Stores Loading

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

Ever see 'mine ponies'? They used to pull coal carts around in the lower levels of mines by using little ponies. The United States Navy used E-3s, the navy equivalent of the burro. We were the animals who jackassed movable cargo from holds on the tender… Out of trucks… From stacks of crap on the pier, put there by the Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny.

Stores loading was, what the navy called an 'all hands evolution'. To me, a certified dumbass at the anchor end of the social submersible pyramid, 'all hands' meant everybody in the crew. The only exceptions being people without hands and Naval Academy graduates.

But in practice, it only included the lower order of beasts, known simply as 'After Battery Rats', the coolies of the force.

“Okay gentlemen, listen up! We’ve got a truckload of some kind of really heavy stuff arriving here at 0800 and I’m gonna need some non-rated, simple-minded idiots to postpone their liberty and stay aboard until we get all that heavy as hell crap aboard and properly stowed for sea… Any questions sweethearts?”

“Yeah Chief… This an 'all hands evolution'?”

“You’ve got it, Horsefly.”

“Well, how come these 'all hands evolutions' only involve the wrong side of the tracks, hotsacking lower elements of this seagoing sonuvabitch?”

“That’s the way it is… That’s the way it’s always been.”

“Does Arliegh Burke know about this grave injustice?”

“Write and ask him on your own time, Sweet Pea.”

“Chief, you an 'all hand'?”

“Naw… I’m a supervisory God’s gift to leadership, stupid idiot assembler and driver.”

“You’re mother must be proud.”

“Didn’t have a mother… I just fell out of a seabag at the 'Lakes.”

“Fell out of the south end of a north-bound gorilla, is more like it.”

“Knock it off and get out on the pier.”

And we went out on the pier. We went out in the dead of night… In the rain… We unloaded trucks, jackassed crap from holds in weird locations on the USS Orion, and we moved stuff from piles on the pier.

The submarine force acquired stuff on the basis of weight. If something weighed more than a ton, they bought it and put it in cardboard boxes, dumped it on pier 22 and checked to see if it warped the E-3 spine when loaded in Egyptian pyramid builders fashion… Onto ancient petroleum-powered submarines… Preferably in the dark… Freezing weather… In the rain. That’s how chow and other gear got loaded on submarines in 1959 to 1965.

I know this to be a fact… I was master jackass.

Looking back, much of the process of becoming a submariner involved ‘gang work'… 'All hands’ working parties. There was nothing that brought us together like cussing in the rain… Tossing cases to each other under the dim lights of pier 22.

There were many things that made us a crew… Crew is naval lingo for 'family'. But, the main thing was soaking dungaree shirts with sweat, cussing authority, each other, and the weather.

There are a few things an E-3 boatsailor can be thankful for… Not being in Noah's deckforce when the sonuvabitch loaded the Ark was one of them.