By Steve Vaz
I was stationed in Holy Loch on the USS Simon Lake where we had a Ships Master-at-Arms, Chief Shipfitter, that was a real P**ck. Among other things, a shipfitter makes, assembles and builds all of the structural parts of the ship. A Ship’s Master at Arms, among other things, maintain good order and discipline on the ship.
He was the kind of guy who would stand on the quarter deck and inspect everyone going on Liberty (approved free time, as opposed to leave, which is earned time off). He would tell a sailor to go and get a haircut, before going on liberty, knowing full well that was impossible to do at 16:30 hours. We would have to go and hide out until the jerk left the quarter deck, and then sneak off.
Back then when ships were made of wood and men were made of iron, we dressed them out in MKV gear. This is the outfit the little diver at the bottom of your goldfish aquarium wore, as opposed to the more modern SCUBA gear that Jaques Cousteau donned for their dives. MKV gear was much heavier and far more awkward and uncomfortable.
With the old spun copper and brass helmet, the rig weighed almost 200 lbs. and is definitely not suitable for every sailor’s body.
My buddy and I volunteered to be the tenders, and dress the diver. It took two of us to do this, and if we chose to, we could can make it really uncomfortable for this ship-fitter. But his was our big chance and we were not about to let it slip through our fingers. We chose to make it really uncomfortable for the man.
Next came the 85 lb. weight belt…..
Now this belt had a jock strap that went between the legs to keep the helmet from floating off the shoulders. I cinched that belt down until that chief’s voice changed to the pitch and vibrato of an eight year old girl who woke up with a spider on her nose. By the time the belt was cinched to the helmet, all six-foot-one of him was compressed to about five-foot-nine!
Then we put the hat on the diver, stood him up and started walking him to the ladder. He didn’t even take his second step before he began screaming and begging: “Let me out! Let me out! Get this f**king suit off me! Please!”
Sometimes a lowly third-class sailor can get one over on a chief and damned if it didn’t feel good too! As a result, he changed his mind about Navy Dive School.
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