A fresh start to a long journey in the life and times of Michael Scott QM1 USN (1978-1995). This is the first of a group of stories that I remember during my Naval Career.
It is late spring of 1978. Let me start with a little bit of background. During high school daily in the late 70s, I dreamed of seeing the world and wanted to follow in my fathers foot steps. He is a highly decorated Marine retired from the military service. He was and still is the smartest man I have ever known. On the day of graduation from high school, most of my classmates were walking across the stage with their diplomas. I knew the military could be the vessel for a great career and I was eager to enlist. I was on a Trailways bus heading to the state capital to enter the U.S NAVY. I entered military service joining the USN the next morning. I was sworn in later that day and sent to a local hotel for the night and we were placed on a flight early the next day. It was a hot summer that year in boot camp located at Orlando Fla. My classmates called the base water tower the devil’s doorknob. It was an enlighting experience. My heel still wears off at the heel because they reprogramed all of us into marching servicemen. The training still shows in the manner I live to this day. We start with about 90 young men. The class finished with abouts 75 raw service men ready for shipboard life. I had the opportunity to be stationed on surface craft. My dream of seeing the world was answered or so it seemed. Before reporting on board, the Truett. I went to Quartermaster A School (Basic Navigation and log keeping is what they taught.) Located at the naval base Orlando Fla. I was right Back where I went to boot camp. I really enjoyed navigation and passed with a high average in my class. We were given three different orders to choose from according to our GPA. My picked for orders was the FF-1095 USS Truett as a young new E-3.
Reporting to the ship in Norfolk. It was schedule to depart on a deployment the next day. It was a Fighting Ship. 450’ long in length. With a crew of about 300 or so men enlisted and officers. I loved the work and the journey of that deployment. I made third class during the deployment.
We had just completed an extended deployment on station 180 days in the Persian Gulf. Do you remember the Iranian Hostage Crisis. We were there on independent duty and the crew was exhausted from months at sea. It was very hot, and the ship has very little A/C in only select areas. Berthing and the Bridge was hot. We worked tropical hours during the day in the gulf. After being relieved by another ship. Everyone was ready to spend the holidays with our loved ones after a long time away from the USA. We were detached heading north to Norfolk across the Atlantic during a stormy time. We traveled the southern route. All was going as planed until we turned north off of Carolina hugging the coast at 100nm to Norfolk. It had been without any major issues most of the crossing. But as we neared the end of the voyage was when a major storm hit us. Swells that night off Hatteras averaged 60-90 feet high. I was part of the quartermaster team that monitored the weather and sent out weather message as part of our weather reporting. The Ships Commander (Captain Jerry L. Lewis) ensures the ship was ready for heavy seas. But he also wanted to know the weather reading hourly. In the stormy months Navy ships in general take more of a southern route to avoid the bad weather of the North Atlantic. But bad weather was blocking our way home offshore from the Carolinas to Norfolk Va. We were expecting to arrive home the next day.
That night, I remember it like yesterday. Being on watch on the bridge as the Quartermaster of the watch. (QMOW). I worked the ships navigation under the officer of the deck keeping the ship log and navigation plot. That was my main duty along with weather keeping and reporting. I made this transit many times since at sea during fair weather and bad weather. I did not think it would be as dangerous. You get a false sense of security being on a large steel vessel. The next morning from the bridge, you could see the damage from the heavy seas at the stern. The mid-watch is midnight to 4:00 am. That was the watch I manned that night. I was excited as the weather got worse to feel the ship fighting through the heavy seas when I entered the bridge to relieve the 8 pm to midwatch QMOW. Part of my duties were going out on deck and taking weather readings with the weather equipment located outside on the port bridge wing. While on watch I monitored wind, sea state and direction, clouds type and amount of cloud coverage, and the barometer was very important. All of this is done hourly. The winds were 30-40 knots gusting to 60 knots or 70 MPH. You always keep the bridge dark, so you can see other shipping in the area and avoid hitting another craft or a huge oil tower offshore. We call it rig for red. It aids your night vision.
At 1:00am, I went to take my readings and the wind caught my hat and it was gone. Then I noticed it was close to the bridge wing I was standing on and I tried to grab it during a crest of a swell. Then thinking of the danger, I quietly stopped after realizing that the bridge wing I was standing on is 75 feet above the waterline of the ship. A hat is not as important as my life. The OOD Officer of the Deck saw me reaching and told me to get back inside the bridge. He ordered. Scotty inside now. I had just entered the bridge and dogged the hatch, and the next wave covered the entire ship. We were going through the waves. We looked at each other and no more weather reading was taken outside that night. Thinking back, I was a lucky young man. We entered port at Norfolk the next afternoon with damage to the bow and stern of the ship. Many of the steel antennas on the stern were missing and the anchoring equipment on the bow was damaged.
From that day forward I have had much more respect for the weather in general. I will always keep a watchful eye on the weather. It can be dangerous in a few moments. Always tell a responsibile person; the harbor master, game warden or your neighbor before you go out on the water. It is something that I do for my friends and family often.
Below is the Ship and a bit of Information about her.
General Characteristics: Awarded: August 25, 1966
Keel laid: April 27, 1972
Launched: February 3, 1973
Commissioned: June 1, 1974
Decommissioned: July 30, 1994
Builder: Avondale Shipyards, New Orleans, La.
Propulsion system: 2 - 1200 psi boilers; 1 geared turbine, 1 shaft; 35,000 shaft horsepower
Length: 438 feet (133.5 meters)
Beam: 47 feet (14.4 meters)
Draft: 25 feet (7.6 meters)
Displacement: approx. 4,200 tons full load
Speed: 27 knots
Armament: one Mk-16 missile launcher for ASROC and Harpoon missiles, one Mk-42 5-inch/54 caliber gun, Mk-46 torpedoes from single tube launchers, one 20mm Phalanx CIWS
Crew: 18 officers, 267 enlisted.