A note here to begin: I thought a bit about posting this, the timing being close to the Lex birthday and maybe folks having thoughts to post about that and reflecting on what’s lost. Then the brain percolated a bit and you know, we all have good memories about lots of things, and this is about the Connie, Lex’s favorite BGB (big grey boat), and we need to smile and keep going! So there.
It being the Marine Birthday and all, it’s time to share a story about Marines. That’s capital M with intent. Marines. You can’t get anyone better to cover you. You can’t find anyone better to go in first. You simply can’t find anyone better. Marines are superbly trained and follow their orders. Precisely. OORAH!
We were on board the Connie, CV-64, in the mid-70′s, the Connie had been in the yards for some mods, most of which involved the transition from CVA-64 to CV-64. You could look it up, lots of changes to BGB #64.
Connie was at sea for an extensive period of time after all the modifications, undergoing numerous trials and training, most of which came under the title of REFTRA (Refresher Training). My squadron was aboard the Connie for several months during this evolution. Traps were scarce, boredom was rampant, and the crew of the Connie were subject to endless drills and training. That’s what the Navy is all about. Be prepared. For anything.
General Quarters sounded frequently, one never knew if the alarm was for real or for training. When GQ sounds, all hands race to their battle stations, wherever that is. The narrow passageways quickly fill with sailors in a hurry to get in position.
Those of us with the air wing had no battle stations. The best solution for airedales was to keep out of the way when all the scurrying about began. Our skipper made it clear for us, if you are in the ready room, good. Stay put. If you are in your stateroom, good. Stay put. Stay put seemed to cover our position well.
The Marines on ship had a specific assignment. Yes, there were Marines on the Connie, a detachment of Marines for security purposes dwelt within the bowels of the carrier and I assume they still do the same on all aircraft carriers. Their presence helps to maintain good will and order, and if that fails the Marines are in charge of the ship’s brig.
When GQ sounds the Marines have an assignment they take seriously: the Marines guard the weaponry spaces on the ship, wherein are kept the things that are scary and go Boom in a big way.
The standing orders for the Marines, so the story goes (I did get all this second hand, I was in the ready room when all this occurred, and you know you just can’t make this up) is upon hearing the alarm for GQ the Marines will stop whatever it is they are doing at that instant, grab their weapons, and IMMEDIATELY proceed to the weapons spaces where the things that go Boom in a big way are. Guard the weapons. Be in position quickly.
The parties that relayed this story to me were squadron mates who happened to be in the wardroom for chow when GQ sounded. The wardroom, for those of you who are not familiar with the term, is the chow hall for officers. Don’t know what the protocol is today, but at that time no flight suits were allowed in the wardroom, so if you were an airedale most of the time you were in the dirty shirt wardroom up forward. Only the officers of the ship’s company and air wing officers in the uniform of the day were in the wardroom. It was upscale. Table cloths and all that.
A few of my aviator compadres were not on the schedule for the day, therefore they were in the uni of the day and basking in the more polite company of the non dirty shirt crowd.
The event, as they described it, went like this. GQ sounds, most of the blackshoe crowd in the wardroom gets up and heads out the doorways en route to their stations. My compadres settle in for a bit more morning coffee.
A few minutes later a Commander enters the wardroom. His uniform is wet, wet with what appear to be footprints in various places. All going the same direction. The Commander was smiling and shaking his head.
What happened to him? What’s with the footprints?
Well, it was that the Commander was walking down a main passageway, minding his own business, when GQ sounded. The Marines had just finished morning calisthenics and were all in the shower cleaning up. The Commander was in the passageway just outside the Marine quarters just a few seconds after the GQ alarm went off.
That’s when the first barefoot nekkid wet Marine with an M16 in his hands and a towel around his neck came out of the Marine showers, made a sharp turn, knocked down the Commander, and ran over him. There were 11 more nekkid wet Marines with M16′s behind the first one, and they all followed the first Marine. Headed for the weapons spaces. They all ran over the Commander. Quickly.