Submarines Need E-3s

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

Someone told me recently that they don't have E-3s on nuke boats… They may have been handing me the big horn swoggle, but they also told me that 2nd and 3rd class POs pulled messcooking. Got me to thinking… What would an E-3-less submarine force be like?

How in the hell does the boat get painted? Is there a saltwater Earl Scheib? Maybe they found a way to build non-rusting, dipped-in-plastic boats… Maybe there is no such thing as a deck force anymore. Who does the donkey work? Do the stores get loaded by robotics?

No E-3s? What is a boat like with no E-3s? Who livens up long days when you are plowing unseen subsurface furrows in endless acres of saltwater? Do they still have life aboard or just crews of highly regulated prancing ponies? You can't help wondering.

I would not begin to understand the 'lessons learned' during and after World War II… I surely would not understand any rationale that cut E-3s out of their chunk of the nuke boat pie.

The good ol' submarine force… The old 'Throw another log on the fire, 21 knots surfaced and damn the floating crap' smoke boats loved their E-3s. When Hyman the Magnificent opted for a more serious, professional, totally squared-away, 'I will horsewhip transgressors' sub force over a carefree family of hormone-active, bright kids who not only did their jobs but took time to light off a hot foot or two, boat service may have lost something.

Until science can come up with monkeys who can qualify, it would appear to me that a place should exist for E-3s. We were good… We did the jackass work… Nukes don't need lookouts. They only surface to pick up laundry, chow and re-enlist… Or shipover… Hell, I have no idea what they call it now. Somebody has to stand planes and helm watch, don't they? Some idiot has to show movies or operate some giant VCR… Who dumps one and two-way? Maybe they use a molecular vaporizer and protoplasmic regenerator that converts 'one and two-way' into Three Musketeers bars for the wardroom.

I guess when they started building boats that could run underwater for an entire college semester without coming up for air or a battery charge, the last thing they needed were a mob of 19 year-olds who needed to get laid regularly or they would explode or go blind.

So much of what I associated with submarine duty… What was so accurately depicted in the German film Das Boot, is gone now.

Folks a helluva lot brighter than I'll ever be, could probably make a compelling case for the necessity of change… For the exclusion of levity and lighthearted interaction. The increase in the level of complexity and sophistication of modern day submersibles, require elevated levels of concentration and seriousness of purpose. We would have made lousy nuke boat submariners. I always felt you could only look at gauges and turn valves so long before you started to lose your mind. If gauge-watching, valve-adjustment and report-writing was your life's ambition when I was a kid… You signed up for an overtime shift at the sewage processing plant.

E-3s were the Bedouins of the Fleet. When the COB needs three 20-foot sections of non-collapsible hose… The necessary bronze couplings… Manifold adapters, ship's service air reducers… Does he get out his official handy-dandy fleet supply catalog and do the navy-mandated dick dance? Or does he call in his qualified E-3 combination cumshaw artist and cat burglar?

"Dex… I am visualizing three sections of non-collapse with all the gedunk necessary to tie in a pneumatic rotary grinder to our 225 system… I am picturing a coil of long-neglected hose with all the associated previously named goodies… This hose presently resides on a bulkhead hook… In the sheetmetal shop on Mother Onion. When I saw it last, it told me it was lonely and needed a new home."

All submarine E-3s immediately recognized that the COB had just handed the deck force a Smoke Boat Larceny License.

"Go thou forth among your fellow man… Misappropriate… Redirect, convert… Loot, pillage, burn, and rape… Lay waste to the countryside… Don't stop to bury your dead… Just turn up with hose and all the crap needed to fire off some air-operated grinder."

That is just one small reason to own a couple of non-rated animals. E-3s are thieves without equal… Can speak fluent bullshit, a language understood by every enlisted man in the supply chain… Can shuffle through a paint locker, storage cabinet or padlocked supply room and surgically remove designated items with the skill of world-renown surgeons who operate on wildcat hemorrhoids.

The Navy needs men like these… Even nukes. Wholesale theft is a submarine tradition… A large number of non-submarine sailors looked upon enlisted Dolphins as the designator for Master Thief. There were supply clerks who damn near made a boat sailor strip to his skivvies and have an escort before he could enter a supply room.

The Requin crew stole a Coke machine and dropped it into the mess decks when we got the tender to cut a hard patch for battery cell replacement. By the time the damn thing was mounted… The serial number data plate and Marine Corps inventory number had been cold-chiseled off and the whole thing painted #7 gray. We mounted an inclinometer on the front… We found that in a rolling sea, a nickel dropped in at 8 degrees on the return roll, would clear the coin acceptance solenoid and give you a Coke. We didn't load the paper cup feeder… You poked your Pyrex cup in the front before dropping your nickel in. Failure to do so allowed you to watch your nickel's worth of Coke pass by on its way to #2 sanitary… All Coke eventually would up in a sanitary tank but 'no cuppers' bypassed the kidneys.

When you get a deck force that can walk off with a Coke machine, you've got a jewel.

We used to ride around NOB collecting stuff that could be made portable with boltcutters. We didn't have to have an immediate need… As long as it could be considered future trading material, we loaded it in the truck.

The squadron assigned pierhead Quonset huts to the boats for 'home port' paint lockers. Ours looked like a cross between Aladdin's cave and Sanford and Son.

The boats need E-3s… If for no other reason than to have an attentive population that will listen to old Chief Petty Officers without recognizing how totally full of shit they are.