E-3 Summit Meetings

By Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

Remember your non-qual days? Back when the entire submarine force seemed hell bent on convincing you that you might be the dumbest sonuvabitch ever born in North America? In Squadron Six, being a non-qual was a lot like being a whore at a logging  camp... You got used and abused, and everyone told you things would get better once you ‘learned the ropes.'

But there was one place where the non-qual union held their eetings... Our 'Union Hall'. It was a location that belonged exclusively to the non-quals... Our place... A place where you could go whine, moan, bitch about the old bastards, the lifers... The Chiefs... The qualified sonuvabitches whose sole entertainment in life seemed to be making our lives hell.

Our place was the dumpster area on the pier. We used to congregate there after evening chow. We stood around... Caught a smoke or two and exchanged notes.

"Jeezus... What's it like on your boat? You guys have a bunch of old coots who sit around drinking coffee and talking about old decommissioned boats they used to ride? Brain dead bastards."

"Yeah... We've got 'em. You guys got a lot of married guys?"

"Hell yes... All they want is for you to get qualified so they can hit  you up for a stand-by. They drive you nuts, showing you pictures of their kids."

"When you volunteered for the boats, did ja think it was gonna be like this?"

"Hell no! 1 thought it was gonna be an adventure." "What? You mean like in the war movies? Up scope... Range... Mark... Angle... Mark... Down scope... Fire one... Fire two... Time to target? 45 seconds... Boom, boom and there goes the Fishhead Maru? Hell Dex, that was 1945... This is 1960."

"You ever see a gahdam recruiting poster showing a smiling bluejacket with a wirebrush and a chipping hammer? A dirty apron? Haulin' shitcans down the pier?"

"Hell no... Always show some First Class Bosun' mate buyin' flowers for some good lookin' virgin in Greece or guys in whites riding a rickshaw in Hong Kong, grinning like idiots."

"Life on these worn out, stinking things has to be the bottom of the  tank... Man, I think they sold us a ticket to the bottom of the gahdam  tank ¦"

"You ever see the inside of one of those nukes? Jeezus, those monsters have damn near everything. Hell, damn E-3s get their own racks."

"No shit?"

 "No shit, Horsefly... Got little privacy curtains... Got head phones to listen to their multi-channel ships' entertainment system... And a built in reading light."

"You're lying ¦"

"No shit. The damn things are clean... Smell like the inside of a high school girl's lingerie drawer... Everything is bright and new ¦"

"That beady eyed shrimp, Rickover gets anything he wants. The bastard must have a movie of Congress at a goat gang bang."

"Did you ever consider going nuke?"

"Nah... Too friggin' stupid. Besides, you don't see guys wearing combat patrol pins riding those big monsters."

"Yeah, but they get their spare parts gift wrapped... They don't have to steal stuff off the tender and canibalize boats heading to the scrap yard to keep going."

"Screw'em... None of 'em ever sunk a damn thing that could shoot back."

"Anyone going to D.C.? Looking for a sharing gas ride this weekend."

"Anyone showin' a decent movie tonight?"

"Cubera's got Splendor in The Grass... Natalie Wood."

"Carp's got some shoot 'em up with Kirk Douglas."

"Geedunk truck should be around in thirty minutes."

"Hey Jack... Got a smoke?"

"Jeezus Dan... You quit buyin' smokes and just go to bummin' off  everyone?"

"How bout a smoke without the sermon. I notice you don't seem to have a problem draining beer pitchers you never toss in for."

"Screw you."

"Just gimmie a smoke... Got a match?"

"Good evening gentlemen."

"Good evening, sir."

"What's going on?"  "Just talking treason... Plotting mutinies... Cussing our senior petty  officers and swapping Bible stories."

"Carry on ¦"

"You know that guy?"

"Naw, must be a nuke."

A year later we were all sitting around in our respective control rooms... Drinking coffee and ragging the non-quals.

"Hey kid... Did you ever get trim and drain signed off? Jeezus, you are one thick sonuvabitch... You'll never make it"

I had become my own worst nightmare... And I loved riding the old worn out boats. We were all fat, dumb and happy and Hyman couldn't have sold us a nuke... Even if he threw in six nekkit blondes and his pay grade.