Sunday, January 17, 2010

Prepare to Get Underway

...in a virtual sense. Stay with me to the end of this entry to see what I mean.

This is a continuation of a series of writings about my time in the Navy. The first in this series of posts can be found here or go here for the most recent.

It had been 9 months since returning from our last WestPac (Western Pacific) deployment and I'd found a nice routine to my life. We'd go out to sea occasionally, possibly a run up the coast to San Francisco or a day or two spent off the San Diego coast doing maneuvers. We were never gone for very long so what was not to like?

I came back from a ride one weekend afternoon to find our ship had experienced a fire while I was gone. The following taken from my journal, "I spent the day out in the country today and while I was doing that, number 2 engine room on the Fresno was burning up. They finally got the fire out after three hours of work. I got there just as they were finishing. So now it looks like REFTRA (refresher training) has been canceled indefinitely and there is talk of a yard period."

Elvis would die sitting on his toilet 9 days later.

We had our next WestPac cruise scheduled for the following March but we wouldn't make it and the crew would lose experience over the next several months of down time. We OS's would get together and do maneuvering board drills and some team training on base but that was all. Our main focus would be spiffying up our quarters. We'd get real good at that for whatever it was worth. The next time we would get underway would be January 23rd, five and a half months after the fire.

Before long the crew began to turn over and I'd soon find myself in the position of CIC (Combat Information Center) watch supervisor. I'd have a crew of two to three other guys with me in Combat and we'd be responsible for taking radar navigation fixes on our way into and out of port as well as tracking any traffic that got near us while making course and speed recommendations to the bridge to avoid it. We were located just aft of the bridge where we'd sometimes be a happening place while other times we could go for days out in the middle of the ocean without seeing another target.

The most interesting times at sea were when we were traveling in formation with other ships from our squadron conducting maneuvering exercises using coded tactical messages with the bridge taking their cues from Operation's Specialists such as myself in CIC. It was a thing of beauty to see all the ships turning in formation like synchronized swimmers on the water's surface. We didn't get to do this often enough for me.

We would spend the next several months making short trips out to sea in preparation for our WestPac cruise that had been pushed back to late August, '78 because of the fire.

There was never a lack of concerts to see in San Diego or southern California during my time there in the mid to late '70s: Foghat, Kansas, Fleetwood Mac, Heart, Santana, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Supertramp...all in their prime.  If we were off, we were there.

I was doing laundry one Friday afternoon at the laundry mat on Highland Ave when one of my shipmates, Brad Livingston, came in. He mentioned the Cal-Jam 2 concert up in Ontario and wondered if I wanted to go. I had nothing holding me back. I got back to the ship and changed into some clothes that would have to get me through the next day and a half at least. This wasn't something you packed for. We caught a cab to the airport and jumped on a flight to get us in the general vicinity. We were totally making this up as we went.

From the airport we caught a cab to the concert site at Ontario Motor Speedway, or so we thought. It wasn't long before we were standing still in traffic with the meter running. We paid the fare and took to walking and thumbing a ride for those times when traffic seemed to be moving. I remember being in the back of a pickup truck at one point packed with others headed for the show.

This was what we were in for.

We finally got to the speedway in the early morning hours before the sun came up. We did our best to get ourselves pretty close to the stage for the first few acts but we backed off later opting for the convenience of being able to move around and for the location of the biffys. Somehow we managed to stick together and never lose track of each other. The ability to send a text message would've been nice.

We headed out late that day and after less than 5 minutes of thumbing for a ride we hooked up with a guy who would take us all the way to the base in San Diego. I wrote in my diary that I'd been up for 45 hours by the time I finally made it to my rack. Somewhere along the way I've lost a bit of that spontaneity and maybe some endurance. I'm guessing that's a good thing.

I was in a comfortable position on the ship at this point as a 3rd class and somewhat immune to the slave labor sort of jobs I'd previously been tasked with. We had a good officer heading our division in Ensign Suehs and he would easily be the best guy of all of them that we'd have during my time on the Fresno. It was the two OS1's we acquired who would cause me concern. Tyre and Howard...what a pair. I saw them both as being incompetent but nonetheless they were in charge of us OS's.

The summer of 1978 came to a close and we found ourselves ready for deployment. There would be no more late night trips to Winchell's on my bike for a while. We'd spent a fair amount of time at sea in preparation for what lay ahead and now it was time to put it all together.

We left San Diego on a Thursday morning minus just one of our crew that I was aware of...a certain OS named Rivas. He owned a Mexican restaurant not far from the base and there was no way he was leaving his family and his restaurant behind. I don't think any of us were surprised when he wasn't there the morning we left. I'd find out later that he watched the ship leave from a safe distance on Shelter Island.

The WestPac cruise would be one full of highs and lows for me culminating in a desire for home and a return to civilian life that I hadn't known prior to leaving.

I took note of our coordinates each day during the cruise to one day plot out on a large wall map and reminisce about all those miles sailed so many years earlier. I never got around to buying a map large enough to do it justice but I did take some time over the last couple days to make a digital file of the trip using Google Earth. I've combined the latitude/longitude way-points with my journal entries and photos and I'm quite pleased with the result.

To view the file you'll first need to download Google Earth; here's a link.

To show you how to use the file I put together this quick tutorial.  Be sure to watch it in HD for better detail if you have a good enough connection.

Here's the kmz file of our trip. Enjoy.

To be continued...

3 comments:

HossPete said...

VERY cool map and tags. Makes me want to do the same for my last Pac ('90). Thanks for sharing the memories.

Kevin said...

Hoss...you're welcome. Let me know if you do something similar.

Dennis Reed said...

I remember getting up early to set the sea and anchor detail to get underway or to come into port. I came aborad early of 78 and left Nov.4, 1981. I was in Deck 1st Divsion.