By Michael Newman, USS Proteus, late 80’s
You *know* “Jack” – There was a “Jack” in some shop or other – on just about every Tender, at least most of the time…]
I served on the USS Proteus in Guam as a pipe fitter in the pipe shop in the late 80’s. We had some really challenging Ship alterations and re-piping that had to be done on all of the 688’s that came to Guam and this alteration was one for the memory books.
One of the cockiest, most full of himself HT’s that I ever had the privilege to serve with happened to be the leading petty officer on this re-fit. He was the type that never listened to anyone and always had to do the work himself. We were working 12-on-12-off and luckily we had the night shift so we did not have to deal with as many “obstructions” along the way. Well, this Petty Officer (I will call him Jack) checked out all of the certified pipe we required and after securing all of the proper systems and getting all of the permissions needed, we started to cut out the old hydraulic piping so that we could get started. We had to take the plans and create 2 new “T’s” in the same area. Well, Jack went about barking orders and myself and another HT made all of the proper cuts, had it dry fitted and after it cleared inspection, we were ready to get started. We all were very good at using mirrors to get the backside of pipes welded but Jack decided that he would have a better view if he climbed in behind the pipes. We re-fit everything cleaned the joints, and fluxed it all up and were ready to go. Jack decided that he would do ALL of the torch work by himself so we sat down and watched the “master” at work. We did end up brazing the front of the joints for him as we went.
Well, as we finished the job, my friend and I looked at each other and thought…”how in the heck is Jack going to get out with all of these hot pipes?” Well, after looking at his situation, Jack decided there was no getting out until the pipes cooled. We waited for hours (chuckling all the time) for them to cool down. By this time our Chief had come down to check on us and watched as Jack tried in vain to squeeze out of his situation. He turned upside down, sideways, took off his shirt and pants to try to get out. We even tried to use butter to “grease him up” but not a chance. He had welded himself in and was NOT getting out.
By now the night shift acting R-Division officer had been brought down and had gone to get the XO of the Sub. They had watched the last 30 minutes from a short distance and just stood there shaking their heads. When we told him that there was no chance of his getting out, The CO of the boat was called and the XO of the Proteus was awakened. Not looking good for us.
There we stood, with all of the brass in our little world, 3:00 in the morning, explaining what we had to do. We were starting to say that we had to cut out the top “T” to get Jack out and the CO of the Sub busted out laughing. He said that this was the funniest thing he had ever seen in his career in the Navy. With Jack standing there all buttered up sweating and looking like he had just tried to scrape off all of the skin on his back, it was just too much. We all let loose after that. All but Jack of course.
We ended up cutting the pipe and helping him out. The next shift had to finish the job. His little screw-up probably cost the Navy eight to ten thousand dollars in time and certified piping but MAN what a way to go down in flames. After that Jake never was quite the same cocky HT as he was before.