The Boatswain’s Mate First Class was reporting aboard his new ship today. This ship was not his first or would it be his last in this man’s Navy. His new ship was the Seventh Fleet Flagship stationed in Yokosuka, Japan. He wasn’t sure what to expect, although he did know that he had better not pull some of the escapades that he had pulled on other ships that he had served in. He wasn’t nicknamed “Wild Man” for his mild demeanor by any means.
As this experienced Boatswain’s Mate, seabag tossed over his shoulder, walked down the pier to meet his new ship on this warm summer day his excitement swelled as he was about to embark on this new adventure. In his experience he had made many shipmates over the years and experienced a great deal of what the U.S. Navy had to offer. He had become a quick learner and was adept at his seafaring trade. BM1 “Wild Man” had learned cargo handling early in his career. He had become an expert in splicing and other forms of marlinespike seamanship. His small boat handling skills were outstanding. His leadership skills had been honed during wartime while working alongside Marines, although he was only 20 years old at the time. He developed a strong bond with the Marine Corps, a bond that would follow him throughout the rest of his life. Here he was now standing at the end of the ship’s brow ready to walk aboard this new chapter in his career. As he gazed at his new home he noted that this new ship lacked the pleasing lines of his previous ship. She was not the sleek “greyhound” of the seas that he had known and loved…she reminded him of a car carrier or cruise ship. He thought, “well at least I am back at sea again and that’s a good thing”!
“Request permission to come aboard Sir” he said in a firm and commanding voice to the Officer of the Deck as he reached the Quarterdeck of his new home. “Permission granted” replied the OOD, both providing a crisp hand salute, this being the standards required of all sailors upon embarking and debarking a US Naval Vessel. This being the first Flag Ship the BM1 had ever been aboard he expressed a quiet appreciation of the cleanliness of the Teakwood Quarterdeck. All of the brass in the area including the Ship’s Plaque, the Ceremonial bell, and the lifeline turnbuckles were sparkling in the bright sunlight. He immediately sensed the pride that the crew took in their ship. His gaze was drawn to the ship’s boats resting in their skids on either side of the Quarterdeck. The boats appeared to be in shipshape condition and ready for service when required.
BM1 handed his orders to the OOD. The manila envelope was approximately two inches thick. The contents of this parcel included his entire history including his medical records from the beginning of his career in the US Navy until the present. The Petty Officer of the Watch took note of the size of this package. He then proceeded to log BM1 into the Quarterdeck Log in order to acknowledge and make official the arrival onboard of a new crew member. The OOD welcomed the new sailor aboard and told the messenger of the watch to escort BM1 to the Personnel Office. After providing his orders and personal records to the Personnel Office he was lead to the Deck Office. Here he was introduced to the First Lieutenant and the Ship’s Bos’n.
“Welcome aboard Boats” came the greeting from the Bos’n and First LT. “How was your flight from Hawaii” asked the Ship’s Bos’n. All good Bos’n was the reply from BM1. “We’ve been looking forward to your arrival BM1” remarked the Bos’n with a slight smile. BM1 “Wild Man” wondered if his new leaders had heard of some of his earlier behavior while on liberty and if any explanations would be needed or required. The First Lt. then said, “you’ll be assigned to Second Division Boats since First Division has a Leading Chief and a BM1 already assigned”. Second Division lost their First class when the ship left our last home port, San Diego. BM1 said, “sounds good to me”. Wild Man didn’t expect the next statement though, “you’ll be assigned as the Admirals’ Barge Coxswain, as Second Division has an LCPO and a BM1 already assigned as LCPO”. Apparently the Admirals Barge was assigned to Second Division. Wild Man had been the LCPO on his last ship and he was hoping for the same billet on this new ship…he felt a twinge of disappointment. But orders were orders…BM1 had learned so far in his career that you didn’t argue with orders from your superior Officers and Petty Officers. “Come on Boats I’ll take you up to meet the Executive Officer who will introduce you to the Flag Lt.” Well, what a turn of events this is turning out to be thought the “Wild Man”.
BM1 Wild Man entered the XO’s Stateroom. As he was still covered he rendered a crisp salute and stood at attention. The XO rose from his desk and extended his hand saying at ease Sailor. “Yes Sir”, replied the Boatswain’s Mate as he removed his cover and shook the extended hand of the Executive Officer. As he was shaking hands, he breathed a sigh of relief realizing that some of his past had not followed him after all…hopefully. Many of the “incidents” that he had been involved in were not recorded in his official record. “Thank the Lord for that”, he silently thought. “So, you are the new Admirals’ Barge Coxswain as of today” said the XO. “Yes Sir” replied BM1…not sounding as enthusiastic as he had hoped. The Flag Lt. then walked in and introduced himself. The Flag Lt. inspected BM1’s uniform…gazing at his spit shined shoes, starched dungaree uniform, and sparkling white hat. “You’ll do fine Bos’n Mate… I can see that by your uniform” exclaimed the Flag Lt. “I’ll do my best” said BM1 Wild Man. “Let’s go and take a look at your craft Boats” said the Lt.
Upon arrival at the boat deck BM1 Wild man gazed at what was the most unkempt and ugly boats that he had ever seen…he was thinking “who and the hell is in charge of this garbage scow”. He learned from the Flag Lt. that when the ship was homeported in San Diego the “Barge” was never used and that no one had ever taken an interest in ownership of the boat. Boats was wondering if the craft were even seaworthy. Looking at the black hull he could see half moons…a sign that someone had sanded the sides with a disk sander. This was a no-no for sure as this boat was a fiber glass hull. The hull was a dull putrid black. He climbed aboard and couldn’t believe the condition of the teakwood deck…the spar varnish was faded and peeling and was in bad need of re-caulking. It was evident that nobody had given a damn about this craft. The forward and aft cabin paint was peeled and cracking in many places…in fact it appeared that someone had brushed the paint coating on rather than applying the paint coating with a spray gun. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The inside of the cabins were just as atrocious as the outside of what was supposed to be an Admirals’ Barge but looked more like a training aid for inexperienced coxswains. BM1 thought to himself, “do I even want to look inside the engine compartment”. He decided he needed to open the hatch and take a look. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The bilges were full, hoses were rotting off of their fittings, it was evident that this thing hadn’t been run in quite awhile. Closing the engine room hatch he quickly turned around and climbed down from the boat davit that housed this monstrosity. The Flag Lt. looked at the expression on BM1’s face and quickly tried to explain the reasons for such poor seamanship and upkeep. BM1 felt somewhat deflated but took it all in and told the Lt. “No problem, just needs a little tender loving care and I am the one who will provide that badly needed TLC. With a few hard working deck seaman and an Engineer we will have her shining like a million bucks in six months or so”. As he was saying this to the Lt. he was thinking, “man, have I got my work cut out for me, no liberty on my horizon for awhile”!
But BM1 never shirked from his responsibilities or went back on his word. In less than six months his “Barge” was the pride of the waterfront. With the help that he received from the hard working seaman and engineer assigned to him BM1 Wild Man became known as a miracle worker. He received numerous compliments from COMSEVENTHFLT and other visiting dignitaries. When Boats came aboard the Seventh Fleet Admiral didn’t care much for being carried around in a boat, as he preferred his helicopter for transportation when visiting foreign ports. The Admiral that relieved him though was just the opposite as he preferred riding around in his “Barge”. This made BM1 Wild Man extremely proud. Boats’ fondest memory was when the Admiral addressed him and asked “permission to stand on the Coxswain Flat with the Coxswain rather than sitting in the aft cabin”. “Absolutely Admiral…this is your Barge” he replied. The Admiral then said “no, this is your craft Boats”.
About a year later BM1 would experience one of the proudest days of his career. BM1 Wild Man put on his anchors and was advanced to Chief Petty Officer. He did feel a twinge of sadness as he would no longer be the Seventh Fleet Barge Coxswain. Over the following years the Boatswain’s Mate Chief Petty Officer would always remember the challenging duty assigned to him as the Seventh Fleet Barge Coxswain.
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