Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Life in Decom

Decom is a sad time for a warship.

Standing at the door to AMR (Auxiliary Machinery Room) I can look all the way aft and see the forward bulkhead of the Reactor Compartment. I'd say that's about 30 feet of open space. All the atmosphere control equipment like the CO2 scrubbers, the oxygen generator, and the CO-H2 burners have been removed.

Forward crew's berthing looks like a cavern with all the racks removed. There's enough space in there to set up a pool table and a foosball table.

I spend most of my time nowadays in the Engine Room, but when I walk through the forward end of the boat, it brings back a flood of memories from when this great warship was at sea on the pointy-end of the spear, thousands of miles from any friendly bases for support.

The ship's once soft, cool, homogenous fluorescent lighting is secured, and light is now provided by these harsh, hot, bare incandescent bulbs dangling every several feet from a shipyard temporary services cable.

As I sit down at what used to be my seat at the wardroom table, my mind doesn't see the bare walls dimly illuminated by the shipyard temporary lighting. My mind sees the rack that used to be there with all our personalized coffee cups. My mind sees the walls that used to be decorated with framed photos from wardroom outings we had in various ports. My mind sees the smiling faces of the other officers sitting around the table at lunch or dinner, laughing and sharing sea stories about past adventures or predictions about future adventures to come. I can see Admiral Donnelly kicking back on the bench when he paid us a surprise visit during our port call in Kings Bay. I see the cribbage board out on the table. I see the bright smiling faces of midshipmen eager to learn about what a career in the silent service has to offer. I see the Weps coming in and putting his can of wasabi nuts out on the table for us to share while we burned a flick. I see the blue and white checkered plastic table cloth the cooks always put down for breakfast (easier to clean up syrup spills).

As I walk up the middle level passageway, I see the firehoses and remember the dozens of times I got to don my SCBA and go fight imaginary fires. I also remember how close I was to winning the MSP Derby before the sonar chief's car ran my car off the track. (I was robbed!)

The control room isn't as cavernously empty as the berthing or the AMR, but still... the Dive, Helmsman, Planesman, and Chief of the Watch chairs are all gone. The periscopes are gone. The sonar and fire control screens are black. I remember many-a-midwatch at PD or on the surface when those screens were the source of light in the control room. [Other memories from the control room censored - I could tell ya, but then I'd have to kill ya].

It's quite a paradox being on a submarine. The best part about being a submariner is being at sea doing the cool tactical steely-eyed killer of the deep stuff that submariners do. Unfortunately, that comes with a sacrifice of time away from your family. So while I miss our time as an operational warship at sea, I am trying to focus on the positive aspect of enjoying the time with my family while we're in the shipyard.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Beautiful words! Its nice to read about someone in the fleet who "loves" their job when there are so many out there who waste all their time complaining about it. The Navy is lucky to have you!