1961 - 1964

Sea Tales: Firefighting School at T.I.
San Francisco Bay, California
- 1962

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My Most Embarrassing Moment ever!

Everyone should remember something about their Navy Training. This bit of two weeks TAD while Hancock was in Dry-dock at Hunters Point, 1962 is the two weeks I will never forget... I was debating whether I should even relate this story, as it has since been the Most Embarrassing Moment of my life. But then, I thought, hey we all were young once; we all were new to the Navy at least once in our lives so why continue feeling Shamed when you know that everyone else who ever served in the Military must have had a similar moment in which they had to live down, so here is my story of being totally embarrassed beyond bearing, and the humorous result of that, you wall will know that there is truth in the old saying, "There is the right way, the wrong way and the Navy Way" - of doing things... see how this narrative takes you to that final conclusion...

I remember TI back then. It was much like it was in WWII then. I did 2 weeks of Firefighting school there in 1962. I also went there to take my YN3/2 test.
I wouldn't have minded serving a tour at T.I. - would have been great duty.

The most embarrassing moment in my life took place there, when I was in Firefighting School. If you went through that, you would remember the big 3 story building they out rigged as a replica of a ship.

They started an oil fire in the basement. You first put on an OBA* and then charged it, and started up the ladder.and you had to climb up that ladder on the side of the building (ship), up, up three (3) stories.

The course was to get up to the "deck" (top roof), and then follow a guy-line down a ladder similar to a ship's ladder. It went down down, down and winded all over the place and you could not see your nose in front of your face. It was pitch black from all the black sooty smoke pouring out.

The obstacle course, if you kept a hold of the line, got you to a hatchway at the bottom. If the Sailor on the course was having any trouble, he was supposed to yank on the line hard enough so the Chief below would know you were in trouble.

Meanwhile the bleachers were full of your training class with all eyes on you. Only one up the ladder at a you were STAR of the moment.

No sooner did I get started up the ladder after pulling the string on the canister to charge the damn OBA, that I began to panic. I got half way up the ladder which was maybe 15 or 20 feet up, and the panic now had me by a tight grip and I was going to die, I knew it! There was no changing the way I felt. I knew if I didn't get that damn OBA off and down that ladder, I swear I was going to literally die right there, and fall off the ladder. I was so fearful at that point, the damn Chief below yanked on my "Life-line" and yelled his nasty swear words at me to get my sorry ass off his ladder! I came down faster than I thought I could, and yanked off that damn OBA to get some air (which I could not get with it on) to see the whole class looking at me and laughing their fool heads off! I was shamed beyond bearing, and I left the Chief who told me to get my ass back to the bleachers and went back to the place I had been sitting before, and could not bear to look at anyone. Some of the less sensitive guys in that class made unkind comments about me, being a "Chicken Sh**t" and other unsavory names... I just kept my head low and did not think to comment back. This experience has molded me from that point onward. I knew I had to face my fears, but I had no idea that I was claustrophobic at all, until that frightful moment on the ladder 15 feet about the ground!

The Firefighting course ended a few days later and they didn't recycle me! I ended up being sent to an OBA D.C.C. role in my sleeping compartment for G.Q. ! Talk about how important Navy Training is. Not sure my Division Officer got word about my "Most Embarrassing Moment" or my failure in OBA training but being sent to a Damage Control position and then being made an OBA man, goes to show you, I was going to conquer that fear one way or another!

The next two (2) years aboard Hannah, I prayed every night that I'd not have to use that damn thing. God kept his promise to me, and I never did have to charge the OBA ever again.

See, you are privileged to be the only one I know on this Website or Assn. who heard this story. So keep it to yourself! (Yeah, sure!) I'll find out how you keep your promises, when I get feedback from this Web Page.


Note: This Story has a later reference when several other Shipmates spoke about the Firefighting School at T.I.. Go Here and Here.

*OBA - is an acronym for Oxygen Breathing Apparatus - they have also been known by a term called, "Oxygen Re-breathers" - much like a gas mask with a May West Vest attached. The are you breath through this system was re-cycled in an attached canister that came out supposedly "scrubbed" so you could continue to breath the air... scrubbed of Carbon dioxide... These OBA's were in service since WWII - today, I am sure they use a complete different system, but back then, we were very much using materials that were surplus from WWII.

Submitted 11/22/2007
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