Battle Stations

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong
 
 

"Battle stations torpedo… Battle stations torpedo."

No other words, other than shouting "Fire!" at the World Series, can ignite pandemonium like "Battle stations torpedo."

Grown men go nuts… Stark, raving nuts. While still half-asleep, you reach for your Mammy Yokum boots while a two-way idiot stampede breaks out. Men yelling "Gangway!" hurdle over you going in both directions. Don't stop to dress, just grab your gear and haul boogie.

My first assignment was 'Captain's phone talker'… When Lincoln freed the slaves, somehow he missed the Captain's phone talker. If you look up 'totally worthless bastard' in any dictionary, in any language, it states,

"Foremost among worthless bastards you will find Captain's phone talker."

It's a cross between a cigar store Indian and a ventriloquist's dummy. There are a number of first order primates who could have been trained for the job. I never understood how anyone in their right mind would think being the bridge hand-puppet was a desirable position.

"Well, if it isn't the wardroom handmaiden to the prince."

"…"

"Will somebody tell Manny, Moe and Curly they have an understudy?"

"…"

"Hey Dex… Is it true? Does the skipper actually pull a string to make your mouth work?"

"…"

Being the skipper's Howdy Doody was a bullshit watch station. I think the submarine force created the job to test new kids for their crap absorption capacity… To see how big a doo-doo cargo a kid could haul.

The Captain's phone talker had to tie his XJA headset cable to a phone jack near the conning tower hatch and haul the dangling 20 foot cable around, with the phone attached to his chest, all during battle stations. No one ever invented a way to clean the inside of the earpieces of an XJA headset… Years of accumulated earwax and sweat made them a major treat to the human nostril.

"Forward torpedo room, manned and ready…"

"Forward battery, manned and ready…"

"After battery, manned and ready…"

"Control, manned and ready…"

And so it went… When the entire inventory of lunatics had reported in, Jocko, the skipper's personal communication monkey, would report,

"Captain… Ship manned and ready."

"Very well."

That's all officers said. They said it all the time… I think there is a two-semester course at Annapolis where prospective officers are taught that all you ever have to say in response to anything a raghat reports is "Very well."

"Captain, the cook just shot the below decks watch… Fire in the forward engine room… Mutiny underway in the after torpedo room… Communist frogmen are climbing our screwguards and the Pope has just been drafted by the Celtics."

"Very well."

After things settled down and the crew figured out that it was all a drill and not a case where Requin was about to strike a blow for mom, apple pie and national survival, the animals started hinting that it sure would be nice if the skipper would 'light the smoking lamp.'

"Dex… If the Old Man is in a good mood… You know, smiling and bullshitting with the lookouts and OD… Ask him if it would be okay to fire up the gahdam smoking lamp."

"…"

"Dex, what's the problem, babe? If the Old Man is in a bad mood, click your 'press to talk' button twice… Good mood, click once… Not a good time to ask, pop it three times."

"…"

"Hey Dex… Ol' pal… Offer the Old Man a smoke, then say, 'Sir, can we light the lamp?"

"…"

"DEX, YOU DEAF SONUVABITCH!! WHAT'S THE PROBLEM!? CAN'T YOU FIGURE OUT SOME KIND OF NICOTINE RELIEF DEAL WITH YOUR BIG SEA DADDY!? YOU WORTHLESS, NO GOOD, NON-RATED IDIOT!! IF WE FIND OUT YOU AND THE SKIPPER HAVE BEEN BURNING BUTTS ON THE BRIDGE WHILE WE HAVE BEEN HAVING THE LUCKY STRIKE D.T.'s… YOU GONNA DIE!!"

After nearly a year, I graduated from phone monkey to just another serf in the kingdom and when put up for adoption by the COB, became a member of the forward torpedo room Loony Tunes.

They always fed you sandwiches on battle stations… Never understood why… You have to break watertight integrity to pass a tray with lousy donkey dick, hard salami sandwiches the same amount of time it would take to pass in two roast turkeys and a steamship round of beef.

Okay, lets say that it had to be sandwiches… Did they have to consist of armadillo baloney and tire patch cheese? We saw the movie Ben Hur… In there, they had Charlton Heston chained to an oar down in the lower flats of this Roman light cruiser… This guy walked up and down, bullwhipping the guys to get them to row faster. Some guy on the quarterdeck… Marcus Gladius Wayne, I think… Points out the arrival of the massive Egyptian fleet. It's quiet in the after battery messdeck… You could hear a pin drop. Then, someone spoke up,

"Battle stations… Battle stations, spears and arrows… Break out the damage control cheese and donkey dick."

On nuke boat battle stations, you phone up the Chief for dinner reservations and if you don't like the entrees being offered, you can call the Pizza Hut petty officer and get compartment delivery.

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