Proud to be a Snipe
By John Petersen
He was tired. Having spent the last six hours on watch as the lower-levelman in the aft engine room, swapping out main condensate pumps, shifting the main and aux lube oil strainers, cleaning the lube oil purifier, lighting off one SSTG then securing the other, opening this valve and closing that other one, aligning then securing the main eductor, backflushing the EVAP brine pump to keep it running clear, wiping the oil trails off the main and aux condensers, and so on and so forth, yep, he was tired.
Finally, his watch relief reluctantly saunters down the ladder, the turnover report is given, and he is more than happy to ascend that same ladder out of the hole. He knows that in another six hours he’ll be back down there, but that’s six hours away. Now it’s his time, time to get some grub, hit the ships store for something needed or not, grab a shower, and maybe some rack time. Yet he cannot simply fall asleep, not gonna happen. Will just lay there, maybe read a few too many pages of the Steven King or Gary Jennings novel he always keeps under his pillow, then insert two of the best old yellow earplugs he could find in his ditty drawer and hopefully drift off for a couple hours. Hopefully…
Just as he is embedded in a good, deep sleep, above the white noise of the ventilation fan in the overhead, that all to familiar sound over the 1MC, ‘General Quarters! General Quarters!’ Even through the over-used earplugs, this call comes through clear as day, and, tired as he is, he’s out and on deck fully clothed and battle ready, headed to his GQ station without hesitation. ‘Tis only a drill, yet there goes another sixty minutes of sleep. Back to his rack, hoping for no more interruptions for a couple hours.
He has the midwatch, and knowing he needs to be up at a certain hour sleep comes in fits. 2300 and he is wide awake, so why not take advantage of it? Dressed and on his feet, he’ll head to the mess decks to scarf down whatever is offered for midrats, sneak out the aft port hatch to the fantail for a quick smoke, then down to the pit for yet another six hours of engine room hell, his only hopes being the EOOW is in a good mood and someone had the good sense to fire up the mud rack, as coffee is the nectar of the Gods at that point. His only thought as he makes his rounds after the usual turnover is ‘this six on- six off shit sucks hind tit’. The order comes, yet again, for him to SICLOS the mains. Ugh.
0600, and properly relieved. Breakfast for the crew has been announced, he bolts yet again for the mess decks, needs those carbs badly. A quick shower, maybe a shave and a gratifying dumping of the guts, and now some serious two or three hours sleep! Scratch that, time to work on PQS quals, most assuredly a fire drill, berthing is now secured for field day, the list of things to do and to be done are endless. Next watch: 1200. On the list of things to come: ECCT drills for OPPE. OPPE, the snipes second worst nightmare, after REFTRA.
Finally, a liberty port, Subic. He can smell the change in the air through the ventilation as the ship nears Grande Island, very few ports have that certain aroma. The ship is finally tied up, switched to shore power, and what really hurts is that every other swingin’ dick who isn’t a snipe is headed down the brow, as engineering is always the last ones off and will be the first ones on. This is set in stone. Therefore, his time off the ship to partake in the fun and debauchery is limited and every minute is of the essence. True to Snipe fashion, he makes every minute count. The exchange rate is 21 to 1, he knows that a $20 will get him fed, drunk and bred with enough left over to grab some BBQ on the way back to his ship. Life is good, if only for a couple days. Those couple of days are a Godsend for him.
A few days inport, and then back to the same old routine.
The life of a Snipe is akin to the circle of life, the same thing day after day, night after night, to the point that he knows whether or not night is day or day is night. He lives mainly below decks, rarely see’s the shining of the Sun. His clock is either the 1MC or the messenger waking him. His body automatically knows when to be where he needs to be, his thought process becomes robotic. Yet he maintains his routine, for he is, after all, a Snipe. And damned proud to be one!
MM1 J. Petersen