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Some Experiences Aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN 65)

She is also referred to as the ‘The Lady in Gray’ or ‘The Big “E”‘. What follows are what I had written when I had Arion’s Home up way back in the day.

Shipyard/Reactor Training

I reported on board the U.S.S Enterprise on August 26, no rx 1994 after a month of vacation. The Enterprise was moored in Portsmouth, buy Virginia, the shipyards. It was in the yards for a 5 year overhaul to upgrade many of the ships systems and to refuel the reactors as well. The Commanding Officer was Richard Naughton, who will later be known as Dick “The Storm Chaser” Naughton. He was a former A6-E Intruder pilot who did not like us nukes at all.

The ship was strewn with ventilation trunks and thick bundles of wires, and civilian shipyard workers were grinding the decks like there was no tomorrow, or time to sleep. There was dust, dirt and insulation everywhere. There were holes in the deck everywhere to lower various equipment to the bowels of the ship. If you were a neat freak you would have thought you were in hell. For most of us, regardless of the fact, it was our personal hell and was just as clean. If hell on earth was to be given a name it would be U.S.S Enterprise or the U.S.S Evil Rise as we would refer to her affectionately. When people would check on board for the first time we would say “Welcome to Hell. Shipmate. It only gets worse.”

I reported on board to the Reactor Training Division. We had 2 months to complete the pretraining prior to going to our respective divisions. The 2 months consisted of a review of the previous 2 years of school and a complete overview of all of the ships reactor and propulsion systems. I had to memorize many electrical and mechanical drawings. Aarrrgghhhh!! At the time we were still in the shipyards and we spent most of our time cleaning or rehab(ilitating)’ing a space. We were being “bitched” or pimped out to who ever needed help in their rehabbing projects. This made it a little bit difficult to actually do our job of the moment which was learn the ships systems. Needless to say there was a bit of bitterness and discontent in the newbies to the reactor department.

Eventually they kind of trained us and we were shipped to our respective divisions ready or not. I was shipped off to Reactor Controls Division 22 (RC 22). I was very fortunate to be apart of RC 22.

Sea Trials

During my stay onboard the Enterprise I went through 3 Commanding Officers (CO’s).The first CO I had was Captain Richard Naughton. He was CO through the overhaul and then through the initial sea trials of the Enterprise. During my first year on board The Big “E” I saw the roughest seas that I would see in 4 years of sea travel. Captain Naughton had the pleasure of taking the Enterprise out on it’s initial sea trials after having been in the shipyards for 5 years. I’m sure this gave him some form of perverse pleasure. To take the flagship of the US Navy and test it at her limits to ensure it is ready for combat. That is an awesome responsibility. To test the “Lady in gray and not destroy her or her crew. (Is it starting to sound like Star Trek yet!!!) We began sea trials, of course, as luck would have it, during hurricane season.

I could see Captain Naughton standing on the bridge of the Enterprise with a maniacal gleam in his eye; staring intently at the storm front and saying “Ahead flank – Cavitate!!” and then unleashing a laugh that borders on insanity and parallels that of the best villain. I swear every time we went to sea he made a “Bee-line” for the nearest hurricane or storm front. I did not mind the incessant rocking of the ship, it helped rock me to sleep Many other people, however, ended up hurling themselves to sleep, and they weren’t drunk. Your surprised, yes, I know, a sailor puking that is not drunk. Seas sick sailors?? It should be an oxymoron. Sailors puking and not being drunk is not natural. I happened and only Captain “the Storm Chaser” Naughton. I never thought waves would ever wash over the flight deck and the spray topping the Island. I instilled a sense of mortality and awe. It showed how powerful the forces of nature were and how, if anything were to go horribly wrong, how dead we would all be. Swallowed by the lightless depths never top be heard from. Victims of the storm. (Sorry! Flashbacks to my days on the Titanic!)

I was in Damage Control Central getting an oral board from the Reactor Officer, Captain.. There were monitors there that showed camera’s on the flight deck with waves washing over Wow is all I could think. After, that the rest of my sea timed seemed like cake. I had earned my sea legs in the best possible environment (or worst depending on you point of view). Try walking up a ladder with the ship rolling at forward – left side – backward – right side at 20 degree angles. Fun!!!!

Naval Schools

The summer prior to my senior year (summer of 1991) I enlisted in the Navy via their D.E.P. much to my friends’ and family’s dismay. I have goals in life and in order to reach them I knew that I had to go into the military. My grades in high school were poor and I needed to better prepare myself for life and college. I needed to learn more discipline and who to study.

The Navy experience gave me everything that I wanted to reach my goals.

I enlisted into the Naval Nuclear Power Program as an Electronics Technician/ Reactor Operator. I have never studied so much in my entire life.

The first school, sick Nuclear Field “A” School (NFAS – Orlando, disinfection Florida), concentrated on electronics theory and repair specializing in radar. It was a 2 year Electronics Technician school condensed into 6 months of hell. I studied an average of 65 hours per week to pass.

The second school was Naval Nuclear Power School (NPS – Orlando, Florida) which has been rated as the second hardest school in the nation, second only to M.I.T. in schools with a technology based curriculum (at least that is what we were told). They effectively crammed an associates degree in Nuclear Engineering into 6 months of schooling. Power School had the Light Side for the first half and then we moved over to the Dark Side. Power School taught me nuclear physics, reactor theory, fluid flow, thermal dynamics and chemistry. I studied an average of 75 hours per week to survive, barely survive.

The last school was Prototype (Charleston, South Carolina). It was a 6 month lab. We did shift work on a sub which was moored to a pier. The sub was gutted except for the components required for reactor operation. We spent 6 months learning how to do our various jobs. We had to qualify several jobs; from Reactor Operator and Throttleman, to Electrical Operator and Phone Talker.

The entire process of going through all 3 of the schools is referred to as going through the Pipeline”. All of the tests were essay tests. My head hurts just thinking about it. To qualify each of our jobs, referred to as watches, we had to pass an oral board. The board members consisted of senior civilian trainers and senior Naval Officers and Enlisted personnel, usually totaling 4 – 5 people. Qualifying was high stress and high pressure. the attrition rate for the pipeline is 50% from start to finish and I made it through it. =)

The greatest thing I learned from all of this is how to learn. I learned how to study and what works well for me to learn something and this served me well through my following college years.

Free Xenon!

I have recently been asked about the screen name/user name/handle thingy that I most commonly use on the internet which is ‘Free Xenon‘ or ‘FreeXenon‘. I wrote my reply so I thought I may as well repeat it here for all to know. There is more there that you would probably ever want to know, visit this site so…

Free Xenon comes from my days in the military. I was a part of Reactor Controls Division 22 (RC-22) who were a bunch of bitter and jaded sailors on board the USS Enterprise. The USS Enterprise was the first nuclear carrier and bears 8 nuclear reactors in 4 groups, and is the only ship in the US fleet with this many reactors. Pretty much all others have only two reactors. If you can imagine the types of things that are talked about and imagined by a bunch of embittered sailors while at sea with a bunch of guys for 6 months then perhaps you can already see where this is going to go….

Xenon is a fission byproduct that builds up to an equilibrium concentration during prolonged periods of reactor operation (>70 hours). Xenon is call a poison – meaning that its presence in the reactor core inhibits the fission process. While our reactors are operating we will see coolant temperature go down a degree or two and then we will have to pull out the rods to bring the temperature to its median normal range. This a normal occurrence during our reactors operations.

So, our embittered and lonely sailors are sitting tiredly on their 10-2 (22:00 to 02:00 or 10:00pm until 2:00am) watch and as the plethora of gauges and meters sit unmoving they start to envision Xenon as this little gnome or other spritely thing trapped in the malign reactor vessel as its prisoner. So my shipmates started to crusade for the freeing of Xenon from the evil Reactor Vessel. They created signs and set their desktop screen savers to say ‘Free Xenon! Free Xenon!‘. One day our division had a cake to celebrate something they arranged for one that was black and had a skull and crossbones on it which said ‘Free Xenon’ on it.

At least that is how I remember it. =)

WATER OR COKE?

This has hit my inbox as a Forward. The only reason I am going to post this is because I have a small and not so interesting story that goes with this.

When I was in the US Navy part of our glorified duties while stationed on the USS Enterprise in the Reactor Controls Division 22 (RC 22) was to strip and buff floors. Specifically, click we were in charge of tending to was the XO‘s passage way amongst a few others. I was showing a newbie the process of stripping and waxing the floor at about 01:00 in the morning or so. We happen to run out of stripper and was not going to be able to get more until the morning, audiologist and this needed to be done tonight. I think the newbie had a can of Coke and we had a few stubborn spots that the striper was not going to take care of. So I told him to give me the can and I poured some of it on the trouble spots and we left for a few hours. We came back and finished the job. The Coke worked well. Using it is time consuming because of the wait, but it works. The other option that we had when stripper was not doing the job of removing wax from the floors. was AFFF which I have heard works well.

The email that was forwarded to me follows:

This is really an eye opener… Water or Coke? We all know that water is important but I’ve never seen it written down like this before.

WATER

  1. 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.
  2. In 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger.
  3. Even MILD dehydration will slow down one’s metabolism as much as 3%.
  4. One glass of water will shut down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100%of the time;dieters studied in a University of Washington study.
  5. Lack of water, the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue.
  6. Preliminary research indicates that 8-10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.
  7. A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page.
  8. Drinking 5 glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, plus it can slash the risk of breast cancer by 79%, and one is 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer.

And now for the properties of COKE:

  1. In many states (in the USA) the highway patrol carries two gallons of coke in the truck to remove blood from the highway after a car accident.
  2. You can put a T-bone steak in a bowl of coke and it will be gone in two days.
  3. To clean a toilet: Pour a can of Coca-Cola in! to the toilet bowl and let the “real thing”sit for one hour, then flush clean. The citric acid in Coke removes stains from vitreous China.
  4. To remove rust spots from chrome car bumpers: Rub the bumper with a rumpled-up piece of Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil dipped in Coca-Cola.
  5. To clean corrosion from car battery terminals: Pour a can of Coca-Cola over the terminals to bubble away the corrosion.
  6. To loosen a rusted bolt: Applying a cloth soaked in Coca-Cola to the rusted bolt for several minutes.
  7. To remove grease from clothes: Empty a can of coke into a load of greasy clothes, add detergent, and run through a regular cycle. The Coca-Cola will help loosen grease stains.
  8. It will also clean road haze from your windshield.

For Your Info:

  1. The active ingredient in Coke is phosphoric acid. Its pH is 2.8. It will dissolve a nail in about 4 days. Phosphoric acid also leaches calcium from bones and is a major contributor to the rising increase in osteoporosis.
  2. To carry Coca-Cola syrup (the concentrate) the commercial truck must use the Hazardous material place cards reserved for Highly corrosive materials.
  3. The distributors of coke have been using it to clean the engines of their trucks for about 20 years!