Martin Barker’s “Sea story” about JFK’s on the aircraft carrier USS America CVA/CV 66 while conducting normal operations at sea in the 1960’s has brought to mind my recollection of these same tests while at Torpedoman School in Key West Florida.
I had just reported in to Torpedoman ‘C’ intermediate maintenance for the MK 14/16 torpedoes on temporary attached duty (TAD) from my ship the USS Orion AS-18. It was Saturday afternoon as I checked in to the school Quarter Deck and the officer of the deck (OOD) informed me that quarters Monday morning was at 07:00 hours.
Everyone was required to dress for JFK training, which is a physical fitness challenge instituted in the military and in schools in the early ‘60s. Our training took place at Torpedo School in Key West.
I left the Quarter Deck and the Duty Driver, who was assigned to drive military personnel for the day, gave me a ride to the Bachelor Petty Officer barracks located next to the helicopter field on the naval base annex.
I put my sea bag in my room and quickly went to the Navy Exchange on the main Navy base to get clothes for the JFK’s on Monday. I had not done JFK’s in the fleet. Sailors did not join the Navy to do physical exercise. That was something for Sea Going Bell Hop’s (Marines) and Ground Pounders (Army). Sailors are supposed to use their minds, not their feet.
Monday morning arrived and all of the students, as well as one (PO2), who is the JFK coordinator appointed by the executive officer (XO) are in the parking lot located in the school compound. Now this PO2 was about to declare war on the students. He started with, “We will do 25 jumping jacks. When we get to the first one hundred jumping jacks, I will say ‘1.’ Then we will start on 100 for reaching number 2 and so forth.”
I would like to be very clear here when I say that the students were dropping like flies in the Key West heat. By the time we got through the exercises, he was ready to start a 10-mile run. As we went through the gate at the start of the run, he turned to the right going past a group of large bushes. That is when the last of the fleet sailors dropped out into the bushes.
We had 10 third class petty officers (PO3) all assigned to the same class. Once we dropped out of the run, we went to the barracks, took showers and went to class, which was scheduled to start at 09:00.
When we get to class the staff instructors were laughing about the exercises and that the PO2 in charge was using it to get ready for his physical fitness test to qualify for UDT training (underwater demolition training). Shortly, the PO2 running the JFK training came in and put his brown bag lunch on his desk and by then one of the other Instructors had started the first session.
The first class session ran about an hour and then we were given a 15-minute break. During this break, we developed a plan to get the PO2 to back off on the morning exercise routine.
The MK 14/16 guidance system used an air pressure operated gyro. The gyro was lubricated with very fine oil using a syringe. All of the staff instructors had left the building and were expected back just before the next session started.
One sailor grabbed the syringe that already had oil in it and went to the instructor’s desk. At the desk, he opened the brown lunch bag and took out two oranges, which he injected several times each with the oil.
Two of the others made signs stating that if he did not back off on the exercises, he was going to live here. Both of these signs we taped to the inside of the commode stall doors during the coming lunch break.
After lunch, the class was about 45 minutes into the first afternoon session when the PO2 shot up from his desk, which was located at the side of the classroom and darted to the head. The rest of the afternoon, this scene kept repeating until the end of the day.
The next morning, it was quite apparent that he did not take the signs in the head seriously. This left the students with little option. The activities of the previous day were then repeated.
The PO2 was looking very pale when he left work that second day.
The next morning, the number 25 meant 25 and all of the other excessive exercise had ceased. It took two days but 10 PO3s were able to teach one PO2 how to count.
Related Sea Stories:
By Martin Barker…
One of the many gifts from President John F. Kennedy’s time as Commander and Chief was a requirement for an annual physical fitness test that all sailors were required to pass called JFK’s. This physical fitness push even extended into schools across the country and are still in effect today. They are known today as the “President’s Challenge.” Continue reading →