Dodging Shot Lines
By: Garland Davis as told by Kurt Stuvengen
While serving in USS Reeves CG-24 as a BT2, BTCS Vernon Bertelson arranged for me to be assigned as topside phone talker at the forward fueling station for underway refueling operations. This was my station until I made First Class and was then relegated to the pit.
During this period, we usually refueled from one of the Military Sealift Command tankers operating out of Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines. The tankers Hassayampa, Passumpsic, Misspillion, and Ponchatoula were the Subic based oilers. The civilian crews of these ships were always practical and professional during refueling operations.
We were to refuel from the stateside based USS Kansas City a Navy crewed Oiler and stores ship. I am convinced to this day that I narrowly missed being injured or possibly killed by sailor from that ship.
When the receiving ship comes alongside a tanker or stores ship, the supply ship normally shoots a messenger line to the receiving ship. This line is used to pull ever greater lines over until the fueling rig can be connected. When the word was passed to “Stand by for shot lines fore and aft,” I usually just crouched down behind the fueling sponson. The MSC ships shot well over the foc’sle and ASROC launcher.
After we came alongside Kansas City and the word was passed, I ducked behind the sponson and waited for the shot line to be fired. I peeked over the fuel line and suddenly realized that the fucking Gunner’s Mate was aiming directly at me and fired as I raised my head. I quickly imitated a turtle and jerked my head behind the sponson as the shot line weight passed through the area where my head had been and slammed into the bulkhead. My quick reaction was the only thing that prevented the black mark on the bulkhead from ending up on my head.
To this day, I cannot wrap my head around the reason a sailor would deliberately try to injure a fellow sailor with a potentially deadly projectile fired from a rifle. Later, I was told that in the apparently less professional stateside fleet that the Gunner’s Mates awarded each other points for hitting someone on the receiving ship with the shot line projectile.
After that incident, I always logged off and went to cover when the shot lines were flying regardless of what ship we were replenishing from.
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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.