So, a visitor reminded me, in a tangential way, of one of my more entertaining duty days.
We had just finished up an upkeep period, and were getting ready to get back to sea. We had gotten a lot of little things identified and corrected while in port, which was good, seeing as how we were going to get ridden by squadron and evaluated. This included some tactical evals, material inspections, and sound cuts. Sound cuts were useful for several reasons. 1) They told us just how quiet we really were. 688's are not uniform in their stealth, so figuring out just how noisy you were let you know just how you could be employed. 2) A noisy boat is a poorly maintained boat. Therefore, sound cuts were a way of judging just how well the crew was taking care of their boat.
Our boat had an excellent sound silencing program, one which had been commended by our squadron multiple times. So, we weren't sweating the sound cuts too much.
That is, until a couple sonarmen came to visit me at the beginning of my duty day. Now, I don't know about the rest of the fleet, but our sonarmen, while excellent watchstanders and great about telling other divisions what was too nosy, didn't like having to actually deal with such things themselves. Probably because they weren't very good at it - turning the wrench, writing the work package, or ordering the parts. The setback that brought the sonarmen to see me that particular duty day was, in fact, ordering parts.
You see, several of the doorknobs on the boat had broken internal springs. This meant that the doors would not latch properly. So, anytime the boat took any kind of angle or roll, a bunch of doors would simultaneously slam open and then shut. Not good for sound silencing.
As it turned out, the doorknobs were given to the Sonar division to fix. Unfortunately, they had forgotten to order new doorknobs to replace the old. So, when the “Replace broken doorknobs” tasker came due, they found themselves somewhat out of luck.
And so they came to me on my duty day, hoping I might have a suggestion. We were getting underway in less than a week, so we had to solve the issue ASAP. The parts were finally on order, but wouldn’t arrive for weeks – too late for us. We could try and cannibalize the parts from another boat, and pay them back with our new doorknobs when they arrived. However, previous experience with that particular tactic had proven to me what a fight that would turn into. No boat wanted to give up perfectly good parts to another boat.
So, with an overly developed sense of urgency, and not coming up with any good alternatives, we put our plan into motion. First, we went to control, where a SSSU (Submarine Squadron Support Unit – although they are called something else now I believe) team was helping us install a new periscope. When they weren’t looking, we snagged a couple of their ballcaps. Then, with a pat on the back and a sincere, “Don’t get caught!” I sent my two intrepid sonarmen to then next pier. They walked on board the boat, mumbling to the topside watch about some work belowdecks they were assisting with.
They then proceeded to switch out EVERY SINGLE DOORKNOB on the other boat with ours.
So we got underway, all our doorknobs in perfect functioning order. We did quite well on our sound cuts. And I sent an email to a power school buddy of mine on the affected boat, informing him, in a totally non-mocking way of course, that the slamming of his stateroom door would be fixed in a few weeks, when spare parts, erroneously labeled for us, but actually intended for his boat, would arrive on base.