17 APRIL 2005
I have duty today and the 0800-1200 watch. Still waiting on my Small Arms Supervisor Card to get signed off by the Captain so I can stand Duty Chief. He has had my card for 2 weeks.
One of my units decided to fry itself. I was in Sonar and saw something challenging my peripheral vision. I looked out the forward door of sonar and saw every submariner’s worst fear- smoke.
This wasn’t the usual light smoke wisp so common in that area of the boat. It was white billowing smoke and it was headed my way. As I was running to the unit and hollering “Smoke in CSES! Smoke in CSES!” a fellow sonarman popped out from around the corner, his eyes as big as mine. He was the Duty Chief and started to run to the control room to carry out the initial actions for this casualty. I made the report on the 4MC, a circuit used to report casualties, and headed to the control room also. As the Duty Chief he called the casualty away on our general announcement circuit and the boat sprang into action. Well, it was a Saturday so there were only 15 people in the forward compartment not including the Duty Officer who was topside.
As the off-going watch it is my responsibility to rig the forward compartment for the casualty which consists of turning off ventilation fans, vent heaters and rigging fire hoses. By the time I grabbed the rigging bill (checklist) and ran to the forward part of the ship a hose team had already made it to the space where the smoke was coming from and was ready to attack the fire.
The last bit of heavy smoke had naturally made its way to the hatch, the mere construction of the ship lending to this action, and there was just a haze in the compartment where the smoke started, no more annoying than a smoky bar would be.
Clad and surrounded in rubber, I opened the panel to the suspected and perhaps deranged unit. It was hot to the touch, as noticed by the Duty Officer. I told him that it wasn’t a good idea to touch a metallic surface on a unit that just suffered a casualty. He pointed out that he did use the back of his hand, which I pointed out would conduct electricity just as effectively as his palm. He got that “Man, am I stupid” look so I left it alone.
A quick inspection of the unit revealed a leaking electrical component that dripped oil onto a fan assembly- the equivalent of an overflowing quiche onto the hot oven elements below. The circuit card was replaced to the tune of $3000 of the taxpayer’s money and to save Uncle Sam a little chump change I thoroughly cleaned out the fan unit to near perfect inspection quality. I figure the money I saved on that assembly could be used to buy a few hundred high caliber rounds for a Marine sniper in Iraq.
Of course no submarine casualty would be complete without the ‘critique’, the Navy’s new 4-letter word. Not a fault-finding gathering, it is used as a tool for fact finding to be incorporated into a lessons learned report. Of course if in the event it comes out that someone was directly responsible for the event then a good ass reaming will follow.
Just another day in the submarine Navy.