Concerning Fireman Shmuckatelli’s Work Ethnics

6 03 2008

As I mentioned before, my attitude towards “work” more often then not got under the skin of my superiors.

To understand why, I think it’s important to know what my job was. Read this to get a basic understanding of what being an Interior Communications Electrician (ICmen) is all about, especially the “What they Do” section.

Got it? Probably not, and if you were never in the Navy, you probably don’t know what half that stuff means. No big deal, I’ll be as thorough as possible with my explanations.

You no doubt read and understood the sentence about “telephone and other communications circuits.” Just about every space, compartment, or office on a ship has a telephone or other means of communication. That means that at any time, a phone or other communications device could break down or be broken, which means that somebody (me) had to go and check it out. I understood that it was part of my job to fix this stuff, that wasn’t the problem.

What I came to hate very quickly about the job was the fact that 90% of our equipment was broken or misused by somebody on the ship that didn’t know how to fix it themselves.

The reason I would “roll my eyes” or “complain” about doing the work was because that meant, generally, that some idiot broke something and now I had to stop what I was doing and go fix it. Such is the nature of a repairman.

The term “repairman” is very accurate. However, besides fixing what broke, we also had to maintain our equipment. Preventative maintenance (PMS) was over half of what our workload consisted of. The rest of the time was spent doing trouble calls for broken equipment. There was a trouble call list, and it was always backed up with work orders, so the list needed daily attention if a dent was to be made. Of course, if something vital broke down, it had to be fixed immediately.

Now everybody has a different definition of what is “vital.” The console in the pilothouse that steered the ship was vital. If that malfunctioned, it was a priority to get fixed.

To most, a phone in some random office on the third level seems rather unimportant. Try telling that to the Officer who uses that phone and wants it fixed NOW GODDAMMIT!

I will use the Operations department as a good example of how annoying my job would get at times. It is no coincidence that I choose the Operations department as an example, as they broke the most stuff.

The Operations department, on my ship and I assume on other ships, is responsible for…lots of stuff. Take a look at this if you can’t figure out what I mean from the context of what I’ll be explaining.

If you were observant, you noticed that the OE division employs Interior Communications Electricians.  That is true on most ships.  On my ship, the IC’s worked for the Engineering department.  So when I talk about the “Operations” department I mean all of them except for OE division and maybe OEM division, but specifically OI division.

Anyway, what I’m talking about is the people that sit in a dark room (CDC) in front of computer consoles, looking at Radar screens, communicating with other ships, and tracking all contacts.  Thats the kind of stuff they do, and they are, of course, an important part of any ship.

However, a lot of the equipment they use, with the exception of the Radar, radios, and computers, is IC equipment. The phones, the DRT (dead reckoning tracer), as well as the shipboard intercoms (bitch boxes) and other various communications circuits and devices. If we were responsible for fixing the chairs they sat on all day, that probably would have pushed me over the edge.

For some reason, people in Operations were very likely to break their phones. In their dark little room, they had three phones. At least once a month, one of those phones would break from misuse. People slamming them down into the cradle, breaking the dialing mechanism, or just spilling coffee or soda on them.

Yes, phones on ships have dials (generally). They are a pain in the ass to fix, and they cost hundreds of dollars to replace. Only the government could find a way to make rotary dial phones cost hundreds of dollars.

The DRT is something of an archaic device, invented before GPS was available and widely in use. It is a big table looking thing that takes navigational inputs (also from IC equipment) and physically traces the ships course on a big map or other piece of over-sized deli paper. When I was on board, the ship had GPS, so the thing never got used except when they would have to train new people on how to use it in case the GPS failed.

The thing was, nobody really knew how to use the DRT that well (because nobody ever used it enough to get the hang of it). And as weird as it sounds, I didn’t even know how to use it, I just knew what it was supposed to do and how it was supposed to do it.  Anyway, Operations personnel would start to conduct some training on the thing, and they would think it is broken because they can’t get it to work right.

What this meant was that I or somebody from my shop would have to go up to their dark little room and make them look like idiots. What I mean: To “fix” the DRT involved either flipping a switch (only once was it actually the “on/off” switch, they are not stupid people by any means) or turning a dial or knob to the right setting.

And those same situations would happen all over the ship with all our equipment on a daily basis. If I didn’t already mention it, IC equipment is absolutely everywhere on the ship, and crewmen that don’t know how exactly a piece of OUR equipment works were responsible for using it every day, as that was the function they served on board.

In fact, one could say it was everybody else’s job to use OUR equipment. When it broke (either through misuse or normal wear and tear), it was OUR job to go fix OUR equipment that THEY fucked up.

To put it in other terms, hardly any of the equipment we were responsible for was used solely by us.  Everybody else used our stuff, and we had to fix it when it broke or got broken.

Enginemen (EN’s) operate and maintain the ships engines (and other such heavy engineering equipment). When something of theirs breaks, it’s not some deckhands fault, its their own. If the number 6 cylinder on engine 2 is misfiring, its not because some dumb Operations female left a pop tart inside and it clogged the intake, it’s because engines break down on their own every now and then.

I hope you understand how this became endlessly frustrating to me. Also, think of how it shaped my attitude towards these people and the work I was responsible to do. When I had to go fix something, it was because somebody was careless or ignorant with MY equipment.  My natural reaction was to think of everybody as clumsy ignoramuses, so when I had to go fix something, I would project all these feelings towards whoever asked me to do it, which was usually somebody above me.

Looking back, I should have controlled myself better and maintained my military composure, rather than bitch and complain about all the idiots that kept breaking my equipment.

And yes, I have actually had to fix something of mine because somebody left a pop tart inside.

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4 responses

10 03 2008
Joe Drinker

Geez man. I’d hate to be walking up to a ship and know deep down inside that it was my responsibility to keep all the comm stuff on board working with other people breaking it all the time. Kudos for being able to do it at all.

And that DRT, yeah, the ships have GPS, but doesn’t look as cool as having giant sheets of paper with courses plotted all over it. Didn’t you see Master & Commander?

10 03 2008
MRoDT

Thanks for the Kudos, but apparently I wasn’t able to do it all. That’s why I got out…it’s also why I HAD to get out. They wouldn’t even let me stay in if I wanted to.

Didn’t see Master and Commander, but I know what you are talking about. Navigation department had to keep those huge maps on file in the Chart Room, which was also where a major piece of our equipment was. I remember having to sit in that room for 6 hours once to do a maintenance check.

Anyway, they had to keep track of the ships position on those paper maps as we traveled about, even though the GPS was way more accurate. The paper maps are a mandatory, always in use back up system I suppose.

28 04 2008
Jo3 aka daddy

hi my name is jo3 aka daddy will i am just here and biting on my pin and i guess just being dumm from my head will got to go…..

11 11 2008
IC2 MadasHell

Geez…I know exactly what you’re talking about. I was on the Nimitz for 4 years while it was in Dry Dock, if you know of anyone going in or who is already in that can get off a ship going into dry dock have them do it ! Whatever you do, don’t get me started on Hydroflorocarbon Monitors. Those freaking things sound alarms all the time, you know what it’s like to be working on a Fire circuit and having to stop to run down to see what the heck is a matter with those things. I had calves so big I couldn’t get my jeans up past them from all the running up and down ladders. Elevator controls were ok, I could work on them all day without any problems. Unless, some dim wit thought it would be funny and pee down a shaft while you were working on it. We had the same problem on our ship with knuckleheads breaking phones, but, it’s worse on shore duty. Those knucleheads don’t know that those phones cost the military $500.00 a piece. ICAN was a cool system to work on as well. I could have done without it being Windows based but…. Take Care !

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