Serving as "The Chief" - USS Providence SSN 719
My arrival in Groton, Connecticut was nothing but hectic. I had to get situated on board and learn about what was expected of me right away. The Chief I relieved could not stay on board for personal reasons. He was a good guy and he was liked by his division. That made it difficult for me as I was replacing him and my style of running the division may be a little different. By the time, the ship had gotten underway, I realized that there were probably going to be some personality conflicts. I dealt with them the best I could and things eventually worked themselves out. Slowly but surely, I was able to at least gain the trust of most of the division as well as the department's Senior Chief, my division officer, the Engineer, and the Commanding Officer. The Commanding Officer and Engineer seemed perfectly willing to trust my judgment even though I was not that familiar with the new engineering plant and equipment. It made it easier for me to establish myself. The ship went out on a mission that was classified for several months. It was highly successful and the ship received a Meritorious Unit Commendation as well as an Expeditionary Medal for the operation.
USS Providence awards for my first deployment (Meritorious Unit commendation is on the top and the Expeditionary medal is on the bottom)
After completing the mission, the ship stopped in Portsmouth, England for liberty. This picture shows me in front of the submarine on the day we came into port.
A little exploring around the harbor revealed an old site called Portchester castle. If I recall correctly, the original works were Roman but it was built up over the centuries. This photograph shows me standing in front of the "The Keep" portion of the works, which was built by Henry I.
Later, I visited London on a bus tour. I spent the better part of the day wondering about looking at the various sites. This is me in front of Big Ben.
Finally, I decided to take a train to Salisbury, England. From there, I managed to get on a bus to go see the rocks at Stonehenge.
After a quick trip across the ocean, the sub stopped in Halifax, Nova Scotia for a few days before returning to Groton. On the way into Halifax, we had an escort that I managed to photograph.
I did manage to look around in Nova Scotia but I had to stand duty one day. This is a photograph of me topside enjoying the nice weather during a break in the day's routine.
Returning to Groton, the ship went through several local operations, inspections, and extended upkeeps. Our next deployment was to the Mediterranean for a six month deployment. Meanwhile, my division was changing. New personnel were arriving to replace those that were exiting the Navy in the next few months. This was fortunate. While I felt I had gained the respect and trust of the senior personnel, I also felt that several of them had a mentality that did not quite agree with the way I did things. My leadership style was not completely to their liking and they just wanted to finish their obligation and exit the Navy. It was a mutual desire and I felt I could do better with the new personnel arriving from the Nuclear schools and other vessels since they would be more open to my methods.
There was also a change over in chiefs on board. While the Engineering department Senior chief was still the same person, the Chief of the Boat and many others were retiring or leaving for new commands. To me that was pretty good news. I had been the junior CPO on board and felt like I was being looked down upon by the senior CPOs. A changeover in the chief's quarters was overdue. With new chiefs, I would be able to relate to chiefs in my own age group with similar ideas on how things should be done. I looked forward to the Mediterranean cruise.
I had a photograph taken of me in my dress blue uniform about this time. Notice that after 12 years in the service, I now can wear gold indicating twelve years of good conduct.
We left for the "Med" in April of 1990. Our first port of call was to be Alexandria, Egypt. Everything was going along great until we tried to moor to the tender outside of Alexandria. Being a Nuclear vessel, the ship could not enter the harbor so they anchored the submarine tender from Sardinia outside the coastal waters. The tender would then provide electricity and other services to the submarine so the crew could go on liberty. The weather that May was cruel to the USS Providence and when it attempted to moor to the tender, the waves made the two ships nearly collide with each other. It was dangerous and it was determined the sub would anchor away from the tender for the night and hopefully the weather would improve. This photograph shows me on the bridge that day after the ship had anchored away from the tender.
The weather did not improve the next day and any port call in Egypt was cancelled. Instead the ship went back to sea and conducted training exercises! Needless to say the crew was not happy and neither was I. Our next port of call was not for another month and it was La Maddalena, Italy on the island of Sardinia.
We spent about two weeks in La Maddalena. Most of it was performing an upkeep of the ship. We did look about but it was mostly rocky islands and local taverns. It was also a resort area but, in early June, things were still slow. During this time period we learned the ship would make a new port of call in Lisbon, Portugal to make up for the loss of the Egypt visit. However, it would only be for three days vice the six or seven we were scheduled for in Egypt. So, in late June, the sub moored in Lisbon for a visit. Once again, the fates seem to conspire against the ship or at least the engineering section. We had a truck pull up with a big diesel engine to supply electricity so the reactor could shut down. When an attempt was made to link the diesel to the ship's electrical system, the diesel's electrical breaker failed. As a result, the reactor could not be shut down! This meant that the engineering department would have to split up where half had to remain on board to provide electricity with the reactor and half could go on liberty. Even worse was the supervisory watches only had three qualified personnel. Myself and the Senior Chief were two of them. I agreed with the Senior Chief that I would take the morning off and go on liberty until 4PM, when I would return and he could go on liberty for a few hours. It seemed like a fair solution but neither of us was going to get a complete day off. I went ashore and visited the local sites. The main one was "The Castle of St. George", which overlooked the city. Here is a photograph of me on the ramparts overlooking the city.
I spent the morning wandering the streets and getting something to eat. By the afternoon, I had to return to the sub, which was across the river. As the ferry neared the other side of the river, I was shocked to see the Senior Chief on the pier. He told me that the breaker had been fixed and the reactor had been shut down a few hours ago. We could both enjoy two days of liberty after all!
The next day, several of the chiefs grouped together to see the sites. This is a picture of me with the Senior Chief, the Chief of the boat, and the Auxiliary division chief by the sub. I am the one in the fashionable shorts.
The weather improved and we went back to the Castle because the Senior Chief did not get a chance to check it out.
We had a pretty good time and not a bad day out sightseeing. Things got better for the sub because our next port of call was Toulon, France for Bastille day celebration. We were there for about a week and it was quite the good time for everyone. The French Riviera is definitely beautiful and the locals treated us well. This is a photograph of me by the pier.
We did quite a bit and visited the top of the mountain that overlooked the city. Atop the mountain was a museum celebrating the liberation of Toulon and southern France by the allies in 1944. The photograph shows us at the mountain top.
After Toulon, the ship returned to La Maddalena because of a malfunction in the engineering plant. While we were there, Saddam invaded Kuwait. At this point the Senior Chief left because he was going to retire before the cruise was complete. We were also informed his replacement could not meet the sub because he was medically disqualified as a submariner. Believe it or not, the senior nuclear qualified CPO was myself and I had to assume the role of the Engineering Department leading CPO.
The sub went out on operations as soon as possible to be ready for whatever was required. Basically, that is all we did. By the end of August, we came back to La Maddelena for another maintenance upkeep prior to departing the Mediterranean. While we were there, we decided to some exploring of the local area. This is a photograph of a rock formation over looking the area from a mountaintop. The formation is called "L' Orso" which means "The Bear".
We also did some walking about the local mountain trails on the nearby island of Caprera. Here was an interesting overlook where you could see a lot of boats down below.
Prior to leaving La Maddalena, we had the annual CPO initiation, which was one of the best I ever experienced in my career. Maybe it was because we were away from home port and could dedicate the time, or it was just the chief's quarters. No matter what the reason, it was great time for everyone. This photograph shows all the Chief's quarters after the initiation was over with two new CPOs added to the quarters (They are located on the bottom row in the middle). The Commanding Officer is in the middle of the group. I am in the back row on the right.
By the time, we left La Maddalena, the crew was ready to go home. On the way out of "The Med" we spent the weekend at the Rock of Gibraltar, where the British made us feel at home.
As always, I had one duty day in port so I have the obligatory photo of me by the submarine.
The next day we paid a cab to give us a tour of the island. This photograph here shows me with one of the rock apes.
The monkeys were pretty mild but we didn't try to spook them. I would have hated to see one run off with my 35mm Nikon! This photograph showed the closest thing to a date you can find on the "Rock".
With that the "Med cruise" was complete. We had an Operational Reactor Safeguards Examination (ORSE) prior to pulling into port, which we passed. To be honest, I used to despise ORSE but it is a necessary evil. Throughout my naval career, I did not like the idea of having an inspection after a major deployment. The crew is not thinking at this point and are more interested in getting home than performing at their best. However, I am just a retired SCPO. The Admirals all decide this sort of thing and must figure that this is when the crew is most proficient. I understand the concept, I just did not like the idea.
I continued to perform as the Engineering Department leading CPO for several months. We finally received a Master Chief to fill the position in January of 1991. The ship was operating in the Bahamas and we managed to have a swim call or two. This time I was prepared and had a waterproof disposable camera with me and took some interesting photographs of the sub from the water.
With the department pretty well established, we made another deployment in the summer and early fall of 1991. There were no ports of call and it was only two months at sea. After returning to port, we received a new Commanding Officer and conducted a change of command ceremony. Here is a photograph of me in my dress whites at that ceremony. To be honest, this was the last time I would figure I would wear this uniform.
The submarine was scheduled to go to Charleston in a year for a "Depot Modernization Period" (AKA mini-overhaul). Over the next nine months, we conducted several exercises down in the Florida area. In April of 1992, the ship was operating in the Bahamas when I heard a shipwide announcement for me to report to the control room. When I did, the Captain directed me to stay where I was standing and not to go anywhere. We had just come down from periscope depth and retrieved the standard message traffic. Had I made some mistake in my Reactor records that somebody had discovered and I was going to be keelhauled? Suddenly, the Chief of the Boat came into control with something small in his hands and I suddenly realized they were my Senior Chief anchors! The message was that I had been selected for promotion! The Captain thought it was a good joke but for a few minutes, I did not think it was very funny.
Prior to going into the shipyard, the sub made a brief port visit to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The weather was very foggy outside of Halifax and I was surprised we made it into port. Here is a photograph of me topside. Notice the fog is so thick, you can not see the shoreline.
Here is a photograph of me at the pier with the submarine. Notice that it is still foggy. The weather in Halifax is often foggy. You can sit up on the hill and watch the fog come in and out like clockwork.
Before we left, I managed to get my division together for a photograph. There are only four in the picture but that is misleading. Two were below operating the plant and we left two more in Groton on leave or attending school. My division officer on the right would later show up in my career.
We then returned to Groton, to prepare for the shipyard. Here is a photograph of the submarine returning. There is no problem with fog here.
Before you knew it , we were in Charleston, South Carolina for the shipyard period. It was typical shipyard work that I did not enjoy very much. It is long hours of working in shifts and you rely on the shipyard for a lot of the work. It was often agonizing waiting for the shipyard to complete a job that you knew could be done quicker.
Meanwhile, my division continued to perform well. Here is a photograph of most of my division. This is probably early 1993. One of the division had reenlisted and we performed it near downtown Charleston. Again, several division members are missing because they were on board the submarine.
While we were in South Carolina, I put in my request to return to Orlando, Florida for my next tour of duty. I was excited when I found out that I was approved to return in early 1994.
The ship eventually went out on sea trials. Here is a photograph of me topside on the return into port. Notice the bright white paint on the topside of the hull. This marks the after escape trunk where the rescue vehicle would have to go if we could not surface again. This is common practice for submarines after a shipyard period. I guess it is best to make sure the rescue vehicle has a nice bright target to find.
A few weeks later we returned to Groton, Connecticut. My relief arrived in the winter of 1993 and I was glad to turn over the division to him. I felt I had done pretty well as the Chief and I was glad to be going back to Orlando for another tour.
Shore duty - Nuclear Power School class advisor - 1995-1997
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