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, July 02, 2008

SPRUCE For Scranton

There's one acronym that, even more than ORSE, fills a submariner with fear and loathing -- SPRUCE.

A "Scheduled PReservation Upkeep Coordinated Effort" (Vol. VI, Chap. 27 of the JFMM refers) is a 14 day period when submariners can pretend that they're professional painters who don't get paid as much as real painters. All Ship's Force work other than that necessary for safety and security are stopped so the whole crew can paint the ship. That's the theory, anyway -- but everyone knows that the various reports and whatnot are still required off the boat, so you see most XOs and YNs sneaking off to do all that work they're not supposed to have to be doing.

USS Scranton (SSN 756) is just starting their SPRUCE:

To the officers and men of the Scranton: Remember, although you might find yourself thinking that an "accidental" needle gun incident might be a good way to get 14 days worth of convalescent leave, it's really not worth the pain. And for the officers and men who somehow finagled a school that goes through the whole SPRUCE -- I'm looking at you, PNEOers -- you have my admiration for your excellent timing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure hope the EM2 threw the line far enough so the HT2 didn't land up reaching for it and landing up in between the barge and ship without a life jacket on. Makes you wonder who screens these photos before they get posted.

7/02/2008 9:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I'm sure that all painting requirements, particularly those dealing with human occupancy and time to dry before closing the hatches, will all be adhered to in exacting compliance. I got out in 1990, and even though the regs in the maneuvering locker spelled ou in explicit detail when painting could be done, the command routinely violated those regs adn basically said, "Do as I say." If I knew what I know now, I'd have have made their life hell over the selective enforcement of regs.

7/02/2008 10:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whats the big deal about painting the boat?? Seaman gang did it during my days on the boats. Also had a lot more to preserve and paint on smoke boats with all the superstructure and
induction/exhaust piping.


7/02/2008 12:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Nothing - unless you consider the countless rules, procedures, training, critiques, and more rules for HAZMAT compared to your days of painting the boat. Just throwing that out there...

7/02/2008 2:22 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

SPRUCE sucked, from the top to the bottom of the Chain of Command. It was a total nightmare for the COB.
DBFTMC(SS)USNRET, The SPRUCE was not just for topside, it included the whole boat. Deck plates were removed, pressure sprayers were brought in, valve maintenance was done, spaces were cleaned and painted, bunk mattretess were removed and only enough were kept for the duty seciton to sleep on. When the work day was done, the duty secion had the pleasure of doing the maintenance that was not being done during the day.
As Short said, the HASZMAT headachs were big, especially here in San Diego where the Tree Huggers kept an eye on the base and would screem bloody murder if you washed the Sea Gull crap into the bay.
Then there was the pier services that had to be contended with. Rent-a-Watt generators, couldn’t be near the HPAC’s because the exhaust would contaminate the airbanks (not a fun thing to fix), and the refer boxes which would never stay cold. Also, because those things were on the pier, the watch had to make hourly rounds on them.
Yep, SPRUCE sucked.

That Damn Good Looking Aganger From Iowa.

7/02/2008 4:31 PM

Blogger 630-738 said...

I got lucky. Throughout a 26 year career, I never had to endure a SPRUCE. I definitely used the SPRUCE barge, but never had to go through an actual SPRUCE (unless you count Refit Assist on Tridents- that sucked too.)

7/02/2008 8:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm always in awe of the folks who didn't have to see the boat during PNEO. Granted, I was a "fast" boat guy in Bangor, so my compatriots had a much easier time than I did (S5W in a S8G world anyone...they had to FedEx my weekly exam and answers from NR because the PNEO instructors had no idea).

So anyway, we were testing a new piece of gear while I was up at TRITRAFAC and doing weekly ops, so my schedule was Monday 0030: start up reactor, turnover at 0730 and head to PNEO; do PNEO crap until the boat came back; Thursday 1600: shutdown reactor, stand SDO/EDO until relieved at 0630 Friday morning; Friday 0700: take silly PNEO exam, attempt to stay somewhat concious for interviews in the afternoon; Saturday-Sunday: SDO/EDO again!; Monday 0030 start up reactor... This went on for two months. When asked if I was ready for the exam after 8 weeks I had only one answer: Fxxk no! Word got back to the Commodore and he (deservedly) tore the skipper a new one.

I passed two weeks later.


7/02/2008 9:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did a spruce for each of my 3 boats; just lucky I guess. As a RM though, the message traffic still gets done, but first you have to argue with the nearest fouled anchor to let you go do the messages. Total fun.


7/03/2008 6:49 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two comments:
1. I am sure that the command will do their best to comply with all painting rules. The whining former nuc in the earlier comment who said something about selective enforcement is a sea lawyer.
2. 8 weeks for PNEO is plenty of time (former) LT.. plent of time. Regardless of what you had to do to support YOUR ship.

I'm sure those two in-it-for-myself peas-in-a-pod had long, successful careers...

7/03/2008 7:17 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We pulled into Hong Kong. THe COB bartered with a couple of families until he got the deal he wanted. For the price of our garbqge they would chip,primer, and paint the boat. Of course now we would have to get a SBI. The Chinese also got a bonus. More garbage packages weren't open. They did a better job than any ship yard.

What did we do. Went on the beach, Rented one wing of the Hilton and partyed(sp)

7/03/2008 7:25 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ anonymous.

Nope, tried to make my time in the canoe club as short as possible and got stop-lossed. I was such a dirtbag that they wanted to keep me in. Those COMs and PUC also demonstrate my poor attitude and sub-standard performance.

Enjoy your 20 years!


7/03/2008 2:27 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lt L - one

Anonymous - zero

7/03/2008 5:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Short.

Coincidentally (or ironically, depending on how you look at it), my paperwork from BUPERS arrived today letting me know that I have completed my 8 year initial contractual obligation, and provided two forms: one saying I wish to remain in the IRR, and one resigning my commission. I was all sentimental for a few hours and filled out the "remain in the IRR form"... Anonymous brought me back to reality: it was people like him who drove me away in the first place.

Good thing I didn't put it in the mailbox.


7/03/2008 5:43 PM

Blogger 630-738 said...


It's a damn shame you let the idiotic comment of someone on the internet make your decision to stay IRR or resign your commission. I DID enjoy my 26 years; of course not every minute of it. Believe me, I dealt with more than my fair share of stupid BS. I painted underway, never so much that it put the crew's health in jeopardy. I'm pretty sure the vast majority of the boats out there that painted underway were the same.

As for you having to do "PNEO" crap while carrying a workload, welcome to the club. I spent my time on fast boats, finished my degree, went to CCC school, stood duty, ran a division, and attended command functions at the same time. Yes, it sucked. Yes, I complained. I've been retired for 2 years now, and guess what? I'm doing similar things! Life ain't always greener on the other side, but it IS HOWEVER WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT. I have a good life, get paid well, and work my ass off.

If you want out, get out. Just do it for the right reasons, not because some anonymous poster called you out. Just my .02.

7/04/2008 1:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the record, life is greener on the other side (at least from where this soon-to-be former LT is sitting.)

The pay is better, you get to have a life, and a vanishingly small percentage of your coworkers are institionalized losers like Mr. anonymous above. Also, there are women. Not to mention cities which have a purpose for existence beyond producing strippers and shady car dealerships for the the Navy.

There are two types of lifers: the kind who love the job, and the kind who didn't have the guts/smarts to take their chances in the real world. I don't know many of the former kind who would make remarks like Mr. anonymous douchebag. Maybe he should take care of his own problems before offering advice to strangers on the internet!

7/04/2008 10:34 PM

Blogger T said...

1) LT L is one of the smart ones. But, I guess that's why he's getting out.

2) The PNEO discussion reminds me of the ludicrous nature of senior submarine leaders ship. While I was in Bangor, there was a large push to shorten PNEO to 8 weeks because JO's were missing valuable training time. Which, to anyone who's ever wasted an afternoon or an evening in any trainer at TTF should know, is kind of laughable, as trainers are not nearly as realistic as squadron or your command wants to believe. There was a further push from some commands to make JO's just study for PNEO ON THE BOAT, as in, no special time just to study for it. That upsets me, as the people pushing for that likely did not do that.... That said, my CO was sane and protected me from the ENG at PNEO, for instance telling him it was retarded to try and make us PNEO guys show up to weekly eng dept training.

7/05/2008 2:46 AM

Blogger 630-738 said...

Ok, Mr. Anonymous, I'll take your bait. I'll give you the fact that the money is better, even though a simple walk through any parking lot at a Navy base sorta blows apart the theory that military pay is well behind the civilian sector. You say the grass is greener from your (soon to be ex-LT) perspective. I AM on the other side, and I assure you I deal with BS every single day, much like I dealt with on active duty. I'm not saying stay Navy for that reason, but don't expect Shangri-La. It isn't there, unless you're running your own business and get to set your own rules.
Yes, an awful lot of time is wasted in the Navy, at trainers, waiting for the Duty Officer/EDO to get out of officer call so work can start, etc. Guess what? It doesn't get any better in the civilian world, and the best part is there is no leaving early, since you are actually expected to BE AT WORK FOR THE HOURS YOU ARE PAID FOR. As for cities that exist to produce other than strippers and shady car dealers, I live in a city without the Navy, and there are plenty of strippers, shady car dealers, scam artists, and other debauchery. The problem here is the shady car dealers are harder to identify since they don't have "We Finance E-1 and Up" emblazoned on their signs!
Good luck to you sir, I hope your post-Navy life is everything you hope for. Just don't be surprised when you see some of the same issues wrapped in a different package.

7/05/2008 4:37 PM

Blogger T said...

Let's say all things about your job in the real world are equal with the exception of going to sea, then already the civilian world is better. When's the last time you spent the night at work? When's the last time you worked a 100 hour week with no comp time? When's the last time you got called in the middle of the night because some dipshits got disqualified, so you get to do port and starboard duty days for a few days. Or how about when the going attitude was (and my CO actually said this to our wardroom, and alluded to in NPTU) "Well, we have too many JO's, and we don't really need all of you, so, we're not going to try to coddle you along, since we don't need many of you to stay in for DH." Well, you start treating your employees like that and see how long they stay around.

Bottom line, if you don't like your civilian job you can make plans and quit to work somewhere more bearable. If you think that being on the civ side is not a better deal, you just forgot how much submarines blow.

7/05/2008 6:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Point of clarification - I left active duty three years ago; I'm a soon-to-be former LT because my eight years is up in three months. I easily 2.5-3x happier than I was in the Navy. I'm probably doing better than most, but not by a whole lot.

My message to anyone who cares to listen is this: only stay in if you love being a submariner. There is so much to do on the outside that you'll only find if you step out of the boat and take a look around. That's just not something you can do when you're part of a SSN wardroom.

Unrelated rant:

My personal "I'm getting the fuck out" moment came when I did a 360 and almost killed myself on the freeway driving home day after duty. Except "day after duty" was at 7pm, after I had been up for 36 hours straight doing tagouts and critiques. I still find it amazing that the submarine force tears itself to pieces every day for the sake of "process improvment", but can't get basic things right like "don't make someone stay up for 40 hours when he has to drive himself home" and "make sure your 23-yr-old boneheads don't set the nubs on fire".

Yes, common sense is secured...

7/05/2008 9:16 PM

Blogger T said...

For me personally, I have about a year and a half left. I decided to take a shore tour, primarily because one day after PNEO I was sitting in a COMCONEX, and wanted to kill myself. I said "Fuck, I don't care what I have to do, I never want to do this again, nor go to sea". Ultimately, I got pretty lucky on shore duty, only work like 7 hours/day and I'm in a job that's not eligible for IA duty. Best of all, I work for mostly air force vice submariners, and those dudes are about an order of magnitude more decent human beings.

I can't remember exactly when I was getting out, I just know it was well before I got my dolphins. Maybe it was when I had my first shithead boss. Maybe it was when I failed the BEQ exam during EOOW quals, got a significant upgrade, and a private reprimand for "not cheating". Maybe it was the things I saw sanctioned by more senior officers that would make the USS Hampton's skin crawl. Or maybe it was the complete lack of regard for your quality of life to keep the glorified training platforms that are Ohio class submarines out to sea.

I've never been inconsistent on my plans to get out, and have no problems telling more senior officers exactly what's fucked up about the sub force. Unfortunately, there's zero outlet for an O-3 to get his input up the chain of command to somebody who matters. And even if you do, your response is likely to be sub-satisfactory. It's even worse for the blue shirts, especially if they have one of the extremely prevalent shitbag chiefs who want to do nothing more than play poker, play video games, watch movies, and drink coffee.

7/06/2008 10:11 AM

Blogger 630-738 said...

Do you recall me even ONCE saying I didn't like my civilian job? I wonder how you get through life with a bitter outlook like that. All I was trying to point out is some of the same things sailors bitch about exist in the "real" world as well. I'm guessing you have a Chief who does not take his role as a Chief seriously, ie taking care of his people UP AND DOWN the chain of command. I will sum up my comments with this (and I will be done with this blog entry): my division's and division officer's retention stats speak for how an effective Chief can influence career decisions. I maintained a 92% reenlistment rate among enlisteds, and a 70% retention rate among division officers. I apologize if your Chief didn't do his job. For the record, I drink a lot of coffee, and did so in the Engine Room ensuring my guys got the job done and kicking obstacles out of the way. Funny, that's what I thought LT's were supposed to do as well, not bitch on a blog about how bad they have it. My bad.

7/06/2008 9:13 PM

Blogger T said...

I'm not saying there aren't good, senior, people in the sub force, my father is one of them. If you were one of the people trying to take care of your people while bringing realistic goals to an increasingly overworked sub force, hats off. The service needs more leaders like that. But the fact remains it's the exception vice the rule. It's great that you were a motivated enough leader to influence retention in your small portion of the sub force. In fact, my last CO and XO (who recently screened for command) were both very good guys. Unfortunately, big submarine navy has it's head so far up it's ass, that in my opinion we're going to see a very significant incident in the next 5-10 years that involves either extremely significant PR problems, the loss of a sub, or significant loss of life. When the shovels start digging up dirt, I guarantee you that some of the first things they notice is that:

1) Increasing scrutiny on results of inspections led to a culture of cheating, inflated expectations, and a get it done at all costs attitude.

2) 90% of boats are 80% of the Hampton. My boat was, absolutely, and I firmly believe we were the best boat in squadron that tried our best to do things as close to the book as possible. I dare you to find a boat that doesn't routinely cheat on qual and divisonal exams. Past that, while not impossible, it's rare to find a boat that at least doesn't pre-lube for ORSE exams. (My boat didn't... at least one of the ORSE's I was there, as my last ENG was incredibly competent and an amazing DH). Hell, cheating on PNEO is commonplace enough that I know several JO's that snuck confidential notes in their pockets to look at them in the bathroom. The standards creep has got so ridiculous, that it's not even possible to meet the 'standard' fairly.

Start looking further, and blazed training plans, blazed qual cards, blazing the CO's signature are, in fact, commonplace. Why? Because big submarine Navy has separated itself so far from the deckplates that they are only interested in numbers and statistics vice trusting the leaders on or near the deck plates to decide what is or is not SAT. The average submarine is a whore for the ORSE team, TRE team, and squadron. Nothing else matters. I mean fuck it, who cares if we can stay submerged at PD in sea state 3, we got an excellent on TRE, right?

You were in 26 years, can you honestly tell me that you didn't see some shitbags of the world, who gave a fuck all about anything but their own career rise to major command, flag, or even four star rank?

I mean, maybe I shouldn't bitch, the sub navy has fucked itself into a corner, and I'm getting out, so what the fuck should I care. I can tell you that I'm getting out specifically because of the shit I've seen, the people I've worked for, and the way I've seen people treated (not me, specifically). If the sub force is supposed to attract and keep the best people in the country, they should start acting like a place where the smartest, best people can work and excel. Quite frankly, the submarine force is not meeting that right now, at all.

If anyone wearing stars that wants to know an honest post-JO opinion is reading this, please, contact me. We can speak at some length of the things I've seen, and how the Navy should fix it. Maybe it'll help in the future, but I'll be damned if I go out to sea on the boat that's lost because "that's the way squadron wants us to do it."

7/07/2008 2:02 AM

Blogger T said...

One last: For the record, my chief was actually an incredibly great guy (well the chief I had the majority of the time as a JO). While not loved by the command, I respect him greatly, if only because he was always willing to stand up for the division, no matter what dumb shit some guy pulled. He wasn't perfect, but we worked well together, were successful (both by "big navy" standards, and more importantly, by our own) and the Navy needs more people like that.

7/07/2008 2:07 AM

Blogger 630-738 said...

Ok, you drug me in one more time, because, as you, I genuinely care about this. Yes, in 26 years, I saw some incredible dirtbags, who got to their positions through spikes in the backs of hardworking people. I saw Chiefs who spent nearly all of their time in the "goat locker" watching movies and drinking coffee, as you put it earlier. I agree the Submarine Force has painted itself into this corner, and the problems in the force are directly a result of the way our senior leadership has run the show. I also believe that not much will change until a wholesale changeout of senior leadership. The problem is most of the people who see this and are in a position to affect meaningful change leave. I chose to stay, because I had an obligation to the guys that worked for me, and the officers I worked for. It may not be the path for everyone, but it meant something to me then and it does now. I may be a little selfish (since my son chose to follow my path and become a submariner as well), but I also have a lot of friends still out there on boats and I don't want to hear of another San Francisco-type accident or another Hampton debacle. Will it happen? Yes, I concede that conditions are ripe for another accident, worse than what we have seen so far. That doesn't prevent me from trying to avert that. I refuse to give up on the sub force, it's been through worse (70's) and survived, even thrived.

For the record, I didn't TRY to take care of my people, I DID take care of my people. I always subscribed to the theory that your people come first, and you'll reap the benefits of that attitude. It worked for me much more often than not.

Sir, I wish you well in your future endeavors. I salute you for your service, even if it wasn't what you expected. As I have said before, just remember that some of the same aggravations you experienced in are out here as well. Yep, the pay's a HELL of a lot better, though! (Overtime is awful nice).

7/07/2008 6:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the name of the blog/website that BUPERS PERS-42 is monitoring now as the quasi-official place to bitch/sound-off?

7/07/2008 7:21 AM

Blogger T said...

I wasn't aware that there was a quasi-official place to sound off. I know that senior leadership is "worried" about requirement creep, time wasting, and so forth, but it seems they've been "worried" about it for years. Meanwhile, things continue as usual, unfortunately.

Anyway,630-738, I think we're on the same page, in a sense, or at the very least have some common ground. Thanks for being one of the good ones.

7/07/2008 7:26 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and once again there is peace and balance between the lifers and haters... until another day ;)

7/07/2008 9:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quote from Bubblehead: "There's one acronym that, even more than ORSE, fills a submariner with fear and loathing -- SPRUCE." - endquote

Well, I don't know about the fear, but the loathing is certainly evident here.

7/07/2008 11:33 AM


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