God is an Engineman

by Joe Roche

I'll never forget the first time God spoke to me.

It was a Friday afternoon, and I had the duty. I don't remember how long I was aboard at the time but I was standing topside by myself, port side of the sail when God walked up to me and said,


Now let me explain something. That is not how my name is pronounced. God is omnipotent, omniscient and all those other big 'O' words, but he couldn't pronounce my last name. It's Roche, plain and simple. God asked me what was I striking for. I said I didn't know what was available to me. Since I was only a seaman, with no 'A' school behind me, how would I go about getting a trade? He asked me,

"Would you like to work in the enginerooms?"

I immediately jumped at the chance and said, "Yeh, but I'm a seaman not a fireman."

He said, "Do you know where the forward engineroom is?"

I replied, right aft of the after battery head.

He replied, "You're a fireman now and I want to see red stripes on your uniform Monday morning."

He smiled that little smile he had, the kind of smile that you realized only he got the joke.

That's how I became an engineman.

God was a quiet unassuming individual. He was rarely loud, quietly profane when needed and spoke very softly. Soft enough, where I had to lean in towards him to hear. However, he had a soft semi-drawl that was hard to pindown exactly where he was from. He never spoke of his past, or his family, including his sub service during WW ll. One of his major assets in dealing with the wardroom whenever he was asked a question, was he would quietly mumble a response to the gentleman from the forward battery. His mumble was unintelligible to everyone in earshot. Said officer would gravely nod his head in agreement and walk away, wondering what in the hell did God say. Needless to say, no officer ever got in between him and his beloved enginerooms and his men.

As far as I know, in the 2 1/2 years I served with him he was fair to everyone, even sonarmen and quartermasters. But if he got pissed at you, you paid the price. He caught one ET taking a shower at sea and running the water as he whistled a merry tune. His tune changed when God told him he was standing the first still watch. He counseled lowlife firemen like myself and the other occupants of the goat locker, but only when asked. He never offered his opinion first.

During full dress inspections with medals, he wore what had to be the minimum, but what stood out was his War Patrol pin.

During one of our ORI trips to Gitmo, we had been at the war game stuff for about 6-8 days, seemed like 8 months. You remember them... 24 hours on, nothing off. Summertime, water injection temps in the 80's, Hot as hell in every compartment. Submerged for about 20 hours. The last two of which, we rigged for silent running. No AC, no refrigeration, no lights except emergency lighting. I was sitting in the mess hall on some damage control party waiting to spring into action. There I was, bitching loud enough for everyone to hear. About the smelly, rotten conditions we lived in. Sweat all over the place, even in the sonarshack. The fetid air, what there was of it was too thin to light a cigarette. The icebox was melting and the water was sloshing around the after battery. Miserable conditions. God was also in the the mess hall and he said loud enough for everyone to hear,

."RoSHAY, stop your gahdam bitching... You're acting like you're the only one going through this."

He was right of course.

When I made the round of the brigs, he would welcome me back with that little smile of his and ask me if I was gonna stick around for a while this time. The worse thing he ever said to me after one of my many fuckups, was,

"I'm disappointed in you Roshay."

That hurt and I always vowed to try to get back in his good graces. Which I think I did. He wasn't the type that would hold a grudge. I don't think he was on board when I made EN3. But I know he would have smiled that little smile and say,

" I knew you could do it, RoShay."

God left SIRAGO quietly one day without ever saying goodby. He was going on to civilian life. God used to love to drink scotch and milk. Rumor had it, he had a bad stomach... whatever that meant. He moved to one of the Carolinas', stayed in touch with our COB, who passed on to me (much later) that God was very sick and not doing to well. No one knows when Pappy Settle died, or what he died of. All I know is that Pappy was a God and a Chief Engineman. He made it feel great to be an Engineman too.

That's how I remember him.