The Ride Home 4

The ride out is hard. You know you will not see your family for a few months and the things you will see will leave you with dreams for decades to come. But that ride home is phenomenal. When you get a day like the one pictured, the mountains on the starboard side as you glide through the water are one of the most beautiful things you will ever see. The fresh air that replaces the mechanically scrubbed air that you have been breathing for so long feels a bit foreign on your lungs at first. But the anticipation of holding a loved one once again wipes away the months of isolation.
Louisiana Homebound

The ballistic missile submarine USS Louisiana travels in Hood Canal, Wash., May 3, 2018, as it returns to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor following a strategic deterrent patrol. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Michael Smith

Someone once asked me how you could be isolated surrounded by so many others in such a confined space. My only answer is that until you have done it, you would not be able to understand it no matter how well I tried to explain. It is a singular form of loneliness that many of us created to protect ourselves from facts and a reality. The fact is that even the best submarine ever built is designed ot operate in a very dangerous ocean that has claimed some of our best submariners in the past. The fact is that the submarine is made with human hands, and the ocean was created with God’s hands. Which do you think has a better chance at winning a fight?
I do not know how many moving parts are on a Trident of any class of submarine. I do know that the failure of just a few could create a situation where the boat will not come home. All sailors who face the challenges of the sea are special. Submariners are just a bit more special than most.  (Or is that a little crazier?… I always get the two confused)

Welcome Home shipmates.

Thanks’ for keeping the peace.

Mister Mac

Polaris to Poseidon – 1966 United States Navy Submarine & Missile Documentary 4

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As theleansubmariner approaches 500 posts, I thought it fitting to post another great video of the boats that made up much of my career as well as others in the early days of nuclear Cold War submarines.

The 41 for Freedom boats represented a large part of a concerted effort to offer a countermeasure to Soviet intentions.

God Bless all of the men who served in this historic endeavor. You truly made a difference!

Mister Mac

Silouette of 598

The First Dive – Looking Through a Prism 2

I have always been fascinated by prisms. As a kid, I loved looking through them at various objects to see what would happen. Without going into the science of it, what you saw as you looked through it was different depending on the angle you looked through it. Another sailor posted a picture on Facebook today that almost immediately made me think of the points of view of all the people who would have been involved in the original picture.

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This picture appears to have been taken in Scotland in the Holy Loch. The base was really more of an anchorage where ballistic missile submarines (and the occasional other fast attack submarine) would come for refitting between patrols. The tender provided many services that the boat was unable to provide for itself and the floating drydock nearby would provide a means for cleaning the hull and other major repairs in a remote location.

LA and Simon Lake

The boats started patrolling fifty years ago and the ships that supported them rotated through for over thirty years except for the drydock USS Los Alamos which stayed for the entire time During those years, the dock had a number of sections changed out but on the whole, parts of it were there nearly non-stop.

As I looked at the picture, it occurred to me that I had been at one time or another one of many of the roles represented in it. Of course I sailed as a submariner then as a Docker. In my last days I served on a tender that had a long history of servicing boats. While our mission had changed by 1991, the Hunley was still configured for her original mission in many ways as well as adapting to the new ones.

Hunley 1994

 

What they were feeling depended on what their point of view was – their own view through a prism.

inside that boat, the sailors and officers were preparing for the first dive after refit. There are very few times in life where something so seemingly simple can be so complex. The vent valves on the ballast tank will open on command but will they close? Were the seals on the hatches cleaned and inspected before closing? What major systems were worked on during refit that might cause a problem? Did you get all of the air out of the hydraulic lines, especially the ones for the planes controls? For the older guys, a feeling of sadness knowing that it will be sixty or more days before they get to talk to a loved one again. For the new guys, its that feeling of mixed excitement at a first dive and a nagging fear that anyone one of the things listed above could go wrong. For the officer’s its that lurking Russian trawler just beyond the Clyde waiting to give them a hard time on their way to work. For the tender guys, its just another boat in a long rotation of boats with another one soon to follow. On shore, the people of Dunoon see a shadow filled with customers and men who often drank too much knowing there would be no more drinks for the months ahead. Somewhere back in the states there was an empty feeling in the homes of the families who may have wished that last phone call could have lasted a few minutes longer.

What about in the heartland?

In the heartland of America, there was nothing. Not a feeling of something special or different about to happen. Not a fear in the world that some Soviet boat might be at that very minute patrolling near their coasts. Not a streak of an ICBM over the dawn sky. Because at the heart of it all, men who sailed on that boat and worked on those tenders and docks were so very damn good at their jobs.

What is most interesting to me is the resurgence of the Russian missile forces and the growth of the Chinese. The first submarine response was necessary for the continued freedom of mankind from tyrannical forces. I hope we have not lost the learning that was achieved during the First Cold War. It appears we may need some of those lessons again.

Mister Mac