Midshipmen and Intelligence
Randy BerkshireI was a submarine QM from 1977 to 1988. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard "Quartermaster, where are we?" I'd be rich, and I'd give it all back to hear it one more time.
As a QM part of our job was to maintain a plot of our position and that of all the nearby "bad guys" on a small scale chart (a chart that shows a lot of ocean), displayed just off the Conn. On this particular patrol we had several midshipmen aboard. While on watch one day, I received an update: twenty-one of the bad guys had left the area so I removed the symbols and placed them in three neat rows out of the way on the chart. Along came Johnny Mid and studied the chart, then asked, "What's all that?"
Oh, like taking candy from a baby! I told him, "Well, we have intelligence that they have intelligence of a sub in this general region—" I circled the symbol for own ship lazily with my right hand— "and that they intend to capture that ship by sending this fleet to search the area. One section sweeping the north, one sweeping the south, and the third running up the middle."
Sweet, he really looked worried when he realized it was us. "What are we going to do?" he cried.
"Remember the Pueblo?" says I.
"Does the Captain know?" he asked, and, before I could come up with the next bait, he turns on his heel and heads for the Old Man's stateroom! I suddenly found something urgent to work on back at the nav plot when he returned to the control room dragging the Captain by the elbow. Now I've got visions of becoming a seaman again.
Johnny went into elaborate detail explaining what he learned. The skipper looked at the chart then looked at Johnny while I pretend I'm concentrating on the plot, giving a sideways glance to see them and kissing my chevrons good-bye. "Where did you get this information, son?" asked the Captain. Now all my sweat pumps are running, and at high speed. "From the QMOW," says Johnny Mid and points to me!
"That's classified information. You don't have the need to know, so forget it; he shouldn't have shared that with you. Now lay below," scolds the Captain, and off runs little Johnny Mid. Turning to me he pauses for a moment. Skippers always have the best poker face; he wasn't any different. I couldn't tell if he was so angry he could spit or if he was about to bust a gut with laughter. So I brace for impact.
"Quartermaster, don't feed the midshipmen!" he deadpanned, and went back to his stateroom.
Now, a sagacious seadog would learn from this but I'm afraid that it wasn't the first time nor was it the last that I pulled similar pranks and/or received them. But those are other sea stories that I fondly ruminate on while shore bound. So now that all we Quartermasters are proud relics of the past, may the creator of the seas shine his face favorably upon all of you and grant you fair winds and favorable seas.
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