A Tender Tale

Chapter 6:
Loose ends and Tale-end

Another hard learned lesson was that not everyone is a good guy. Most of the time - almost without exception - the people I worked for - and with - were competent, professional and "good people". You may not "like" everyone - nor does everyone like you - but the spirit of team and family is very strong. Most of the time. Then there was this one division officer we had. Wow! Once when we were out at sea - and trying to get in some target practice on the 20MM guns - all four guns had jammed - well - they should have been adjusted better - but things happen. The Captain wasn't real pleased - and needless to say - the gunner was feeling the heat. Then to pour salt in the wound - "our boss and example" wanders by the Captain and mumbles something to the effect that his ET's could even do better than this... Well the Captain wasn't ammused - we gained the opportunity to improve our weapon handling skills. Like we didn't already have enough to do - now our Division Officer has "volunteered" us to be gunnersmates as well!!!! While I'm not going to speculate on his motivations and problems - I can say that in my humble opinion - this was one miserable human being. I'll say this though - with him loose - there were few dull moments in the Navigation Repair Shop - some of the adventures he precipitated were dandies!

And if it's bad - don't let it get you down, you can take it;
And if it hurts - don't let them see you cry, you can make it!
Hold your head up! boy; Hold your head up! boy;
Hold your head up! boy; Hold your head High!...

One day - I was repairing some test equipment that had failed calibration for one reason or another. One piece of gear belonged to a boat - it was a sychro test device - a test generator for testing common compass repeaters. Without going into great detail - let's just say that I tried to get the thing apart - and since I could find no documentation on this device - and had never seen one apart - I didn't do to well. The problem was a "hub" that the indicator dial was mounted to needed to come off of the synchro's shaft - and inspite of locking it in a vise trying to unscrew it - pry it off, etc. - it wouldn't budge. Well, replacement was not very expensive - the major value being in the synchro itself - and this one was bad. So I rather than waste a bunch more time on it - I just threw a Not Worth Repair tag on it - and sent it back to the boat. Next thing I know - I'm being brought up on charges and am to stand a court-martial. No kidding. And guess who filed the charges? Yup - our division officer. And he has also contacted the payroll clerk to have the amount of the replacement unit deducted from my pay - though that request was shot down immediately - he had no authority to do that - but he certainly tried. I had been doing so well. Things were really smoothing out - and now this! That night was one of the longest nights in my life. The thing wasn't but a few dollars - and the only valuable part in it was broken - rejected by the calibration lab before I got ahold of it... The following morning - one of the chiefs met me before muster - and took me to a "meeting" - really - he just got me out of the shop - told me to stay out of site - and keep my mouth shut. I did. A couple of hours later - I heard it was all over.
Robert Dibben ETSC
with the troops building the tent city for the refugees from Viet Nam
The chiefs had won. What????? Seems the troops had come to my aid. Even though I didn't work directly for him - Chief Dibben had put his foot down - and put a stop to the fiasco. He had been in the Navigation Repair shop since before I reported aboard and - he and I had butted heads more than once - in fact - he was the major contributor to that less than stellar evaluation: that first one after making E6. He and I had a "dissagreement" - and he even cheerfully offered that I had every right to my position - but NOT the right to challenge him in front of the troops. Fair enough - I had learned - as my encounter with those Officers proved - I could do it right... But now - months later - I hear that he single-handedly took on this Division Officer. He - above all people - felt I could stand "straightening" out... but these "trumped up" charges weren't right - and he went to the line to stop it. And he did it by the book. Rather than getting in the Division Officer's face - and arguing about it - he took the tack of: fix the problem - no evidence - no case. He went down to the machine-shop and had a machinist use a miniature arbor press to get the (now scarred) hub off of the old synchro. Then the machinist chucked up the damaged part - and turned it - making it's surface perfect once again. The part was then painted black (as it originally was) - then pressed onto the new replacement synchro's shaft. The unit re-assembled - and up to the calibration lab - where it was calibrated and passed. The now repaired and calibrated unit was then put back on the Division Officer's desk. All in one night - It was like the cavalry coming over the hill. Needless to say - the Division Officer's case folded - and the complaint dissappeared. I'll never forget that incident - and the fact that the Chief put his butt on the line for me - inspite of whatever had happened in the past. The last I heard - that Division Officer was looking for a job. I hope he got help for his problems.

The forward 5 inch was removed by the Ship Repair Facility, Guam in 1974-75 - so that left the 5 inch magazine as an unusable space. An ammo magazine in a WWII vintage ship has all kinds of elevated storage racks welded to the ships bulkheads, deck and overhead. These are sized and designed to hold 5 inch rounds - which are sorta like storing bologna. Unless you are storing bologna - these magazines are pretty worthless for general storage. After having thwarted the division officer, the Chief's felt it was a good idea to keep me out of harms way. Apparently this Officer was making no bones about his intention to get me - the first, any infraction - and my butt was his. So the Chief's had an idea. Since I could weld - I could probably handle a cutting torch pretty well... So they turned me loose on the old 5 inch magazine. I spent the next couple of weeks turning the maze of brackets, braces, blocks and such into smooth - usable surfaces. I also cut out the hugely oversized sprinkler system - not needed in a cold storage room. I guess that was probably the wackiest job I had on the ship - cutting torch - and sledge hammer.

Shortly Chief Dibben got his orders back to the States - and a new chief came in - Chief King - I don't know exactly what happened - but after he arrived - that division officer was gone within days - he was still around the ship - but he was out of our lives.

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