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.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Re-Post: Naval Reactors -- Gestapo Or Soul-less Automatons?

I was reading a story about how RADM McAneny was relieving RADM Bird as SubGru SEVEN, and I thought I remembered writing something about Doug McAneny before. I did some searching, and came across this story I wrote last May that really tickled my funny bone. Here it is again (with some updated links), in the hopes that it can generate some more NR horror stories in the comments:

So there I was... I was stationed at NPTU Charleston on MTS 626 as a Shift Engineer as my post-JO shore tour. There were about seven Naval Reactors guys in the local office; as a general rule, they were all jerks. (I'll probably get the guys in Groton that I worked with in trouble, but they generally weren't jerks; based on my other dealings with NR, though, I think they were an anomaly.) They expected phone calls about any problem, and the Shift Engineer could get in a lot of trouble by not keeping them informed. When we were on midshift, I'd occasionally have something come up that I knew I didn't have to inform them about right away, but that they'd be pissed if I didn't call them sometime during the night. I used to wait until about 4:15am to call them; I figured at that point it'd be harder for them to get back to sleep.

Anyway, one day I'm on day shift, and were preparing for a really complex test during a maintenance period. The youngest NR guy (a really weasely little sh*t) comes into my "office" with a complaint that "your ETs don't have all references present at the worksite for RC Div maintenance". (For those not familiar with Navy Nuclear Power, this is probably the most frequently violated rule out there; each procedure normally lists about 8 references, which were big-ass, really heavy books, and often they were only listed for some dumb comment like "don't piss on live electrical wires" or something asinine like that.) Anyway, this NR guy is sitting on my desk as he tells me this, and it was a pretty stressful time, so I guess I kind of snapped at him. "I appreciate the comment, but in the future I'd appreciate it if you could inform me if you're starting a monitor watch, and I'd also appreciate it if you didn't sit on my desk." Well, he gets all huffy, and says he wasn't going to make it an official comment, but now he would, so I had to get out the sheet and write it up. (One thing that NR guys do is that they never write down their own deficiency comments; they make the duty officer do it. That way, if they make a mistake, they can claim the duty officer wrote it down wrong.)

Back to the story. OK, I could accept that he would make the comment "official" in retaliation for me talking back to him, but then he goes up and... tells his boss! Next thing I know, the phone's ringing, and it's the head of the local office, yelling at me that the guy I talked back to was "the Admiral's official representative" and asking if I would "tell the Admiral to get off your desk." I'm pretty exercised at this point, so I say something to the effect of "No, but I don't think the Admiral would sit on my desk." He hangs up, and five minutes later my bosses boss is down there telling me not to piss off Naval Reactors anymore.

A couple months go by. The thing about NR reps is that most of the field reps are active duty military, but they don't ever wear their uniforms; they're normally Lieutenants or below, so most people they hassle outrank them, but that doesn't count in the NR world. Anyway, this kid whose chops I busted was an E-6, and he was having a really hard time passing the CPO exam, which he needed to do to become eligible for the Limited Duty Officer board. (NR guys get commissioned that way; essentially all of them that "make the board" get selected.) NR told him that since he didn't pass the exam, they were sending him back to the fleet as an ET1, which was his normal rate. By this time, I already had my orders to be Engineer on Connecticut (SSN 22) and he decided that going to the shipyard would be the best job for him. (I always thought they should have one boat set aside for ex-NR guys; kinda like the section of prison where they put the ex-cops.) He figured the detailer will give him whatever he asked for. So, he comes up to me and says, "It looks like I'll be working for you next; I guess I won't be able to sit on your desk... heh, heh". I said something non-commital, but what I was really thinking was... "Oh, yes, Petty Officer Xxxxx; you come work for me, and I'll be sending you into the bilge, but it won't be for a zone inspection".

Anyway, he ended up going to a boomer in King's Bay (and later passed the CPO exam, so I heard NR took him back) and I reported to the Connecticut. The first thing my new CO says to me is, "I heard you like to tell NR guys to get off your table. Please don't piss them off here." I imagine it's probably an urban legend in Charleston by now; some story about how a Shift Engineer punched the NR guy or something.

In conclusion: What are Naval Reactors guys anyway? If you want an organization to design the best and safest military reactors in the world where price isn't an object, they're your guys. As far as the local reps who move into NR from the Fleet, in order to spy on their old shipmates, I kind of pity them; maybe they didn't have any friends on the boat. So, I guess I'd have to generally classify them as "socially inept traitors with a serious Napoleon complex". Not all of them, but enough of them to make the generalization valid. I'm sure they perform a vital role, but right now I can't figure out what it is...

Going deep...

Update 0932 24 May: I suppose in the interests of fairness I should link to some remarks from ADM "Skip" Bowman, who was recently relieved as NAVSEA 08; I really admired him. He talks about what is good about Naval Reactors.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

In week 13 of ERO shift work (days), NR guy comes into maneuvering and proceeds to provide a number of helpful comments, such as "the 4MC actuator faceplate is missing a screw," "Stow-for-sea bars not installed on maneuvering area bookcase," and the always useful "maintenance performed without all applicable references."

Being a LTJG, I could not resist as directly as a NPTU Shift Eng. So, I nodded seriously, scribbled furiously and thanked the kind NR rep. He was satisfied and left. (I do a good impression of an earnest, conscientious JO.)

Everyone in maneuvering looked at each other in disbelief. We had been working 12-14 hrs/day, 7 days/wk for three months (with no serious incidents in like the third 688 ERO ever), and this guy was hassling about a missing faceplate screws? I sensed the disgruntlement meter pegging, and decided to act.

I cleared my throat, waited for the guys to turn around, and inserted the 3x5 comment card into the left breast pocket of my Navy-issue submarine coveralls. Then, in the most authoritative voice possible, I announced:

"Attention in maneuvering. This is LT C, and no one will *ever* hear those comments again."

They actually named that move after me when I left the boat...

12/14/2006 3:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the NR guys I had visit me in refit during my ENG tour were pretty ok. Of course, they always had about 6 or 7 minor comments, and always one doozy (which, when investigated, really turned out to be nothing), such as a lost drill prop from the other crew masquerading as uncontrolled RAM in that freaking hidden drip tray just under the deck plate access hatch in Reactor Instrumentation...

12/14/2006 10:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I have to guess to the identity of the NRRO (No Real Reason Organization) rep in BH's anecdote, I bet it would rhyme with "doodie". Just guessing, but that guy was a prick.

My favorite: About 9 months into the Enterprise Refueling Overhaul, I was standing watch in #4 plant and getting ready for watch turnover. My relief was a newly qualified ensign who was going to be standing his first watch by himself. The Newport News Joint Test Group NRRO lead (who is an exceptionally nice guy and someone with whom I have a very good relationship) came into EOS to inform the youngster that he was beginning his monitor watch. Matt acknowledged and as the NRRO was walking out to the plant, picked up the X5J and announced "NRRO is in the plant". The Rep turned around in shock and saw me in the corner, trying not to snicker. He said, "You'll straighten him out, right?" and stalked out of the plant to go chew on the Reactor Officer.

I reviewed the magic code phrase with Matt, and beat it out of there.

12/15/2006 12:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was the maintenance ELPO on the 626 when this occured. It quickly became a legend and LT X became a hero to many of us. I have since advanced my career to the LDO world and I am happy to say that I turned down orders to a field office to get my current job. FYI, the guy is back in Charleston.

12/21/2006 3:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sure his name did rhyme with "doodie"... I recall the scenario from the MTS, those guys enjoyed their job too much.

12/27/2006 4:14 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bubblehead, I been going thru some of your post and really enjoy them. You and I served together on the 626. I was the Material Officer on the MTS 626 during the "sitting on the desk" incident. In hindsight, it seems a lot funnier now, even though I remember enjoying it at the time.
I left the Navy in 1996 and have been doing a lot of different things, but for the last 2 years I have been calling on NR, Bettis, KAPL and the rest of the program.
Funny how things come full circle.

8/30/2007 3:47 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Naval reactors was paying CVN-70 a visit the on an unusual morning. We were pulling out of Puget sound almost three years ago to run flight ops off of So Cal and they lit the plant off a few days early for testing. Two of my boys were standing adjacent watches in the plant and, needless to say, were prone to goofing off and having fun. They worked hard and never complained so our chain of command never said anything to them about it- their humor was a breath of fresh air that made a mechanic's life bearable down in the plant.

This morning one of them decided to make a witty remark to the other and as a result the second man began to choke out the first. Apparently the words "Why you little..." were uttered just as Naval reactors followed by the RDCPO (known simply as an RDO back then) strolled through the access. Neither the chief or the Nrro rep said anything and simply walked past a very stunned and rather ashen pair of watchstanders. True to form the most they got was a stern talking to, however imagine our surprise when the rest of us come to turnover an hour later and get yelled at for unprofessionalism in the plant followed by a direct order 'not to choke one another out while on watch.'

Every once in a while Nrro makes me laugh.

4/19/2008 3:51 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

I was a nuke EM on the 601 & 665 back in the 70's; I was sitting Shutdown Reactor Operator on the 665 at Mare Island (yeah the same yard that sank her in 69) & an NRRO guy shows up and asks to enter maneuvering, so I said no so he waits & asks again & I say no again so he starts to talk over the chain (the magic barrier of maneuvering) so I unhook the chain & ask what the hell he thinks he is doing; he ends up going & getting the Engineer so the Engineer aks me why I won't let the NRRO in & I say I don't want to. The Engineer tells him it is MY watchstation so this NRRO guy watches me over the magic chain for the rest of my watch (3 hours or so) writing down everything I did & did not do; I never had so much fun with one of those guys
Gene Murphy

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6/23/2010 3:07 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

MANY years ago I was an SRO on the Guitarro (yes the one that sank at Mare Island) & I had let the S/U heater breaker trip one toooo many time so my roving watch to me to F___ Off & he wouldn't reset it; we had just pulled into Mare Island for a 60 day SRA; it was quiet on the mid-watch so I went into AMR2-UL & reset the breaker but as I got back to manuerving there was an NRRO standing there & my roving watch was in my chair; he ran my ass off for the next 3 hours cooling down lube oil & all those other things I was supposed to know but usually told him to do. We had a good laugh & MANY drinks overs that one later as we still had topless dancers at the club in mid-79.

6/24/2010 10:34 AM


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