A Tender Tale

Chapter 2:
 not the "real" thing

Makin' a living the old hard way; Takin' and giving by day by day
I dig snow and rain and bright sunshine;
Draggin' the line (draggin' the line)
Loving the free and feelin' spirit: Of huggin' a tree when you get near it;
Diggin' the snow and rain and bright sunshine; Draggin' the line (draggin' the line)
I feel fine; I'm talkin' bout peace of mind;
I'm gonna take my time; I'm gettin' the good sign:
Draggin' the line (draggin' the line)...
Tommy James and the Shondels

So my orders were amended - I was sent to the Proteus (AS-19 - Submarine Tender) stationed in Guam to await transfer to a boat as a billet became available. At this point in time - I had no idea what a tender was. I was assigned to W5 Division - Navigation Repair - which is responsible for the maintenance and calibration of the various navigation sub-systems on a submarine. Though a competent electronics technician - I hadn't a clue about the day-to-day routine. Since I was really just "visiting" - I didn't really have any motivation to "dive-in". If I was told to do something - I did it; otherwise - I just tried to lay low. The people that had been there a while seemed to get things done. But there was something "muddying" the waters -- there seemed to be two agendas - the work at hand - plus there was this "undercurrent" going on - something other than the day-to-day business at hand. It didn't take but a few days to discover what that "second" agenda was - the Proteus had orders to Mare Island for overhaul just two months after I reported aboard - and there were things to get ready - families to move - equipment to secure - other equipment - personnel to transfer to the ship that was to relieve us in up-keep duties there... As the time to leave drew closer the Hunley (AS-31) arrived and pulled along side to facilitate transfer of equipment, weapons, etc. The previous several weeks had been - unusual - but now chaos really set in!!! I don't remember exactly how it came about - but the Navy "lost" track of me... I should have been transferred to the Hunley - for transfer on to a boat... but it didn't happen. - and I certainly didn't remind anyone - after all - the overhaul the Proteus had been ordered to was at Mare Island, California - a short PSA "midnight flyer" hop to home! In hind-sight it's easy to see that in no way did my experience so far on a tender come even close to "real" tender duty - I got there just in time to "miss" being a tender sailor - for the time being - though not realizing it yet - I was entering that continuum between reality and fantasy known as the Twilight --- er ---- the Yard Zone. Sailing for home - I participated in one of those "little things" that you don't think about much at the time - but prove important later. Since the Proteus didn't go to sea much - she was always short on engineering types. Since ET's (supposedly) can read meters and such - several of us junior types got "volunteered" to supplement the Engineering gang. I spent 8 hours out of 24 "running" the after engine room propulsion switchboard. In simple terms - on a diesel electric ship - this is equivalent to one of the propeller's accelerator pedal. We stopped off at Hawaii for a few days - then on to Mare Island - and starting the overhaul. March '72 was my "two year" point in my enlistment. The Navy was having a difficult time retaining people in certain specialties - so they came up with the "Star program". You "re-up" for six years (after just two) - then you get a bonus (15 grand) and several other benefits. By this time - I had taken the exam for Second Class Petty Officer - and was on the "selectee" list. That means I didn't score high enough to be rated immediately - but it was likely that a billet would become available shortly - and I would get advanced then. One of the benefits of the Star program was immediate advancement - and some leave. I wanted some leave - bad. There was this un-finished business in Mississippi...

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