It was on or about 10:00 hours and I was at my desk in the steam torpedo shop on the USS Orion AS-18 a submarine tender assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. I had just spent the last few hours working on evaluations for E-3 and below when a young sailor came down the ladder into the shop and came up to me. As you come off of the ladder my desk was just to your right approximately four feet in distance total. He said he was just reporting to the shop and had just graduated TM “A” school. He informed me he had already checked in and was ready to go to work on torpedoes.
Having just finished hours of desk work, I decided it was time for something that would be more entertaining. It is a Navy tradition to check a newbie sailors knowledged of naval terminology. My new sailor had just volunteered unknowingly to demonstrate his knowledge.
For this we will call him TMSA Smith. “Smith, go up to the carpenter’s shop and get me a sheet of freeboard four feet square,” I said. (Freeboard is the side of the ship between the water line and the main deck for those who do not recognize naval terms.) The carpenter shop was four decks above our shop on the O1 level.
TMSA Smith, who did not recognize naval terms, left without asking for directions and I did not think anything about it. TMSA Smith apparently had a friend assigned to the ship’s carpenter shop that had reported aboard with him.
I came back from lunch and TMSA Smith was waiting for me with a four-foot-square of 3/4″ marine grade plywood. I was caught a little by surprise that he had the board. I had him put it in the storeroom located on the port side of the shop until I needed it.
Within an hour the first class petty officer from the carpenter’s shop came looking for TMSA Smith. I asked him what was wrong. He was almost sputtering, he was so upset.
TMSA Smith had gone to his friend in the carpenter’s shop and asked him for the freeboard. Neither one of them were sure what freeboard was but his friend wanted to help him.
The SN from the carpenter’s shop had just finished bringing in a load of plywood an hour earlier and thought that he could help his friend. He was not sure what freeboard was but the plywood was eight by four feet and would only require one cut to give him the four foot square of freeboard he needed. They discussed the idea and said since it was being given to him for free it must meet the definition of freeboard. So he made a quick cut on a eight by four sheet the highest quality marine grade plywood. Then my TMSA Smith brought it to me.
The first class carpentersmate came back from lunch to start working on the admiral’s barge that was in for repairs, and thought he could finish that with the marine plywood he had special ordered and had arrived just before lunch. He went to pick up the sheet and half of it was gone. His SN told him what had happened and he wanted to keel haul TMSA Smith.
I listened to him tell me that TMSA Smith had stolen the Admiral ‘s new hull replacement piece.
TMSA Smith and the rest of steam torpedo shop listened to this and were waiting to see what I would do.
I said, “Bill, it sounds to me like this is not TMSA Smith’s fault. All he did was go to your shop and ask for freeboard”.
Bill said, “That plywood is for the Admiral’s barge!”
I responded with, “He did not select or cut the board. It seems to me that the problem is that the carpenter shop has not implemented standards or learned their Navy terminology”.
Bill was turning an even deeper shade of purple.
When I decided it was time to cut this off and calmly looked a Bill and asked, “Bill, we can take this to the skipper if you want to admit to that”? I further informed Bill that as far as I am concerned, TMSA Smith showed initiative in carrying out his orders.
“Bill, if you don’t want to take this higher then this is over and I will have someone return the plywood.” I said.
Note to readers: Now I want you all to understand that all the language in the story has been changed to protect the innocent reader. Those sailors reading this should be able to fill in the missing punctuation!
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