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September 2, 2009

West Pac Deployment: Entry 1- Screwed by the Screw

West Pac 1999
USS Los Angeles (SSN 688)
July 1 – December 29, 1999

I found another green flip notebook this weekend affectionately referred to as a pocket brain. I kept a pocket brain with me all the time to keep notes and to jot down ideas etc. I found one from WestPac 1999, a few deployments before I started keeping an actual journal, complete with the obligatory profane statement on the side, “Eat Shit”. After reading the little notebook in its entirety it was no longer a mystery as to why someone wrote it.

We all knew this deployment was doomed when we had to return to port on a Saturday, just 2 days after we cast off all lines and left Pearl Harbor. Let me back up and briefly discuss why leaving on July 1st is a shitty thing to do in the first place, a concept many crew members tried to get across to our sub par Captain. My explanation would have been: “Because 3 days later is Independence Day, asshole.” Leaving so close to July 4th was a metaphorical kick to the crew morale's groin. Cooler heads would agree that is not how you want to start off a 6 month deployment.

King Neptune had other plans for the LA however, and not too long after we reached our dive point, he extended a hand of mercy to our vessel by fouling our screw so badly that it could be heard 30 nautical miles away. For those of you not versed in submarine warfare, that is a bad thing. Picture a ninja wearing size 25 clown shoes with little honking horns on the heels. He won’t be sneaking up on anyone anytime soon.

I was going to have the first midwatch of the deployment and I wanted to catch a little nap before the 2230 (10:30 p.m.) wakeup. When the Messenger called my name I figured I was being racked out prematurely to give someone either a piss break or to take care of someones bullshit.

My Chief was smiling when I entered Sonar and he handed me a pair of headphones connected to the BQA-8, a monitoring device with a hydrophone very close to the screw. Another Sonarman was watching a visual output of the sound that I could already hear coming from the headphones, even though they weren’t on my head. I told my Chief that it sounded like the screw was fucked up and he laughed and said, “Ya think?” The Captain entered Sonar and had a look on his face that said he already knew the outcome of our preliminary sound monitoring- that we were pulling back in to Pearl Harbor. But we couldn’t just immediately pull back in; that would have been too easy and made just too much sense.

STS1 M. was also in Sonar and he asked me how good I was at performing own ship sound cuts with the towed array, grimly hinting that we were going to stay out and perform more noise monitoring. An hour later, to my disdain, we all found out he was right. Squadron decided to keep us out all night and most of the next day for the sound cuts, which concluded that our screw was unsatisfactory and that we needed to pull in for repairs. We ended up mooring mid afternoon on the shipyard side, in close proximity to a crane that could be used to remove the screw, if it indeed came to that extreme. And it did.

We celebrated July 4th made even more enjoyable by the fact that the boat was broken and we were not at sea. Hoping against hope, the repairs were made on time and we were once again casting off all lines and heading to our dive point. We had a lot of time to make up and the International Date Line, our first major milestone, is a formidable distance from Pearl Harbor. The LA headed to Okinawa for a few days, which actually ended up being just an over nighter. We had to race back out to sea the next day for “reasons vital to national security”, almost like we were paying penance for our delayed departure from Pearl Harbor. We had no idea how much penance we would be paying during this deployment.

End of Entry.

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