By Bob Cohen, Ensign, Boilers Officer
USS HENRY B. WILSON (DDG-7)
To prepare for the rigorous inspections conducted by the Pacific Fleet
Propulsion Examining Board (PEB) we employed a
process known as ‘MBL.’ This
tried-and-true system allowed the officers of the Engineering Department to
oversee, control and address the incredibly complex array of tasks required to
successfully certify the ship’s propulsion plant and engineers as safe,
properly trained and equipped, and fully ready for the fast-paced tempo of fleet
operations. The acronym stood for ‘Management
It seemed that
every idiot capable of carrying a clipboard would visit our engineering spaces
to compile his own list of discrepancies. While
these inspectors were supposedly there to help us, in our upside-down
bureaucracy each and every list of discrepancies, real or imagined, soon became
the driving force behind all of our efforts.
Sometimes it seemed that putting out a real fire would take a backseat to
putting out one of these brushfires.
A PEB inspector
looked at all of our damage-control equipment.
Our twin-agent system, the
firefighting heavyweight, was impeccably maintained and ready for action.
When the inspector finished up, he gave us his list of discrepancies, and
it took us by complete surprise. All
of our portable fire extinguishers failed. Every fire extinguisher had to have a
wire seal through the discharge handle. If
you used the extinguisher, you’d break the wire seal. The integrity of the seal would signify that the extinguisher
had not been used since its last periodic maintenance check.
The inspector explained: “You got copper wire seals; you
gotta have lead wire instead.” We
explained that we didn’t have any lead wire, that’s why we used copper.
“As long as the wire breaks like it’s supposed to, what’s the
difference?” The inspector drawled, “Yeah you’re right.
As a matter of fact, copper wire is gonna be authorized real soon.”
He produced a teletype message from COMNAVSEASYSCOMFIREXWIREOPS that did
authorize the use of either wire – starting tomorrow.
Fireman Smith had to stay up all night long changing seals even though by
daybreak, the copper ones that he replaced with lead would be okay.
Officer called the other engineering officers together in the wardroom.
“In an effort to reduce confusion and better manage our workload, I’d
like to propose a revised and streamlined priority system.
I’m sure you’ll agree that if we successfully implement in what I’m
about to describe in this department, we can go ship-wide, possibly fleet-wide.
This is cutting-edge.” With
the group’s rapt attention, he continued,
I propose that we apply three, and only three priorities to all of our many and
varied tasks. No others will be
used. The priorities will be:
Highest, Top, and A-1.” Nobody
had been transferring fuel oil all night, and the ship was sitting a little
cockeyed as a result.
It wasn’t obvious to us, since we were on board.
It was very obvious to the Chief Engineer.
He immediately noticed when he came to work the next morning that our
mast wasn’t pointed in the same exact direction as the other ships on the
He burst into the wardroom, screaming at the Main Propulsion Assistant (MPA)
who was sitting over a cup of coffee with his head in his hands.
“WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT THE LIST, MISTER?”
The MPA mumbled, “Which one?”