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In the ’60s, the submarine Navy ran a private airline to Scotland to transport FBM crews between Quonset Point, Rhode Island and Holy Loch, Scotland. Information concerning the schedule of this transportation system was well orchestrated, so that next-of-kin could meet the incoming FBM crews or kiss them goodbye.

Each crew had a communicator telephone tree used to notify all families of arrival and departure times. This system functioned very well keeping all dependents informed of the arrival times of incoming crews. However, this effectiveness could prove to be a mixed blessing as the following incident illustrates.

The incoming crew of this particular submarine crew embarked in an aircraft at Prestwick Airport, Scotland, and departed for the United States. The estimated time of arrival (ET A) had been sent and the communicator tree was activated. All hands had been informed and arrangements made for an arrival at Quonset Point, Rhode Island.

However, as Robert Bums once wrote “The plans of mice and men oft go aglae”. Such occurred on this particular flight as the plane lost an engine an hour after take off, and had to return to Prestwick. There was no immediate replacement plane available, so no ET A could be predicted. Information on the situation was passed to all the dependents.

The crew flaked out in the airport to await a solution to the problem. The wait extended for several hours, during which time some of the more enterprising crew members were able to find liquid refreshment. One of the more daring members was the ship’s cook. He, having imbibed quite a bit, decided to speed things up by calling his wife in Groton, Connecticut. (My experience with submarine cooks indicates that they are individuals who march to their own drummer and are not known for their patience under normal conditions.) He informed his wife that nobody seemed to be doing anything about getting the crew home, and that she should alert the powers-that-be of the situation and get some action taken.

She, being a dutiful and capable Navy wife, decided to go right to the top! As a result, at about 2 AM local time, she contacted the Secretary of the Navy at bis home. In rather short succinct terms, coupled with four letter adjectives, she informed him of the situation and suggested that he get cracking on a solution.

The Secretary notified the CNO Duty Officer of the situation and suggested he look into the matter. The Duty Officer passed the information on to COMSUBLANT, who in tum, passed it down the chain of command to yours for action.

The Secretary notified the CNO Duty Officer of the situation and suggested he look into the matter. The Duty Officer passed the information on to COMSUBLANT, who in tum, passed it down the chain of command to yours for action.

There are two aspects of this incident that were quite surprising to me. First, of course, was the fact that anyone could dial direct to a senior public official at 2 AM at his or her residence without having some form of screening of incoming calls. Apparent) y, the young lady berated the Secretary for his lack of knowledge and concern about this problem. Fortunately, the Secretary recognized that the young lady was, among other things, suffering from stress. He assured her that remedial action would be taken. The second impressive aspect was how quickly yours for action received the message from the Secretary. Alt links in the chain expedited passing on the information.

The net result was, that some five hours later, a plane, with a replacement engine, was on its way. The dependents were informed and all hands, including the Secretary, could go back to bed.


The world’s largest maritime exposition, the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Systems and Technology Exposition, will take place April 2-4, 1996 at the Sheraton Washington Hotel in Washington, DC. There will be more than 150 exhibits of the latest in technology designed for today’s and tomorrow’s Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and U.S.- flag Merchant Marine. More than 10,000 people are expected to attend the three day event. With a theme of America’s Best, the program also includes addresses by senior Department of Defense (DoD) leaders, special events and five free professional seminars.

The Exposition is open at no charge to active, reserve, and retired U.S. military personnel, civilian employees of the DoD and other agencies of the Federal government, and all Navy Leaguers. For more information, ask for Kathy at (703) 318-0300.

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