Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Navy Airdale – COM SHAW

I am not sure what they call it today, back in WWII it was called 'scrounging' or 'procuring' but for some odd reason in my time it was "COMSHAW". On top of that, I have no idea what it meant but, I do know what it was and became quite adapt at doing it.

Now just for all you legal beagles out there, I have been out of the Navy for some 27 years so any statute of limitations has long since expired, even if in these pages I admit to felony larceny, it was too long to go calling the FBI or the Waste, Fraud and Abuse hotline. That said,

On both the ship's that I served long periods of time on (I actually spent time on 5 different aircraft carriers, three of these were short stays for REFTRA (Refresher Training) or CQ (Carrier Qualifications) lasting anywhere from 10 days to 3-weeks) there was this underground economy if you will. It was actually more of an underground supply system. If you needed something that was either hard to come by or unusual for your job specialty well you needed to work this underground system to get what you wanted. Sometimes you wanted something 'special' and you had to 'barter' for it. And man oh man, there was a whole lot of horse trading going on in a 5800 man crew of an floating supply depot, er ah, Aircraft Carrier.

Let us confess, er, ah get into some details. It's good for the soul.

We kept in our shop a couple of cruise boxes (these are steel boxes that are maybe half the size of a coffin) packed with all manner of items that were common issue for us Airdale's. D-cell batteries for example, I was allowed to go down to the ships battery locker and draw a box (12 each) of D-cell batteries. As long as I had my green jersey on I could draw that box once a day or even more often if I went when they changed people in the locker, you know for meals. Ships Company crew members were not allowed or at the least there were strict limits on Ships Company but not on us Air Wing guys. Same for coveralls, masking tape and spray paint. Another item were boots, I was allowed to draw flight boots if I desired or the steel toed flight deck boot every month. Some of us were allowed to draw boots worn by the folks that handled Liquid Oxygen (LOX); they had no laces but simple elastic bands that held the otherwise normal looking boot on your feet. These were gold on the ship. And in our shop, we would send guys down to draw them as soon as they were eligible (there was a minimum schedule) and we kept in those cruise boxes a wide variety of sizes of these boots and other clothing items. Coveralls, flightsuits, flying gloves and unmarked foul weather jackets were kept on hand for trading purposes.

We once needed welding done in the shop, there were items 'procured' by other means that we needed to get nailed down before the rightful owner showed up and demanded them back and since ownership is 9/10 of the law, welding them in your shop pretty much makes them yours. So, off we went to find a Hull Tech to come up to the shop and 'estimate' the job, you know because we were filling out the proper forms that were necessary for an official request for such services. Of course once we got him in the shop and well, one look at the goody locker and we had that gear not only welded in place but he got the paint touched up just right as well. You couldn't tell that stuff was not installed when they built the ship. And it did not cost much either, couple of cans of spray paint, several coveralls and a pair of them LOX Boots. No need for paper work, done in a matter of a few hours.

We used to fix Microwave ovens in our shop. They were pretty easy actually; most of the times some numbnutted sailor would put something with metal in it and zap out the SCR (Silicon Controlled Rectifier) in the circulator. We would trade stuff to get the SCR's out of our Intermediate Maintenance Shops, then trade the working microwave for something we needed or wanted, like that nice frosty juice machine that kept 3 gallons of water ice cold, we would add Kool-Aid mix or lemonade mix to it and have the best juice around.

We were allowed to draw Coffee out of the supply system too, and the minimum size draw was a 20 pound can. We had coffee out the wazoo which was semi-legal tender all around the ship. There were a lot of little coffee mess' around the ship and most were not sanctioned and not allowed to draw coffee grounds. We were kings always holding 100 pounds of grounds on the ready for barter.

Another non-traditional procurement method was what you might call, the 'Vulture'. There are these huge store rooms on the ship and sometimes to get at some high value item they have to pretty much empty the hold. They would carefully stack the stuff out in the Hanger Bay and until they got to what they needed. Of course all of us scavengers roamed around this fringe of the carefully stacked and racked material. Reading off labels and you found something you may want, well then you needed a distraction to get away with the stuff. You had to get their attention focused on something else while a compatriot made off with the goods.

Once I noticed something that was too valuable not to make an attempt at getting my hands on but it was too heavy for me alone and even with 4 of us hauling it out we would be too obvious and would soon get busted. So, I went up to my shop and pulled out a blank form 1348. This was the official requisition form used by the Navy. It was a multi-part form that was the size of an IBM punch card. I threw some numbers in it; scribbled notations randomly around, added some initials and then carried the card down to this stack of gear that was out on the hanger floor. I brought several guys from the shop and as soon as I got there I started looking at the tags on this roll that I wanted, pretending to find what I needed I stood up and waved to one of the guys working there. As he approached I pointed to the roll and told my guys that this was the one we needed. I then made a big show of signing the 1348 and tore off my copy. I gave it to the sailor telling him that he needed to make sure to turn that RecForm in to his supervisor or there would be hell to pay. We walked off with a roll of rubber matting that was 12' wide by 50' long. No one said a word. We used that rubber matting to make covers for all of the deck space we were responsible for on inspection day, the shop, a small store room and 4 passageways two of them that led to the flight deck. These covers made Field Day a breeze since all we had to do was roll up the cover and dust, clean the edge a little and there we were, ready for inspection. All thanks to creative acquisition.

I soon got into the practice of carrying around a 1348 form with random numbers on it just in case I found something I useful. Nothing says ownership like a supply form and if you had one on your person you could get away with pretty much anything.

My best was finding out that one of the cooks that worked in the Bakery was in need of barter material in order to play cards. You see, there were huge poker and pinochle tournaments that ran almost constantly around the ship. But, you could get in big trouble if you played for money so most of the guys played with barter material. This baker went nuts when we introduced him to our store house of goodies. I negotiated daily delivery of fresh baked pastries every morning around 5:00 am, enough for the entire shop and then some. As long as he was losing in the tournament we were in sweet rolls, Danish, hot turnovers and cinnamon buns. It was great.

Like I said earlier, the statue of limitations on all this is long past. But the memories will last forever.

BT: Jimmy T sends.


ASM826 said...

Awesomeness. You're right about statute of limitations, I've got some to tell, and should get one up in the next few days.

Bag Blog said...

Now we know where the true power is in the Navy.

Buck said...

Scrounging pretty much became a lost art in my Air Force. Our supply system was so fat and so lenient that scrounging, as such, was hardly EVER necessary. I can see where being out to sea with finite and limited resources would be a whole different can o' worms...

Now, all that said, I sure do miss the "personal resupply" aspect. I had three serviceable field jackets when I retired nearly 25 years ago... and I'm down to my last one. And they don't make the M-65 any longer, either. The current replacement is lame, lame, lame. I have a brand new one (the source of which will remain confidential) but never wear it. There are other things, too, like the best damned leather work gloves I EVER had. But we won't go on.

JimmyT said...

ASM, Give it up, confession is good!!! Enjoy!

Lou, yeah I don't care how many stars on the collar, the little ole E-2 down in the boiler plant makes all the differance!!

Buck, we did have special problems while at sea. But, when we were peirside at Norfolk Naval Station we could go to the supply center there, it was this huge and I am talking gigantic building that was dubed the "Largest Store in the World" (it was on a sign when you went into the place). Shopping carts were those little Cushman cars with wagons attached. You simply went through the place in the little cart pulling stuff off shelves as you saw fit and piling i up in the wagons. Even the elevators between the floors were desigend for you to just drive right through them. It was great, so long as your paper work was in order you could get anything!!

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Ed said...

Hey Jimmy, back in 79 on the Ike's first Med cruise I worked in 655 IM3 the VAST shop. We were directly above the tunnel and on the 01 level. The ladder outside the shop went directly to the deepest, darkest part on the hangar bay "prime procurement area" We had one of the biggest "Coke Messes" on the ship at that time. Once during a bravo working party we got an idea to enlarge the availability of foodstuffs in the mess. Now that I think back it was so damn easy. We took a half roll of worlds famous Bubble Wrap and a roll of tape down there and went hunting. Final Score ..a 50lb box of canned Hams and a 50lb slab of cheese !!! BINGO, a little bartering with a certain squadron baker and instant Ham & Cheese sandwiches during GQ, not to say the shipmates that bought from our Coke mess were ecstatic to score food after GQ. I bought into that mess for $25.00 at the start of the cruise and walked out with $225.00, a nice 200.00 profit in 79 was good !