Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Barracks Are on Fire!

While stationed at the Fleet Anti-submarine Warfare School in San Diego during the summer of 1964 a neighboring barracks had caught on fire.

All sailors are trained in basic firefighting skills while in boot camp. We learned to fight shipboard fires using water and foam, 1 1/2 inch fire hoses, 2 1/d inch fire hoses, and with extended nozzles. A barracks fire, caught in the early stages, was a piece of cake to put out.

All the years that I was in the Navy, there was a rule that if you were aboard a ship or station you were on duty — no matter what. On this particular day classes were over, I had eaten dinner and received my precious liberty card — my permission to leave the base. I had gone back to my barracks after dinner and changed into my dress white uniform. I was on my way out the door and would have headed toward the gate but the alarm was passed. Before I could make myself scare I was thrown a coil of 1 1/2 inch hose — I was now a firefighter!

The fire was extinguished quickly and then came the cleanup. Fire damage includes lots of smoke, water, and soot. My dress whites now looked like chimney cleaner black! I was filthy and so were my clothes.

I inquired later about being reimbursed for the loss of my uniform. I was told that got a uniform allowance ($7.00/month) to take care of that. It was several months before I was able to afford to replace my whites.

While financially disconcerting and emotionally exasperating, the experience taught me a few good lessons about the Navy, one of which is to never depend on the Navy to pay you for your losses (also true for Navy civilian workers).

1 comment:

reddog said...

The old joke is that if you want a good paying job, hire on at McDonalds, not the Navy.

The Navy was more fun though. I never had a complete uniform kit after boot camp. I took off about 15 pounds in boot and put them right back on during sub school and A school, so none of the boot issue ever fit right. For special details I just borrowed what I needed. 99% of the time I got away with dungarees cast off by shipmates as they mustered out. I had my own little red laundry marker and DC stencil. The XO hated that but it was regulation and the CO thought having a ragamuffin QMOW was a riot. He liked my WWII issue foul weather jacket a whole lot. Very salty.