A Tender Tale

Chapter 4: (Continued)

Time is Tight- ....Booker T. and the MGs

The USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN 631)
Things can be deceptively quiet at night -
you never know what's going on below...
They might as well have been talking in Greek.Scared the hell out of me. I'm supposed to know this??? Theseguys rattle it off like yesterday's sports scores. I decided thatif I was going to survive - I better figure something out - fast!Then I got to watching everybody... Not everyone was a walkingcalculator. In Fact - turns out - there are only a few of themwho really seem to know what each other is talking about- and about half of the rest of the people - catch enough to knowwhat is needed... The remaining people are the ones that haveto be told "everything". Slowly - like the rising sun- it dawned on me.... not everyone has the same skills - not everyonedoes the same job. Hmm... Jimmie Taylor - concentrates on theI/O device (at the time - modified IBM Selectric Typewriters).Wilson concentrates on theodolite calibration/ verification. RussHaden - he's one of the brains - he likes the analytical part- and the political part - dealing with the Navigator and otherofficers of the boat's crew... The "light bulb" overmy head was finally beginning to glow - you can be self-motivated,find something you like to do - become very good at it - and that'swhat you "get" to do - you "get" to work onwhat you like to do. -OR- you can wait to be assigned to a task- the tasks no one "wants" to do - that's what's left- that's what you get!!!

I found my niche. I was fairly resourceful at some things -- andreasonably skilled in others. My eyes were never very good - andin spite of getting contacts - I was never comfortable doing anyoptical work. As noted earlier - the SINS provides the primaryinformation for targeting the missiles. One of the steps in insuringthat the data the SINS provides is as accurate as possible isto insure that the SINS is perfectly aligned to the boat it'sbolted to.

ET1 Russ Haden
setting up a theodolite
A combination of transits and periscopes are used to transfera light beam from the reference mirror that the boat itself wasbuilt around - to mirrors mounted on the SINS. Some mirrors referencethe main "stem" -- the part that is actually boltedto the ships structure--- to ensure mechanical alignment. Othermirrors reference the gyro and accelerometer planes to ensureelectrical alignment. The actual tolerances these things are alignedto is very tight - VERY tight. Since my eyes weren't that good- I was not comfortable doing optical work. So I found other thingsI could be good at. Like the Verdan and Mardan computers. Gads.The size of a very large suitcase - and the computational power- of a modest pocket calculator. Hey you gotta remember - whenthese things were designed -- Integrated Circuits were still 15to 20 years away! And actually - considering the accuracy thesethings work at - doing real-time conversions against TIME... theyare still impressive computers! I got to where I could fix thempretty fast. Sodid Sherry. A lot of times when I would have the duty - she wouldcome up to the repair shop and help me work on units. She gotpretty good at them too. With my background in electronics - Itook on some collateral duties as well - like test equipment repairfor the boat's test equipment - and equipment pool.

Things did settle into something of a routine - Since I had gonethrough FireFighter training at Treasure Island while we werein the yards - I was put on one of the damage control parties.Over the next year - I got a lot of experience - and further trainingin that area. The only part of that I didn't like was the Radiationtraining - and the potential for having to deal with a reallyserious situation. Looking back - I realize that the trainingI received would have probably saved my life if we'd hada nuclear spill of some sort - at least I knew exactly how tobest protect myself. I also continued to hone my skills in CIC.I liked Navigation - (traditional in this case!) and enjoyed beingpart of the underway team. Soon my Sea and Anchor station wasCIC.


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