To figure this one out, you need to understand several things:
1. JOOD: The OOD is the officer-of-the-deck. At any given moment when a ship either is at sea or is tied up to a pier, there is always an OOD. The OOD is the one designated by the captain of the ship to have full order and decision privilege as granted by the captain. The OOD serves at his watchstation in behalf of the captain of the ship and with the same interests and tasks of the captain for ship’s mission and safety. The OOD is who ‘drives’ the submarine when at sea by virtue of his command of the ship’s control room and personnel. When young officers are working on their qualifications to become OODs, they are designated a JOOD – junior-officer-of-the-deck. A JOOD serves as an apprentice, of sorts, under the able hand of the OOD. JOODs are easy fodder for some very creative pranks!
2. Trim: A submarine floats upright and normally on the surface and underwater due to the maintaining of its trim. Trim is controlled by many things but, basically, trim has to do with the balancing and moving of water fore and aft from and to ballast and trim tanks. The tanks are located on the outside of the actual “people tank” – the enclosure where the crew lives and works. The tanks are huge tanks that are all connected by pipes and pumps – water or air can be put in and taken out of the tanks to keep the boat aright and either submerged or surfaced. It might seem to be a bit exotic but, frankly, it is basic physics. Buoyancy of a boat has to do with its displacement weight – heavy and she will sink but not so heavy and she will float. And by adjusting weight fore and aft, the boat can be kept level. Trim is very important to a submarine. (If you are actually interested in this, click on trim.) Trim is controlled by personnel in the control room who are all under the oversight of the OOD. And sometimes, an unsuspecting JOOD.
3. Submarine crew: A boat crew keeps the ship running safe and true in order to accomplish its mission. A boat crew is also very capable of conspiring together to create some of the best sea stories ever. After all, all work and no play. Look out, JOODs.
4. Engine room, missile compartment, and torpedo room: What is important to understand here is that the missile compartment is basically in the middle of the boat – front end to back end – whereas the engine is at the back end – the tail end – and the torpedo room is in the front end – the forward end.
5. Trim Party – What a submarine crew does to a JOOD by messing with his trim. A most excellent adventure!
Ok? Now, the story.
Things were pretty calm. Probably too calm. I was sitting in the crew’s lounge doing one thing or another. I recall that we were probably off of alert and likely transiting somewhere. Just, as it is said, drilling holes in the water. Suddenly, someone ran into the lounge and said, “Trim party. Upper level missile. Everyone. Now. Take the lower levels.” People were even waking people up from their sleep – this was serious business, apparently. Anyway, my first trim party! I had heard about them but had never been to an actual trim party. Let the learning begin.
So off we all went – taking the lower levels of the boat so as not to pass through the control room where the ahem er um JOOD was standing watch – to upper level missile. And when I got to missile, it was packed with guys. Oh man. Everyone was in on this plot, for sure. Easily fifty guys were standing by to make this all work out.
The instructions were this – every few minutes four or five guys would leave missile and head to the engine room. Stand around the shaft in the engine room, they were told, and wait for everyone else. Slowly and over the next half hour or so, guys would take off to the engine room until everyone in missile was gone and were now all packed liked sardines – the engine room wasn’t big enough for a confab like this – around the shaft.
And the plan was working. With the very slow shift in trim – human body weight was moving aft – the JOOD observed that the boat must have been moving through some salt water layers or something and he was seeing the boat beginning to tip backwards so he recommended to the OOD that some ballast be pumped forward to level out the boat.
Now OODs aren’t dumb and he immediately knew what was happening but, after all, the JOOD was having to learn the ropes and the OOD needed the JOOD to practice his command prerogatives So, the OOD concurred and the JOOD began pumping water from the aft tanks forward to the forward tanks. And sure enough, the boat began to level out again – trimming it up, it is called. And what made us happy in the engine room was that we could hear the trim pumps running so we knew that the JOOD had taken the bait – he was pumping water forward. The plan was coming to bear.
Once the JOOD was done pumping and once we couldn’t hear the pumps running anymore in the engine room and once the boat was all nice and level and stable again, the final step to this prank was about to take place. The best part.
On someone’s word, we all starting running – or as fast as anyone can run on a submarine through tiny little hatches and narrow walkways – forward to the torpedo room. Literally, we went as fast as all of us could go forward without getting hurt or breaking anything. Our goal was to get to the torpedo room and assemble in among the torpedo tubes as quickly as possible. Off we went.
And sure enough, we could now noticeably feel the trim of the boat beginning to shift – way too much weight was now in the front end of the boat and the front of the boat was beginning to tip down. This, of course and to a conscientious and vigilant JOOD, was not a good thing. He had lost the boat’s trim. Again. He probably thought, “Will I ever qualify as an OOD?”
And almost immediately, we heard the trim pumps begin pumping yet again, but this time we heard the pumps in the torpedo room pumping water to the aft tanks. Oh man. We had accomplished success! Welcome to submarines, JOOD!
It was a few minutes later that the OOD – who had likely figured this from the start and had probably had some fun on his own with the JOOD – announced on the 1MC ship’s public address system, “Secure trim party.” And that was that. But it was one of the neatest and most interesting parties that I had ever been involved with.
And I am sure that the JOOD – armed with this story and many others – easily qualified OOD at some point. Good for him.