The compartment bill or evolution checklist is an invaluable aid in assuring the safety of the submarine and crew. Regardless of how many times we have participated in any evolution we must always use a check list or bill.
We can never be entirely sure that everything has been done correctly. The horror stories that come from everyday evolutions are frightening, considering that most of the mistakes could have been avoided.
It boggles the mind to think that the people involved were so aware of procedure and had done the evolution many times before, yet assumed they remembered exactly what they were supposed to do, while forgetting an important detail — and disaster struck.
We as professional submariners have the need to consider all the potential ramifications of everything we do. This is especially difficult when we become careless through repetition. A lackadaisical attitude is the seed of disaster. Blowing sanitaries becomes more of a “pain in the neck” than the potentially hazardous evolution it can be. Confidence through repetition and not following the bill can lead to a missed valve, and with it a little mess, embarrassment, and being disqualified for a watch. But what often gets overlooked is that it could have been more serious. Everyday evolutions are usually harmless, but add inattention to detail with electricity, compressed air, or hydraulic pressure, and you have a life threatening situation.
Submariners are in an inherently dangerous environment. There is no escaping the problem. Every day we put our lives in the hands of our shipmates. We hope the C.O. feels certain, when the officer of the deck wakes him up to ask permission to go to periscope depth that the nearest contact is indeed not a threat to ship safety. We also hope that a strange noise was properly assessed by the machinery lower watch as “Nothing to worry about!” And we hope that the duty cook put only enough shortening in the deep fat fryer to avoid a fire.
Don’t take everyday evolutions for granted just because they have been done a million times before. We will do them a million times again, but this does not take away from the fact that an evolution is still potentially dangerous.
We must take to our bunks at the end of our day trusting our shipmates and confident they will be professional enough to use the proper procedures. Because, gentlemen, that is all we have; trust, confidence, and prayer — that we won’t make one more dive than a surfacing.
MS2(SS) Benjamin W. Davies, USN