First Time

by Mike Hemming

None of us ever forget much of our first time aboard, at least we think so until we try to put it into words.

My first time on Requin was different because I had my orders to her but was still in Sub School. Requin was not long out of the yards and was in New London for tank training and such. My class had gotten their orders with several weeks to go before graduation. When I mentioned that I was going to her a classmate said,

"I think I saw her at pier so and so yesterday."

Having duty that weekend, I got permission to go down to the piers to look.

I did this for several reasons. One of course, was to see my new home. With all my desire to be a sub sailor, I had never been on one except school boat ops... You know, the 16 dives every class went out for in sub school. I figured that I might as well go look around and learn some things... Little did I know how much I had to learn.

Also, this was during the Cuban Missile Crisis time and guys were being pulled from classes and sent to sea. It happened to a TM3 that sat next to me. In an hour he was gotten from class, his gear packed and down to the piers, lines thrown off and he was gone. I figured if Requin was going somewhere, it would be best if I was on her and not ending up in some transient barracks in Norfolk waiting for her to reappear. So if possible, I'd find out if she were leaving anytime soon.

Walking down the pier, Requin looked good. To me, she looked better than the other boats nearby. Fresh from the yards, she really shined. But something more than pride of new ownership told me this was a good boat and I would be happy on her. I was right, she was a good boat, in good shape with a good crew of happy lunatics.

Trying to look my salty best but probably only succeeding to look like an idiot, I went aboard to explain what I was about to the topside watch. I don 't remember now who the watch was but he passed me off to a TM2 named MacGowen, aka 'Mr. Magoo' or just 'Magoo'. He said he would take me to the duty officer who was the Engineering Officer, a Mr. Schilling. It was just as well that it was he. As I in my half scared attempts to be as cool as possible, managed to answer several questions with an "Okay" instead of "Yes Sir" or "No Sir". Any other officer would probably have sent me back to boot camp to start over.

As we headed aft, Magoo fixes me with a stare and asked if I am really that stupid or just trying to be.

"Okay to Mr. Schilling and you aren't even here yet."

Chastised, I slunk aft to the forward engine room to be introduced to the duty ENs, a second class named Ike Spears and his oiler, Wes. Trying to stay out of the way, I watched them work on some injectors and learn something. They were both nice but unimpressed, especially after finding out that I wouldn't report aboard for a month if I took a leave after sub school. The boat was short-handed and needed men now in the engine rooms. I stayed there and talked, asked dumb questions and I suppose, generally got in the way. But I didn't get too much grief from them, probably because they didn't want to scare the idiot until he was locked in, so to speak.

After the injectors were reinstalled, the engine had to be test run. Asking if I could help, they soon had me opening and closing valves. With a grin, Wes pointed to the inboard exhaust valve, you know that 32-turn bastard of an oiler killer, saying its all yours. Well, wanting to impress them, I spun it open as fast as possible, then spent a minute gasping for air while they snickered at me.

The engine still wasn't running right some how. Ike and Wes did some adjustments, but a hour or more passed before it was shut down. Then the workday at an end, they sat and talked, and answered some more questions and told me a little of shipboard life. During this time I noticed a strange sensation in my ears, like a faint high-pitched hum. Oh well I thought, its nothing.

After a bit, chow went down and I was invited to stay for chow, so wanting to be one of the guys as much as possible, I did. As we sat down, Wes (who later became a good running mate) whispered,

"Best keep your mouth shut as much as possible."

So I mostly sat and watched the dynamics of the mess hall, and learned it was a lot like a fox hole... Iif you stuck your ass up it was gonna get shot off.

After chow, a discussion was had finally deciding that I could stay for the movie, because I was a guest.

"But don't think you will ever see another on board until your qualified."

So I stayed and watched a stupid shit kicker... The only good parts were when the female lead got her buckskin shirt wet.

After a good dinner and a movie with popcorn and coke, it was back to the barracks for the night. On the way, I thought on what I had seen and learned. It was best to keep you mouth closed (which everyone that knows me, knows just how hard that is for me to do), work hard on what was called 'quals' and do your job as best you could. And that I would probably enjoy my time as a boat sailor if I did those things.

The other thing I learned was, my clothes were gonna smell funny for the next 5 years and my ears were gonna ring for rest of my life.