Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I'm Giving Up On The Broom Thing

Almost since I started blogging (and before) I've been a voice crying out in the wilderness against the new "tradition" of submarines coming back from sea trials with a broom flying from their sail. During WWII, a submarine only came into port flying the broom if they'd sunk every enemy they'd encountered -- frequently by means of firing off all their torpedoes over the course of several weeks in the face of determined enemy resistance. Here's an example of a submarine deservedly flying the broom:

PCU North Carolina (SSN 777) returned safely from Alpha Trials yesterday; these trials involve taking a submarine to sea for the first time in local waters. Sure, it's a tough job, but let's be honest -- it's not really on the order of shooting a charging enemy destroyer with a "down the throat" shot. Here's how the bridge of the North Carolina looked yesterday:

(I added the fuchsia arrow pointing out the broom on a chopped-down version of this photo.) Having been on a few Alpha Trials myself, I'm not going to blame the CO and crew for this; I know that the shipyard is usually responsible for wanting the Captain to fly the broom. I'll just have to be happy that my CO on Connecticut told the OOD to refuse permission for the shipyard to send the broom to the bridge when we came in from our very successful Alpha Trials; he had a good understanding of how to honor our predecessors. If we were the last boat to refuse the broom, so be it. I can only hope that the next generation of Captains come up with an unwritten rule that the broom should only be flown if ordnance was used against the enemy. If so, I'll applaud them. Until then, I'll try to keep my trap shut and just honor the men (and sometimes women) who skillfully take untried submarines out to sea.

Update 1030 21 Dec: Here's a short video of the North Carolina on the surface returning from Alpha Trials.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It certainly seems to reduce the importance of the broom...I agree with you whole heartedly..if the shipyard wants to celebrate a successful "Alpha" trails...well, as I always say, the sincerest form of thanks is cash...throw a party for the guys that got you there!

12/15/2007 7:18 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only time, and I mean the ONLY time, that I was ever scared to be aboard a sub during my 14 years in the Navy was during the sea trials right after we got done with an SRA in PHNSY. This was a 6 month refit that dragged on for 18 months until they could fix enough stuff for us to escape. I have never seen such an incompetent workforce in my life, and I was 100% sure we wouldn't be coming back from that first test dive.

It may not be the same thing as combat, but combat is a risk worth taking to protect the nation. It was a lot harder to justify the risk to myself when I new that just a few more weeks in Pearl would have given IMF enough time to fix the multitude of things PHNSY couldn't figure out on their best day.

So down we went and stuff broke and it was bad. When it was all over, I think we earned the right to do *something*; since they weren't going to hand out awards or time off (too politically incorrect, as it would have highlighted how screwed up the boat was after a supposedly successful, and expensive, refit); about all the CO could do was the broom thing.

I've never been on new construction sea trials, but I can't imagine they are any less stressful; all the same problems of a slapped-together boat, coupled with an inexperienced crew. Going out and running those risks for the sake of meeting an arbitrary deadline displays enough courage to honor the broom concept.

Now those guys on the Indy that were walking around with war patrol pins because they launched a few tomahawks during Desert Storm... that was just plain wrong. Geez... even exercises were more risky than DS, since there's always a chance one of those idiot skimmers will run into you. What could Iraq do?

12/15/2007 7:55 AM

 
Blogger MikeLain said...

It is just not the same since they started naming the boats after Cruisers and Battleships. No boat has any right to fly a broom unless they have met and destryed all enimies.

12/15/2007 8:09 AM

 
Anonymous ex ssn eng said...

Several thoughts on this non-topic:

I've done newcon, PSA and overhaul sea trials -- including on the 13th boat of the 688 class -- and the only stress reducer I considered necessary was a wood veneer wrapped, aluminum encased cigar in my front pocket...duplicates of which I made available to all fellow O-gangers and the guys in my division back in my div off days. It was there the whole trials with one purpose, and that was to be used if and when it looked like it might be the last one. Needless to say, I enjoyed each cigar after each sea trial.

Yard trials are only stressful if you let the shipyard actually believe that they're in charge of everything. They're not, including during newcon.

To make the ultimate statement prior to sea trials as to who's in charge and who's not, I wholeheartedly recommend (yet another) unscheduled hand-over-hand inspection of critical ocean-going systems about 1-2 weeks prior to "really" going to sea (e.g., ss hyd, steering & diving hyd, EMBT, MSW, ASW, etc.).

Oh, yeah, your guys will bitch at first with varieties of "we did that already" and "do you know how much work that is?" and "what are we looking for?" Samples of what they'll "impossibly" find: missing valves, mislabeled valves, valves missing lockwire, improper/uncertified Subsafe materials (yup, true story), missing piping hangers, leaks, etc, etc. You will find hundreds...I'll say that again...HUNDREDS...of discrepancies, despite all the well-intended, project-scheduled efforts that preceded this.

Trust me, your guys will come back to apologize afterwards. As Eng, mine did, and entirely unsolicited. The shipyard was astounded that we'd found the Subsafe material problem. The answer to "how in the world did you guys find that??" was simple: we looked...one last time...and without anything (besides experience) or anyone "telling" us to do it.

As far as the broom thing goes, honestly, guys...who TF cares? Like Bubblehead, I didn't think that the shipyard should be pushing for it after trials, but I never thought that the WWII broom thing was particularly profound to begin with. I can imagine a whole host of things to get my shorts in a knot over, and at the end of the day this just isn't one of them.

Some traditions are just plain stupid -- ask the Aggies. I mean...a broom ...? And this is somehow meaningful, deeply wrought in tradition or offensive is misused...?? Crap. The shipyard does bust a knuckle or two to get our boats to sea...IMHO, let 'em have their fun.

12/15/2007 9:19 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's a broom doing on a submarine to begin with?

Only skimmers use brooms!!

12/15/2007 9:32 AM

 
Blogger Buck said...

After the welding scandal, those guys are maybe a teeny bit braver than the ordinary Alpha crew. They ought to be flying a roll of paper towel to show they didn't have any leaks!

12/15/2007 10:24 AM

 
Anonymous Rick the QM said...

Away back in '81, I believe it was, the my boat, USS Baton Rouge was part of an exercise with the USS America CVBG. Although or Orange forces started out with quite a line up, the America BG whittled it down considerably, so by evening it was just us. I was QMOW on the 6-12 that night, I don't believe we went to actual battlestations. Our CO was Capt. Kenny Carr, one of the best I ever served with. He took us in fast and deep, and we popped up to PD at what seemed like rock throwin' distance to the America. We put 4 "fish", (green flares) into her, then evaded under the carrier, (notional flaming hulk). We came back to PD and two more into the USS Californina. Took a quick smoke break and reloaded, came back to PD and Pooned everything in sight. To say we were a happy bunch of Bubbleheads is a massive understatement. The after exercise report said the targets never really knew what was amongst them. The CVBG went back to Norfolk, and after a very pleasent port call in Antigua, so did we. Coming down the channel on our way to the D&S piers, we passed our erstwhile "victims". We wanted to tie a broom to the mast so bad we could taste it. We even had a foxtail standing by in control, "just in case." But, Kenny wouldn't let us. Dammit. There is a point to this, besides telling my favorite sea story about a damfine ship and a damfine CO. I know it was only an exercise, but if we couldn't tie a broom to the mast for that little adventure, tying one on for sea trials seems a little much.

12/15/2007 10:35 AM

 
Anonymous ex ssn eng said...

Regarding the welding thing: USS Bremerton was effectively gutted and rebuilt over a welding flap in the early '80s, one which played a role in Admiral Rickover's fight to the death with Electric Boat.

Bremerton wasn't the only boat so-affected. No offense to the VA-class guys (God bless 'em every one), but the latest welding scandal doesn't seem like it remotely compares to what we saw in the '80s.

12/15/2007 10:42 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be Happy you're arguing about one broom.
Targets (AKA DDG's) are coming back from sea trials flying two...

12/15/2007 4:18 PM

 
Blogger Suetonius said...

At the risk of sounding pedantic, the broom tradition actually far predates WWII U.S. submarines. From what I understand, in the 17th century, a Dutch admiral flew a broom from his masthead to signify sweeping the British from the seas. The Brits later responded by flying a whip from the masthead as a symbol of their intentions toward the Dutch (this whip was the precursor of the commissioning pennant). In "White Jacket," the former U.S. sailor Herman Melville refers to the same tradition in the 1840's (actually a good read, that I can recommend to all). As the broom flying is such a longstanding tradition, I don't really think that a reinvention of the broom as a symbol for a successful shipyard period really dishonors the memory of the WWII submariners.

And to ex-SSN ENG, I am unsure how we went from broom flying to a discussion of "stupid" (Texas?) Aggie traditions. Perhaps you would care to quantify your claims.

12/16/2007 12:38 AM

 
Anonymous ex ssn eng said...

Not really interested in having that kind of a dialogue here, but perhaps over a beer sometime. The prior comment on the broom non-topic will have to stand on its own for now. Sorry if that seems arcane, but perhaps it is.

However, speaking of the Aggies (and God bless them every one), this more-relevant-to-submariners news comes fresh today: A&M creates school to train students in nuclear power

12/16/2007 3:34 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stick with it Bubblehead. Somebody has to protect the traditions. I never made a combat patrol, and I don't pretend that I did. I did trials though, and I know darn well that it takes more guts to face the enemy. We should riducule every one of these boats until they get the message.

The poor shipyard guys need something though; maybe they could fly a "Swiffer" instead.

RM1/SS

12/17/2007 7:22 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The broom was an honored tradition it irks me to see it sullied by a sea trial. Let them fly a "bravo Zulu" or something of that ilk. I like the swifter idea. I'm an EX river rat riv div # 91

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