The Revolt of the 10-Man

by Steve on August 26, 2006

Contrary to what most of you may believe, staterooms on aircraft carriers are anything but stately unless you happen to be the Captain of the ship or the Admiral in command of the whole Battle Group. I can’t speak for the nuke boats, never having had the pleasure, but on the old oil burners most squadrons had what was called a JO (junior officer) bunkroom. There were many names for this lowly accommodation but in VS-28 on the Forrestal ours was, quite plainly, the 10-man.

Nine of our most junior aviators and our squadron Intel Officer were packed into a dark, rank space containing double stacked racks (bunks), lockers, flip-down desks, sinks, and everything else ten guys would need for six months. We were all on different schedules so the cave stayed dark most of the time. The overhead lights were rarely used, in fact the switch was taped off and there were serious consequences to removing the tape and flipping the switch. Dim light tried to penetrate the black hole coming from the closed-circuit TV and a few desk lights and an occasional rack light. Rack assignment was by seniority and the premium space was tucked in the dark corners of the room. The most junior inhabitants ended up by the door and the phone.

We all yearned for the day when the rotation of personnel would allow us each the luxury of moving up to a 3-man. Even the Department Heads (LCDR) shared 2-man rooms – only the CO and XO had private staterooms. Keep in mind that space on a carrier is always in high demand: a stateroom on the boat is roughly the size of an average civilian walk-in closet. As staterooms go, the 10-man was cursed: it contained the highest concentration of junior officers in the squadron and as such was prime hunting ground for any senior officer looking for a victim to fill an assignment. It was also a hang-out for the JOPA (Junior Officer Protection Association – not a union, more of a fraternity) so if a Department Head was looking for a JO, any JO, it was the first place to call even if the sought-after officer didn’t live there. Night and day, the phone rang.

The Forrestal and her embarked air wing had just completed a two week NATO exercise involving ’round-the-clock ops so fuses were short and exhaustion was the norm. The phone had been ringing 24/7 and all attempts at re-engineering it to reduce the decibel level had failed. Most of the residents of the 10-man had just settled in for a much needed JORP (junior officer rest period) when the damn phone rang again. Shouted obscenities bounced off the overhead as the poor bastard closest to the offending instrument went to answer it. This individual was also quite an accomplished smartass and he had a plan. He waited for the cussing to die down and then picked up the phone.

“Forward Steering, Seaman Jones speaking…. No problem, Sir.” Click. He turned away from the phone and addressed the room: “Seems the SDO (Squadron Duty Officer) is looking for Ambrose. Let’s have some fun.” We all rolled out in uncontrollable laughter. The revolt had begun. We quickly regained control waiting for the next call as the SDO undoubtedly would redial the 10-man. When it did ring another of our crew answered so the voice would be different.

Ring, ring. “Sick Bay, Bowen here. Wrong number? That’s okay, Sir.” And so it continued with alternating players.

Ring, ring. “Flag Staff, Commander Williams. Who is this? Well LT Daniels, better check your number again, son.”

Ring, ring. “Engineering, LT Snells. No, this is not the 10-man!”

Ring, ring. “Galley Two, Chief Ball. No Sir, you must have the wrong number.”

Witnesses who happened to be in the squadron’s Ready Room at the time of the revolt reported that the gullible SDO was beside himself at this point. He kept slamming the phone down and staring at it. Meanwhile the CO seated not more than fifteen feet from the duty desk was growing ever more impatient with the SDO who, it seemed, couldn’t even make a simple phone call correctly.

By now everyone in the 10-man was incapacitated. The only one remotely capable of speech was the character of Commander Williams.

Ring, ring. “Flag Staff, Commander Williams. Is that you again Daniels? Dammit man, can’t you even dial a damn phone correctly? WHAT IS YOUR MALFUNCTION LIEUTENANT? How ’bout I get the Admiral to call your CO so we can all discuss your incompetence as an officer?” SLAM.

That did it. We were all laughing so hard it was painful. The kind of unrestrained release that hurts so bad that it can only be replicated by hundreds of crunches. The phone rang yet again after we had calmed down and since I was the intended target I figured it was time to end it.

“10-man, LT Ambrose. No, Dan-o the phone hasn’t rung down here in quite a while. Really? Nope, first time in over thirty minutes. Skipper’s looking for me? Be right up.”

Never did tell him.

{ 1 comment }

FIL December 10, 2008 at 14:25

The lowest form of officer berthing on the MIDWAY was Bunkroom 31. A-01-30-3L. 22 racks in B-K 31. Just like above, always funky smelling, always dark. Seldom any cool air (unless it was winter pierside in Pusan). Yep – there was an undeniable phone in B-K 31 too. Right by the hatch.

This was the MIDWAY’s overflow berthing, so there were not just squadron bubbas in there, but Snipes and Cryppies and any other O-1 without a sponsor.

Beware of the SWO there about halfway down and inboard – he sleeps naked and the curtains are usually open. Find your way down the passage with your feet, not your hands – you might get a handful of regret.

The head in B-K 31 was a pretty spartan affair – two seats, two sinks, two showers. Water for those showers came straight from the De-Water Feed Tank (DFT) – to get a shower with the push-to-talk water wands, you had to hold the button with your washcloth and let the scalding steam shoot upwards to the overhead. Steam collected on the cold steel overhead and you showered in the condensate.

Ahh memories. If you happen to get a chance to tour the MIDWAY now berthed in San Diego as a museum, you will find they now use B-K 31 to host youth groups (Scouts and such) for overnights aboard. At least our kids have A/C now.

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