A Tender Tale

And that brings us to the "final" Sea Story... and the point of TenderTale.

Take a walk on the Wild Side...  ....Lou Reed

After "inheriting" the responsibility for the weapons (guns) on board - four of us wound up standing watches as the Duty Gunner (ETs??!!!!). I was "volunteered" partially because I knew a fair amount about weapons - and could shoot fairly well --plus I wasn't on a repair party anymore - so was available. We (whoever was the duty gunner) were required to have the keys to the armory on us at all times. This led to some interesting side trips. As the duty gunner (again whomever had the duty) - we were required to check every ammo magazine on the ship - including recording the temperature in each. Since we had the keys to all of the Marines weapons except their few "ready response" weapons - no matter where we were - if the security alarm went off - we had to get to and unlock the amory very fast. And of course - during a security alert - sailors aren't supposed to be moving - it upsets the Marines. To avoid any unfortunate mis-understandings - we got to know the Marines in the Marine Detachment pretty well -- or should I say we made darn sure they knew who WE were!

Since we were already carrying the armory keys - someone came up with the idea of "letting" us carry the "special weapons security panel key" i.e. the "second" key to the "special weapons" spaces alarm system. Seems because of the security clearances required - and the pain in the butt paper work - and high level approvals required - there were only four people authorized to carry the key at any given time. Since there were only four - the four chiefs that were "key" persons - had to stand duty one day out of four - while the rest of the chiefs stood duty one day out of ten. Hence the motivation to get us to carry it - since E6's and below all stood duty one day in four anyway. So it happned. Being we four already had super security clearances - we were approved and put on the "key" list early in 1975. I, and the other three, had been carrying "the key" for several months. We had gotten to know the Marines pretty well - and in fact had actually gotten pretty friendly. Up 'til now - the relationship between sailors and the Marines had been - well - not hostile - but certainly not friendly. I had gotten to like several of the Marines - some of them weren't real together - but a few were really on top of things. Along came November - and every Marine knows that November 8 is Corp. Birthday time - and the Marine Corps Ball - and this being 1975 - this was no ordinary birthday - it was the Corps 200th. I had an idea. What if the three of us who didn't have duty - were to stand three eight -hour watches on the panel for the Marines - so all of them could go to the Marines Corps 200th Birthday Party. To actually relieve the Marines for 24 hours. I talked to my three counter-parts - they thought it was a good idea - so I took it to my chief. He was a little less enthusiastic - the Security Panel Watch was one thing - what about the Security Response teams in case of a security alarm / violation??? Ooops hadn't thought of that. Even with his reservations - he thought it a good enough idea to take it on up. The Brass thought it was a good idea too. So good that they were willing to do a couple of things: they would have to get permission from higher ups (Way up - like the Pentagon or some such-); and they would see if the auxillary security force (that was a bunch of us sailors from the ship's company with clubs in our hands!) - could stand-by for the Marine's Security Response Team. Well - it all came together - I and two others stood the "Marines" watch - and thankfully - there were no security alarms - or other problems nor incidents. Well - almost no problems - incidents?
This is me - remember - trouble on two feet. I just couldn't resist. First - the Marines are always looking for a few "good men" - well one of the guys in our shop drew up a poster - they had found their "good men" the sailors of the Proteus. Second - I couldn't leave it at that - yes - it was my idea - and yes I put in a lot of extra time and effort to make it happen - So just when did the BRIGHT RED door with the Brass MARINE SHIELD get stolen? (are we talking about a 200 pound standard ships door???? - yup). When the Marines started coming back that night after the party - almost all of them noticed the poster - and most thought it pretty funny - a couple wanted to tear it up - but most were good sports about it. The weird thing was that none of them noticed their door was gone !!! oh there was a door in the hole - a normal "gray" door.
No emblem. Not red. I kept waiting for one of them to notice - but no one did... Since this whole deal was my idea in the first place, I had taken the final watch - and they were to relieve me at 0800. About 0745 the door opened... then shut - then opened then SLAMMED shut "Where the ____ is my door?!!!" "Muster - on your feet!" "But gunny - it's not 0800 yet." "I don't care - where is my door?" "What are you talking about???" "The door is gone - and none of you noticed??? how could you miss???" I'd been wondering that myself. He ran back up the ladder to the door (we were on the second deck - the door was up a ladder on to the main deck) and looked it over real careful. Nope no wet paint here. Bone dry - been gray forever. "Get your butts out and find my door!" I was supprised - he was pretty steamed. I quiety pulled the poster down - I'm no fool - these guys are all hand-to-hand experts - and he was clearly upset. And I couldn't believe it - the door we had exchanged his with was only about 20 feet foreward... it opened into the machine shop- but it was partially hidden - at least from an aft view - by a large air duct. But that thing is huge - and did I mention RED?! I was relieved on time - the Marines still in the area all went out of their way to thank me for letting them all go to the party - and ask that I pass it on to the others. I zipped up two decks and cruised into our shop. Chief King was just hanging up the phone - and when he saw me - he pointed and said "now you've done it - the old man said for you to get that damn door back from wherever it is to the Marines immediately." Uh-oh... A quick motion to my two co-conspiritors from the night before - they knew what that meant - we had the doors exchanged in about five minutes. Actually I expected some fallout from that door thing - never heard about it again. Even the Gunny cooled of quickly - now that his door was back - he got over it. We remained on good, friendly terms.

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