By John Petersen
My first ship was an old Fulton class sub tender, USS Proteus AS-19. In the late 50’s, this ship was decommed, put into drydock, and sliced down the middle to insert a 55′ midsection designed to accommodate work spaces and such for the then new Polaris missiles being deployed on submarines (SSBN boats), then recommissioned.
I reported aboard this vessel in 82, and was immediately assigned to R-5 (RADCON) division (this lasted maybe 4 months, got moved to another division due to me being monochromatic anemic. re: iron deficient, not allowed to be around anything that produced zoomies).
Yet, in those short four months, I had fun. We were required to take a tour of the main traffic areas of the ship every four hours, employing a radiac to ensure no funky neutrons have escaped (note: remember those divers watches that had the luminescent green hour and minute markers? If one of those watches face covering broke, that green stuff would set off any radioactive material detector. Sleep well).
This was actually a somewhat boring exercise, and the radiac was a fairly simple device to operate, so one day I decided to have a bit of fun. Part of the rounds took me through many shops, one shop in particular was on the main deck, mid-ships, pretty much open floor port to starboard (MR shop).
I enter this space with my trusty radiac unit set at x10. Walking thru the MR shop, I spot an obvious newbie (you know the type-crisp uniform, not a hair out of place, eyes the size of hubcaps), and as soon as I get to him I deftly throw the switch from x10 to x100, (at x100 the radiac was clicking like a poker card in bicycle wheel spokes). Swing to the side as I throw the switch back and forth between x10 and x100, repeat 3 times. I look at said target with eyes that spell impending doom, tell him NOT to move, and walk briskly away towards R-5.
After about 20 minutes, I casually returned to newbie (who, by this time is ready to break down and cry, yet hasn’t moved an inch), and mention: “Sorry, the radiac malfunctioned. You’re good to go”. I thought that poor kid was gonna pee himself.
(Got my ass chewed out big time for this one, but SOOO worth it)!