering those tools.

After the first month, the shipyard put out a report on tool status. Hawkins’ inventory was over $1,000 in arrears for missing tools.

The captain had called me to the wardroom where the two of us were there alone when he read me riot act (in a most kindly manner) for the line handling disaster when we had entered the yard. i was called to the wardroom again for a one-on-one with CDR Lasell. This one was actually worse for me. i felt i had let the captain, the ship, and the Navy down by poor record keeping.

After that, Max Lasell and i met in the wardroom many times. Usually, it was one-on-one, but those meetings often included Louie Guimond. None of those follow-on meetings were to give me a motivational ass-chewing. Those meetings became a time for me to give the captain information about the status of what was going on in the Weapons Department and Max providing me guidance in how i should continue improving my leadership.

After the first yard tool assessment, we never lost another tool. A month later, i was relieved as first lieutenant and became the Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer. i was looking forward to turning over the yard tool control job to my first lieutenant relief. But the CO and XO decided Petty Officer Carrier and i were doing such a good job, i would continue as tool officer. Ugh.

But we did okay…except for one thing. As we concluded the overhaul, our tools had to be returned to the yard’s tool control guy. We had all of the tools we had checked out. i was thrilled until Carrier told me the yard workers had continue to steel the pneumatic hose. We were just shy of $1,000 shy of hose. My very short career and a major ass-chewing loomed before my eyes. BM2 Carrier told me not to worry.

The two of us put all of our tools on a large dolly and headed to the yard’s tool shed. We stood at the window as the tool guy checked off all of our tools. He then gave us the total for the unreturned hose. Carrier pulled out a ubiquitous olive green foul weather jacket from our stock. He told the tool guy he could have it if he forgot about the missing hose. The tool guy was thrilled. Our total of missing tools magically went to zero, not a bad deal. A foul weather jacket that cost about $30 bucks in 1969 and a zero debit for tools.

And i escaped another major chewing out.

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