Author Archives: stimple

Signature – Day 8

2013-01-12 13.47.38

Usually the last to see us leave and first to see us arrive was a very rusted and derelict looking Russian AGI.  It would sit in international waters waiting for her catch – a U.S. submarine.  These ‘fishing trawlers’, as the Soviets called them, were actually spy ships who were attempting to keep track of, among other things, the departure and arrival of American submarines.  We almost always could expect a visit from one when leaving or arriving.

They also liked to show up when one of our boats was test launching a missile.  These AGIs, which was the moniker given to them by the U.S. military meaning “auxiliary general intelligence“, would usually track along side us but would also occasionally cross behind us in our wake or, sometimes, even attempt to cross in front of us – this was always the most risky and concerning maneuver that the AGI might pull.

The pictures below were taken one time when I was on the bridge and we were departing for sea.  If you look closely, you can see members of the AGI crew on their bridge – we would often wave back and forth to each other mostly just to get a rise out of each other.

agi2Of course, the intelligence analysts supporting the AGIs were attempting to understand the operational routines that we practiced when transiting in and out of ports.  Also, the AGIs were attempting to capture and subsequently develop a signature for each of our boats.  Like people and fingerprints, there are tell-tale characteristics that a boat has that can be used to identify any boat from another at a later time.  AGI’s would not only take pictures of our boats – all of our boats were black and didn’t have hull numbers and looked mostly the same to make it harder for visual identification – but they would also be listening for radio emanations, machinery  noises, and screw markers.

Interestingly, each and every transmitter, machine, and screw has its own unique sound characteristic.  Armed with these signature sounds all stored in a large database, then, an intelligence analyst can literally identify which boat is what later when contact is made with the boat.  Also, if detection is made later and most of the sounds are the same but one is slightly different, it might be assumed that some maintenance has since been performed or, more interesting to an analyst, something has been upgraded or modified.  This kind of data is all very interesting to the intelligence community.

It also goes without saying, perhaps, that if a boat is identified when leaving and then is detected weeks or months later somewhere far away from where it left, the analyst can calculate speed, bearings, routes, and so many other operational methods of the transiting boat.  Collecting sounds and noise and then being able to store it and later create signatures is, obviously, a potent tool to use against an adversary.

agi1To limit or preclude the collection of signature information, we would do various things when encountering an AGI.  To prevent collection of radio signatures, we simply would not transmit unless absolutely necessary.  It was common practice to maintain radio silence when leaving and pulling in.

And to cover machinery and screw noises – this was the fun part – we would do something very simple but also very creative and effective.  There were a number of times that I was on the bridge when departing or arriving and – to look at it – it seemed our boat was sitting in a bubbling whirlpool.  All around us, there were big bubbles gurgling and foaming up to the surface from under our boat.  Unfortunately, this method of preventing detection made us mostly sonar blind, but at least it also masked our boat noises from the AGI sitting off to our side.

What we would do is this – we would set what was called a low pressure blow out of all of our external ballast tanks.  Basically, what was happening is what happens when you blow into your drink straw.  Air is blown out and the result is big and noisy bubbles that rise up to the surface and pop gurgle pop.  This really can create a lot of underwater racket – so much so that machine and screw sounds are masked – and prevent anyone from picking up on our signature sounds.

We might transit like this for several hours – a big black mean looking submarine moving through the water with bubble foam all around it.  It was like we were one big noisy black floating Alka-Seltzer gurgle.  And the guys on the AGI wouldn’t get our sounds this time.  Sorry, comrades!

We almost always knew where the AGIs were patrolling – we received regular reports with their positions.   These poor guys were, of course, homeported somewhere in Russia and would have to sail the Atlantic to the U.S. eastern coastline and basically patrol up and back and up and back in an attempt to catch a U.S. boat.  Sometimes we would intentionally avoid them.  What was also interesting – or sad – is that the only port that they could visit for some R&R was Havana.  Oh my.

Understand, too, that the U.S. has these kinds of ships all over the world who also sit off of the coasts of various countries listening and watching.  Watching and listening.  It is all apart of the way business is done in the world of cat and mouse.

A memory…

· Leave a comment. Posted in retirement.

Exploding Red – Day 9

2013-01-12 22.01.02
We were about our business and the call came through to our switchboard – a bank robbery was in progress at so-and-so location.  I heard a bunch of our robbery guys take off in their cars to the scene.  In the end, the robber – robbers never seem to be too bright – had made off with some money but it had been marked and it was loaded with dye packs.  The robber took his cash but then had very quickly pulled over and proceeded to start counting the money in his lap.  What was he thinking?  Anyway, the dye packs, of course, exploded.  Not only was dye left all over the inside of his car but it also burned his lap pretty bad.  Real bad, actually.

Our guys caught up with the perpetrator – with red ink all over him and all over the inside of his car – and did all of their detaining and arresting.  The car and cash was brought back to our office for further inspection as evidence.  Several of us were asked to get in the car and carefully check it out for evidence and, also, to try to collect up the red dyed money that had blown all over the inside of the car.

This was grunt work – we didn’t like being asked to do it – but it was our turn this time so we grudgingly put on some old clothes and coverings to do this nasty job.  There was a reason no one liked cleaning up after a dye explosion…

There isn’t too much to this story other than to say that by the time we were done with this car – and after putting a whole lot of ripped up red bills in evidence baggies – we had red all over us from top to bottom.  This dye was somewhat powdery but also kind of sticky and it was getting into our hair, under our fingernails, into our ears, and into every wrinkle that we had in spite of us wearing old clothes, coveralls, gloves, and hats.  This stuff was really a mess.

And the reason no one liked cleaning up exploded dye packs was because the stuff would not come off.  Alcohol or paint thinner could help but this created the proverbial “cure is worse than the disease” situation – smelling like petroleum products for awhile may not have been any better than looking red for awhile.  Red dye literally had to just come off by itself over a period of several weeks – bathing, washing, scrubbing.  What a mess.

There were never too many bank robberies where we were but it was always kind of a sign that there had been one when several people would be walking around the office for several weeks with tints of red on their hands, arms, and hair.

Truly, we all occasionally bore the curse of the exploding red dye packs.

A memory…

· Leave a comment. Posted in retirement.

Lesson Learned – Day 10

2013-01-12 13.47.38

There is probably one life-lesson that I learned as a young sailor that stands head and shoulders over every other lesson that I learned.  I know I have shared this with peers and subordinates over the years when working together and trying to solve a challenging problem.  I am sure this zenhabit has corollaries but I have never spent the time sorting all of that out – when in the heat of problem solving sometimes we become totally mission-oriented and less worried about fall-out.  I have relied on – and expected others to use – this approach to problem solving many times.

I was a young watch-stander supervisor.  As would sometimes be the case during a night watch, we would come up to periscope depth (PD) for one reason or another.  Involved in the evolution of coming to PD were measures taken by the officer-of-the-deck (OOD) to make sure that we would not lose antennas that we sometimes would have floating out behind us.

You see, we had various antennas that we could float or stream out from our sail or from our mid-deck – they would float along behind us when underway.  The antennas worked very well – if we were deep down then there had to be a way to receive messages and signals from up near the surface.  One antenna system involved “streaming the wire” – this antenna was maybe 3/4″ in diameter and thousands of feet long.  We would literally stream it out behind us from where it was stored in the sail of the boat and it would float merrily along behind us.  It was a good and efficient antenna system.

Problem is – and this is why the OOD would always be very careful when coming to PD – we could get the trailing antenna tangled up in the screw of the boat when at PD and that would be the end of the antenna.  As a result, we would lose communications to the boat until we could deploy another antenna – we always had several back-ups.  The reason the loss of communications was bad was because a boat on ‘alert’ without being able to receive messages from our command structure had no way of knowing if and when to launch missiles.  Thus, our mission was completely compromised.  And this was an extremely big deal.

2013-01-20 19.26.24
Normally, when we had the floating wire out and we were needing to come to PD, we would start making a very slight and slow turn – not too much or we would pull the wire under the water and that isn’t what we wanted to have happen.  This very slight turn would keep the wire trailing off behind us but it would start pulling to the side of us instead of floating directly behind us.  Also, the OOD would trim the boat in such a way to get give us a slight bow-up configuration.  This would put the ship’s screw a bit deeper in the water behind us with the intent of giving as much separation between the screw and the floating wire as possible.  Doing these things, the boat could come to a shallow depth and we would not have to worry too much about cutting the wire with the screw because the wire was floating off to the side of us – not directly behind us.  Good idea.  And it usually worked.  Usually.

We needed to come to PD, the on-watch crew had been notified, we were beginning our turn, and communications was functioning solid – we should make it ok.  What we all hadn’t accounted perhaps sufficiently for was the fact that there were stormy seas above so the ride going up got a little bumpy – nothing to worry about but it must have been storming pretty good on the surface.  Unfortunately, and in what would have been an otherwise normal turning and PD evolution, the storm was messing with our floating wire and instead of it moving off to the side in our turn, it was somehow being moved around up on the surface and – sure enough – there was a moment when our communications completely died.  We showed a severed floating antenna.  The screw had eaten our floating antenna!  This was bad.

We began some contingency communications procedures but I felt compelled to walk out to the OOD and notify him – in person rather than across our address system – that we seemingly had lost our antenna.  I marched out to inform the OOD of our problem – our antenna had been cut and we had lost communications with the outside world.

He matter of factly responded, “You are telling me something I already know.  Walk back into Radio.  Then come back out here to tell me not what happened but what your professional recommendation is that will help us get out of this situation.”

I was flabbergasted.  I remember that I wasn’t angry or ticked at him – he really had made a good point and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  We were in this together and he and I needed to work together to get out of it and I was the one to best know what the next step should be and he didn’t need me dumping my problems on him – he currently had enough of his own.  He was depending on me to help him fix the problem that we were having.  He respected my judgement and he very much needed me to give him a course of action.  He wanted me to tell him what next to do.

I’ve never forgotten those moments.  And, yes, I walked back into Radio and thought a few minutes about our predicament.  Then I went back to the OOD and recommended to him exactly what we should do – and that is what we all did together.  Situation solved.

Through the years, I have learned to be less interested solely in hearing your problem and far more interested in helping you find out what you think you can do to help us both solve your problem.  In my subsequent years of listening, supervising, and counseling, I’ve exercised this axiom many times – I will not let your problem become my problem unless you assume responsibility for your problem.

Thanks to a stormy night, an OOD who knew what he needed, and a cut floating wire antenna.

A memory…

· Leave a comment. Posted in retirement.

Bears & Berries – Day 11

2013-01-12 22.01.02

In the spirit of keeping everyone on staff informed and actually connected with what we were doing in the field, we would occasionally take some of our office staff to the field with us and let them tag along so they could see what we would do when on travel.  They, of course, liked a good trip and, also, they liked knowing that their work back home really mattered and that it helped us do what we did when we were out on the road.

So one week, arrangements were made to have several of our office people come out and travel with us up a few mountains to some sites over a period of several days and experience the mountain roads and top of mountain experiences that we were so often able to experience.  This was all good and we enjoyed each other’s company so it was going to be a fun trip.

Off we went to a mountain high up in the Cascades somewhere.  There was some snow on the ground – it was going to be a long, slow, and cold trip up and back.  But everyone was bundled up, had some coffee, and it was going to be a good day.  We were actually having to go up the mountain to meet with some contractors – we were setting up something on the mountain but, first, we were having to have some construction done on a facility.  This was to be an inspection trip.

The trip up took longer than probably it would normally have taken, and we had all been drinking lots of coffee from our thermos.  Well, there’s something about these mountain sites – there aren’t bathrooms up on these mountains.  We always carried the essentials in the back of our trucks to take care of things, but for us guys this was usually not a problem.  We mostly just needed somewhere out of the wind…  Unfortunately, we hadn’t planned well for our female traveling associates.

So, yes.  We got to the top of this isolated mountain.  It was above timberline so no trees – just bushes.  And our traveling mates all needed to relieve themselves.  No one was bashful – we all knew each other quite well – so we had to do whatever we needed to do to get through this minor situation before we could get on with the waiting contractors.

We opened the back of the truck and gave everyone their own roll, and pointed over to a fairly large berry (of some kind) bush.  A bit out of the way but going too far up there was not possible – we were on the tip of a mountain and it would have been a long roll down the side if someone had gone too far from the site we were at.

Off our brave and fun companions went – over to behind the berry bush.  Lots of silliness and muted conversation.  Not exactly sure how things went except that they were back in something of a hurry.

Seems the other side of the bush had a lot of – shall we say – animal scat.  Our somewhat shaken friends used much more colorful ways to describe what they had found – as they looked at their new boots all messy now with what seemed to be fresh and fairly large squished droppings.  Oh man.  And it was fresh.  Very fresh.  Not only that, but our friends described how it looked like something had recently been in the bush eating the berries – the little limbs and twigs had been freshly snapped and there were berries all over the ground.  Quite some stories, for sure.

So after the telling of their adventure, it was agreed that we would go take care of some of our work while they stayed by the truck and cleaned up – this was going to take awhile.

We began our work with the contractors and one asked, “Did they see what kind of bush that was where they were?”  To which we had no real reply.  We were told that the large bushes up on this mountain were very delectable berry bushes and the berries were at their peak.  And, by the way, bears loved those kinds of berries.  “No kidding,” we said.  “Go on.”

“Well,” one of the men said, “we got up here about an hour before you did but ended up staying in our trucks for awhile because there was a bear up here eating over on that bush” – he pointed at the bush recently visited by our intrepid office friends – “and he was rubbing in it and itching and really going at.”  “No kidding, ” we said again.

“Yep.  This is bear country.  Black bear.  They are pretty private but they like their berries this time of year.”

“Really.  No kidding.”  It’s all we could think of to say.

So we all finished our work and our best friends had a nice day on the mountain walking around close to our truck and that was that.  It wasn’t until we started down the mountain that we told them what the workers up on the mountain had told us about their relief bush.  Oh man, did we have some laughs driving down the mountain.

2013-01-20 22.13.30

And to top this trip off, we stopped in Renton to visit where Jimi Hendrix is buried.  What a way to end the day.

A memory…

· Leave a comment. Posted in retirement.

Seven Months

I can’t let the day go by without acknowledging the seven months that it has been since I lost Regina.  I think about her all of the time but the monthly anniversaries still seem to be harder than many of the other days.  I appreciate the people who let me be around them today – both in person and virtually.  They likely didn’t know that I have been pretty focused today on where I’ve been, where I am, and where I am headed – but I try not to talk about it.

I appreciate Nick’s kind and simple tribute today.  Thanks, buddy.  Every time I see something unexpected like what you did, it takes my breath away.

IMG_2380My hurt is Regina’s comfort so it is easily a trade-off I would do over and over again but the loss is something that I still can’t quite grasp.  I continue to think about getting home to tell her something or calling her on the phone to give her some news.  With retirement coming on, I have caught myself many times in the past few weeks wanting to be in touch and to give her an update.  But it isn’t to be.

I’ve answered the question quite a few times in the past month – “Are you excited to retire?”  Thanks for your kindness, of course, and I know you truly mean well.  But, frankly, it is a very bittersweet thing for me.  I need to move on due to professional circumstances so it is the right thing to do.  But personally, it is going to open a pretty big void in my life.  I’m working to fill it with plans, projects, and the like – it will work out somehow.  But it isn’t the kind of retirement that I had ever anticipated.  Being free but without anyone to share it with is not exactly maybe the ideal setup.  I don’t know.

So it’s been seven months.  Seven months of adapting, adjusting, and restarting.  My faith is intact but its emphasis is in very different directions, now.  I feel I have peaked and now it is time to crawl back down and help a few others – who are hurting real bad – to see if I can help them make it.  I may see many more sunrises and sunsets – they will be wonderful and beautiful, I’m sure – but I will never again summit the peak that I have already topped.  It’s not a bad thing – it just is.

I still cry – it happened today in our assembly service when I had a memory strike me deep in my soul.  I still get moody, and tired, and lonely.  It can all get offset by good friends and hope for the future and faith.  But I truly feel as if I am seriously wounded and that only a long time and a lot of patience will help.

So here is what I am praying for now:

1. My teen and young adult friends who seem willing and very able to pursue lives of irresponsibility, promiscuity, and recklessness   It breaks my heart.  I hope they can find a way to let God back into their decisions and lives.

2.  Zak and Nick and their precious families.  The darkness never lets up on trying to take them down.  They do the best they can, of course, but decisions compound on decisions and consequences can’t be re-lived.  I wish I could help and shout out, “Don’t go that way!” and pick them up and carry them to safety, but that time has passed, too.  Be strong, Zak and Nick.

3.  Ady and his situation in Romania.  A lot has changed for him and Luma and their family in the past few months.  It has been very hard.  He is also trying to batten down the hatches and he – through his faith – will survive.  But it is long and hard with many decisions and challenges yet to be dealt with by him and his family and church.

4.  Finding peace and understanding but not by myself – I have a serious need to explore and experience shalom with others so we can all be in koinonia together.  The pettiness of life must be put aside.  We must rise up and above to find shalom together.  I desire this greatly.  And I will find it.  Somewhere.  I must.

God has blessed me richly in my life.  I have no regrets to speak of.  I am completely confident that even as one chapter ends another is beginning.  But the new chapter will be from a different perspective.  It will have a different point of view.  And it will be about something quite different than previous chapters.

I miss you, Regina.  Wait for me.

· 3 Comments. Posted in daily goings on, family, friends, regina's rest, retirement.

Real Photo Proof – Day 12

2013-01-12 13.47.38

I am usually not one to share photos but I found these recently in my sorting and cleaning up of various boxes of things that I have found around the house.  These pictures truly speak a thousand words.

award

I am standing here with COMSUBGRU SIX (Commander Submarine Group Six).  Submarine Group Six was the submarine command group that our boats were all operationally associated with in Charleston.  I was receiving a commendation plaque for being able to intercept high speed Morse code.

balloon

I am actually running a test on some equipment in this photo.  Thankfully, we never had to depend on this ‘technology’.  If you can tell me succinctly what I am doing in this photo in the comment section, I promise that I will give you a $25 gift certificate.  First come first serve in the comment section – only one certificate will be given out.  Briefly describe what this is a picture of and share an Internet link that gives all of us a fuller explanation of what it is, how it is used, and who would use it.

trident

After riding the Range Sentinel to witness the launch of a missile off of our boat, we all were inducted into the Domain of the Trident Birdwatchers by none other than the Ruler of the Royal Domain of Birdwatchers.  A very exclusive club, indeed.

swimcall

This is how sailors on submarines spend their time out in the middle of the ocean when near the Bahamas!  Are you jealous?  I am somewhere in this photo – I will not reveal where.  Note the unique peaked and peckish look of this sub crew.  This is a fairly normal condition for those who spend all of their time under the water – not in the sun.  We were in the Bahamas and locations thereabouts for some underwater tests and training.

I vividly recall this swim call.  After we had enjoyed a lunch of sliders outside and on the back of the boat, we all jumped in the water for a nice swim.  Unfortunately, the cooks decided to get rid of their left-over sliders by throwing them in the water on the other side of the boat from which we were swimming.  Next thing you know, a bunch of curious and hungry little sharks arrived to snoop and to eat up our waterborne sliders!  So, we all had to scramble and crawl out of the water – and that was the end of swim call.

A memory…

· 6 Comments. Posted in retirement.

On Boats & Sailing

charlesSomething to Think About
Charles Jackson
Jan 18, 2013

“When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.” (Mark 6:47-48)

Much of what I know about life I learned from owning a sail boat. She was a Chrysler Marauder – eighteen feet long with main sail and jib.

Recently, Mary and I were watching a movie when the scene moved inside a shop that fabricated and repaired sails. For a brief moment, the camera focused on a wall with a plaque that read: “You can’t change the wind but you can the sail.” A poem that has appeared in many of my sermons goes like this:

One ship sails east, another sails west,
With the selfsame wind that blows.
It’s the set of the sail, and not the gale
That determines the way that she goes.

Most people do not know one can sail a ship into the wind – actually within 33 degrees of dead center. It’s the set of the sail. A sail works the same as an airplane wing. The cupped sail retards air flow and creates low pressure on the front side and high pressure on the back side, thus, the sail pushes the boat. Some sails only serve to turn wind into the main sails. So, you see how much of life is explained by owning a sail boat.

Let’s pretend one could sail a ship across land from New York City (on the East Coast) to San Francisco (on the West Coast). If one were off only one degree (there’s 360 on the compass), one would end up in Canada. I have friends whose life’s direction is off but little, but, will end at the wrong destination.

Winds are ever changing and come at us from every direction. Give attention to the sail.

· Leave a comment. Posted in charles jackson.

Olympic Jello – Day 13

2013-01-12 22.01.02

Living and working in Salt Lake City before and during the 2002 Olympics was one of the highlights of my government career.  So much to see, so many professional people to work with, and huge amounts of satisfying work to perform.  Of course, Salt Lake 2002 was right after the horrors of 9/11 – there was much discussion in our circles as to whether or not we should go ahead with the Games due to seemingly overwhelming security concerns that had been created by the events and fallout of 9/11.  Fortunately, it was decided that the best response to 9/11 was to put on a flag-waving Olympics and show the world that we were all able to rise up and do amazing things in spite of the pain and hurt we were still feeling from 9/11.

But going ahead with the Games made the preparation just prior to the Olympics incredibly challenging.  True to form, though, everyone pulled together and we were ready to go for the opening ceremonies on Feb 8, 2002.  The good news is that the Games came and went without any major incidents.  That is not to say, however, that there wasn’t a great deal of vigilance at all times – sometimes, maybe, too much.

Things were fairly calm – or as calm as the Joint Operations Center (JOC) could be – among all of the watchstanders.  Outside, it was a sunny day, Olympic events were happening at various venues around us, and things seemed to be going along pretty well.  There were so many protection personnel on the ground – some seen and some undercover – that sometimes it seemed like there were more of us than spectators and participants.  But this was the plan – have eyes and ears everywhere to make sure that nothing could happen and escalate either because it could be prevented or because it could be tackled in its earliest stages.  Lots of security people were looking around – and not just at Olympic venues but also in neighborhoods, shopping malls, schools, and anywhere there were citizens who could become targets for mean people.

We had one team out who had come across something interesting in a school playground very near a children’s merry-go-round.  At first, the incident didn’t seem too serious – its description and status was lost in normal command center chatter.  But as our people in the field kept working and trying to identify the unidentified article next to the merry-go-round, the incident started to escalate up in our center.  No one local could conclusively identify what the item was from a distance.  The shape and size was not something easily identifiable.  It looked oddly shaped – perhaps in a bag of some kind.  It had odd colors – greens and reds mostly.

After a few minutes of investigative work by the first on-scene people and based on their subsequent recommendations, it was decided that this was truly an incident that we needed to be worried about.  The immediate area was cordoned off, various specialty groups were called into the scene to assist in the identification and possible handling of the package, and law enforcement management was notified that there was possibly a high-risk event about to occur or was already underway.  Our command center ramped up to it highest readiness level – the conference room in the center was quickly manned by key security personnel from the JOC.  We all sat around the big U-shaped table waiting for instructions and for further intelligence to flow in.  We followed our protocols.  We followed the processes previously set up to handle critical situations like this.  We were making ready to send out notifications to various law enforcement and local governments.  This was tense – we had a problem to deal with.

Our teams were on-scene and suited up.  Sensors galore were up and running.  Every possible means was being used to get to the bottom of this crisis.  Was this truly a biological or explosive threat?

Well, no.  After a tense hour or so, it was determined that the unknown package was – wait for it – a child’s selection of red and green colored jello cubes in a baggie that must have fallen on the ground during outside playtime earlier in the day.

We didn’t laugh or think this was silly – we were all too tense and wound-up.  But admittedly we were very relieved and, in fact, we had learned a lot about ourselves from this exercise.  We had all done well!

Thanks, little green and red jello squares.  You created a few hours of intense anxiety for some of the world’s best law enforcement personnel that could have ever been created.

A memory…

· Leave a comment. Posted in retirement.

Trim Party – Day 14

2013-01-12 13.47.38

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.

2013-01-17 14.01.41
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.

A memory…

· Leave a comment. Posted in retirement.

Listening and Watching – Day 15

2013-01-12 22.01.02
We needed to get in under a house and place some bugs in the floorboards or floor heater vents to listen to the occupants and also we needed to watch the occupants in their coming and going – we could do that from across the street.  The people were involved in, among other things, drug and gun distribution – bad people tied in with lots of other bad people in the area.  These people needed to be taken off of the streets along with their handlers and mules.

We first had to set up our monitoring post.  When that was stable, we then could set up our video system across the street from the house.  And finally, we needed to get under the house.  Setting up took several weeks, for sure.

Our watching and listening post was a small room in a larger building next to a tall tower maybe a mile away from our target’s residence.  We were able to set up our video and audio receiving devices in the room and put antennas up on the tower.  It was cozy and safe.  People stood watches in the room for several weeks – watching and listening.

2013-01-16 13.11.25The perpetrator lived in a normal looking single level home with a crawl space underneath it.  The house was situated in an older part of town on a curvy street with houses all around it – by all appearances the area looked like a fairly normal neighborhood.  Families, kids, bikes, sidewalks, trees.

After we set up the surveillance post, we then had to set up a video and audio ‘repeater’ on a telephone and power pole across the street from the perpetrator’s house.  We took our bucket truck, put a power company emblem on the doors, dressed up in some work clothes, and drove up under the power pole in the middle of the day.  This was summer time so in not too many minutes, we had kids standing around watching us do our work.  Well, this was normal for a neighborhood so we worked away to mount another transformer can up on the pole. It all looked very official.  Thing is, this was a special can – it had video and audio capability built into it.  Most of the work was not getting our special can mounted on the pole but, rather, getting a radio connection between the can and our post over the hill.  After fiddling for awhile, we finally got it.  It all worked and the video feed was working fine and the kids had a great time watching us work for the morning.

After understanding the patterns of the occupants at our target house, we went in as telephone people.  We had previously broken their telephone service so now they truly needed some phone service to get their phones back.  The plan was – Bob would go under the house and I would stay in the van and be reading a newspaper.  If anything happened, I would cover for Bob and would notify Bob and then he would have to adapt.

So, we parked in front of the house, Bob got his tools, and I got back in the van and commenced reading – and watching.  Bob knocked on the door.  Funny, no one home.  Too bad.  Oh well, he needed to work on their phone service anyway.  They would appreciate us getting their phones working again. Bob waved and headed to the backyard to get under the house.  So far so good.

2013-01-16 15.25.58But then things went awry.  A lady occupant of the house drove up into the driveway.  I quickly notified our backup people so they could come save us if something went bad.  I jumped out of the van and went up to the lady and introduced myself and said Bob was under the house working on the phones.  She, admittedly, seemed more suspicious than a normal person would act but she grudgingly agreed that things were ok but she said she wanted to talk to Bob.  I said I would go get Bob and we could talk about her phone outage.

I was walking around the corner of the house and bumped into Bob.  He had heard the kerfuffle out front and had been able to quickly finish up his work and get out from under the house.  And the phones worked again, too.  We briefly talked with the lady.  Bob said something about him finding some wires that were broken or lose but assured her that things should be working again.  She seemed hesitant and seemed to be holding back a bit but she was alright with things and that was that.

And our installation worked perfectly.  Audio from several rooms and video of the front porch and yard.

I always felt a bit uncomfortable during and after capers like this.  We couldn’t be doing things like what we did unless there had been huge amounts of legal reviews and approvals.  Many people necessarily signed off on operations like this one – and this one was pretty simple.  Our purpose was to legally obtain evidence against bad people like this with which the courts could then try them and, very likely, convict them.  It all intellectually made sense and, I guess, was all done for the right reasons.  But I always was and am today very sensitive to personal privacy issues and concerns.

Without too much effort, a person’s privacy can be compromised.  Thankfully, we live in a country where our right to privacy is highly protected.  But if a rogue individual opted to pry and spy, it would be quite simple.  Be careful with your personal information – especially online.  There may be nasty people out there watching you.  Better safe than sorry.

And yes, later a bunch of these people and others in other states were tried and  convicted for their combined crimes.  Good for us and the many who have and are currently working on cases like this.

A memory…

· Leave a comment. Posted in retirement.