1966-1967 West Pac Memories #4 Paul Trombetta

Memories of West Pac, 1966-1967

by Paul Trombetta AX3 and AX2 and almost AX3 again (HS-8)

Installment #4- Now, just where is that damned shop, and what's darken ship???

Well folks, I have taken a month off from writing these memoirs due to a new baby in my family. At my ripe old age of 52, my wife and I had a beautiful daughter on Sept. 11. Her name is Roxanne and we are both extremely happy and TIRED.

If I can remember, we were still on Carrier Quals and getting ready for a killer West Pac cruise. After watching those very exciting flight deck evolutions called carrier take offs and landings and witnessing the S2's many attempts to sink our ship, I was ready to go to chow and find my shop, where I would be working the night shift. We worked 7 days a week, 12 on and 12 off.

I found my way back to the compartment and took a quick shower. I gotta get a waterproof watch- ruined my old Timex using it to time the three minute showers. For some reason, I had a big fear of exceeding the 3 minutes in the shower and getting written up by the MAA.

OK- now, lets go find that shop. It's supposed to be on the hanger deck, aft by the fantail, and up a ladder and walkway, which runs port and starboard at the rear of the hanger deck. Sounds pretty easy except for one thing. Darken ship!!! I climb down to the hanger bay forward and now am faced with walking the entire length of the ship in the dark.

I noticed round circles of red light all around me with little twinkles of white light in the middle and realized that all the people who had some experience would carry a flashlight with a red lens. They would poke a hole in the middle of the red lens and get a small white light (this was cheating, I think). In any event, these very knowledgeable people had a light source to see their way around the hanger bay.

After about 20 minutes of just standing in one place, my night vision started kicking in and I could start to make out the dull shapes of aircraft and these other very black holes in the deck (which I would find out were hatches going down and not to be stumbled into). I got up my nerve and started feeling my way aft, holding on to aircraft and other objects. All of a sudden the 1 mc called for night flight operations and the hanger bay had a flood of red lights turned on and a bustle of activity, moving aircraft, etc. Most importantly, I could see!!!! So I hurried aft and actually found my shop and immediately pissed everyone off inside. It seems that every time you open the shop door, the white lights turn off inside and red lights come on- but everyone doing paperwork, playing cards, etc., would yell and scream at you to shut the friggen door. But I made it- phew. Time to relax, right? Wrong!

"Trombetta, you are late!!! Where have you been???? Never mind!!! Take this Sonar transmitter up to the flight deck for 66. It's waiting for takeoff so hurry". Well, now I have to find the flight deck, and most of all, find the aircraft that needs this transmitter. Did I mention that this transmitter weighs 79 pounds? I asked the Chief if someone could go with me because I didn't know where to go. He told me- just go forward about halfway down the hanger and find a ladder going up on the starboard side. Sounds easy so I hoisted this transmitter onto my shoulder and took off- first down to the hanger and then forward.

Hey, whaddaya know??? Here is an escalator. No sweat. I took that sucker up to the flight deck and immediately was told by another khaki pants (he had a white shirt on) to go right back down and take a ladder as this escalator was for flight crews only. I tried to tell him that this think on my shoulder weighed 79 pounds but he wasn't hearing any of it. So, I head back down and find a ladder. No, I have to tell you, these ladders are very steep. Not like stairs in your house. With a 79 pound black box on the right shoulder, and trying to hold on and keep from falling over backwards with the left, I realized that it's not just a job. It's an adventure.

Now, I have to tell you- the flight deck during flight operations is an amazing place. I knew that this is where I wanted to be during this cruise. I walked out onto the flight deck and immediately got chewed out for not having a colored shirt on. I couldn't hear what this guy was saying, though, because I didn't have ear protection or anything else for that matter. We hadn't yet set up flight skins and flight deck troubleshooters and things like that. No gear had been issued and we had to get the job done in spite of that. I found the aircraft and gave the transmitter to the sonar crewman to install. He had the bad one waiting for me and I reversed my tracks and brought it back to the shop- getting yelled at again when I opened the shop door. I'm getting used to reprimands and it doesn't hurt so much by this time.

Coming soon- Installment #5. What does commissary working party mean?


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