Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Did you ever talk s*it to the COB?

When I was a (not so young) NUB on my first boat, (which at the time was a construction area in Newport News), I had a COB like no other. An electrican's mate, but not a nuke, EMCM(SS) had come up on diesal boats, having set foot on his first nuke as an EMCS and new COB. We were his fifth boat (FIFTH!!), and "Papa" was my first experience for a COB.

I can honestly say that after 14 years, none has yet lived up to him.

He didn't fit the stereotype of the grungy EM of diesal boat lore; he looked like a disgtinguished Ivy League graduate turned CEO of a Fortune 500 company. He was pretty old when he took the COB job on USTAFISH, having come from some big staff/fleet CMC post...he said he wanted one more boat before he hung it up (rumor was he may have turned down MCPON for us). He also broke the standard stereotype (at least the one I had, growing up with a Navy dad, grandfather, and in a Navy town) of a Chief...EMCM never yelled or even raised his voice (save for quarters on the peir, to be heard over the racket of shipyard noise), didn't get red-faced with veins popping, hardly ever got angry or even annoyed. See, he didn't need to.

He had a talent, a gift, for simply keeping the guys in line by making it known to you when you screwed up that you had disappointed him. Trust me...you feld about as high as a grease mark on the deck when you disappointed him. We all knew what he expected, and it simply happened. The skipper, ENG, XO, or our chiefs may put out something that generated bitching to the moon and back, but when COB spoke, things happened. Rarely if ever did you hear grumbling, bitching and moaning, or "screw the COB".

And, unlike many "leaders", he always met the standards he set. If he expected the crew to be on time for muster at 0730, you can set your watch on him being there at 0700. If he expected even the young guys to pass the PRT, you can be assured he not only passed, he exceeded the standards for the youngster's age group (that damn old man could RUN!). Uniform always top shape, always a sharp haircut and fresh shave (even underway), his office in the building and later his rack on the boat were impeccable. And it wasn't a "see what I do" maneuver...it was just who he was.

He went above and beyond in looking out for the crew, too. He once took in a young A-ganger for an entire weekend when he and his wife had a major dispute. He left the hospital where his own daughter was giving birth to his grandchild to visit a sailor in the emergency room who'd been in an accident that same night. When I had surgery and needed a ride back to the barracks (from a nearby Air Force hospital), and was single with no one to drive my truck back (and my fellow nukes in shiftwork), he grabbed the YNC and picked me up...and drove my truck back for me (I was still woozy from the anestetic).

When a sailor was locked out of his room in the barracks one night, and the barracks staff refused to let him in (he ended up sleeping in the laundry), COB called the barracks LCPO the next morning and "explained" how he expected the sailors on his boat to be treated in the future. His words to the sailor..."you should have called me, I don't care that it was 0200". He then published his home phone number and pager number in the POD for the rest of his tour with us, so we would know to call if we needed help.

But to my shit-talking story. Did I mention COB was a DBF sailor? Well, I joined the Navy in 1991, and got to the boat after nuke training in 1993. At 22 in boot camp, and nearly 25 when I reported in, I wasn't a really young NUB by comparison (most NUB nukes were 19-21, NUB coners were 18-20). I knew COB was, well, getting up there, and younger guys always do some good-natured harassing of the "old guys" (at 36, I'm getting it now!).

Well, I was getting a checkout in a group with the COB, one of those sigs that is a COB only item, and since the mood was fairly light I decided to poke a bit of fun at the COB. Something about relative ages when fish were earned and whatnot, I don't quite remember how it went, but I jokingly said something about someone his age getting dolphins before all of us were born. His response was something along the lines of "well, I bet I did, you bunch of kids!"...and since I was nearing 26 I advised him to watch it, as I wasn't as young as he might think.

Well, he reached in a drawer in his desk and pulled out some papers...handing them over, I could see it resembled a qual card, but was in a plastic bag and yellowed with age. Turns out it was his own submarine qual card, with his name and rank (EMFN). And the date that proved it all...a date in November of 1968 when he earned the right to put "SS" behind that EMFN. After all of us got a good look, he said to me "OK, 'old timer', when were you born?".

The answer...December 28, 1968.

Once again, the COB was right...he had earned his fish before any of us in the room had been born...even the "old NUB"! By then he'd been qualified for over 25 years, nearly 26.

Moral of the story...there are just some COBs you will never get the better of, and be careful how you make your wagers :)


At 9:42 AM, Blogger Alex Nunez said...

Awesome story, Rob.

That COB sounds like some made-up character out of a movie or a novel.

It's just proof that, as it always seems to be when it comes to the best stories, truth always trumps fiction.

The stories you guys all tell are my favorite things to read.

At 8:22 PM, Blogger Rob said...

He was real...you're right, he seems too good, but he was THE MAN.

My first COB, too. No other has come close to living up to him (though my last EDMC came close).

At 7:17 AM, Blogger Tat2dhillbilly said...

I only harassed a COB one time, our COB Herbert "The Pervert" was looking for a particular sailor and had called back to maneuvering to see if said sailor was aft, I was standing (sitting) EO and answered the phone, had the AEA check around for the sailor and reported that the guy the COB was looking for was not aft. After a brief bitchin session between the nukes about how could a coner get lost underway the COB called back and asked us to check again as they still did not know where the sailor was. For some reaon the phrase "Guess again Batman, he ain't here" just slipped out.

I spent the next week mess cranking after my normal watches.........

At least I didn't have to run the projector on movie night.....

At 10:27 AM, Blogger bothenook said...

one of the first COB's i sailed with was an OLD diesel boat sailor. remember, this was in 74, and our COB spent his formative years under the watchful eyes of WWII pig boat sailors. he did not brook any BS from the wardroom when it came to the enlisted. if you messed up though, it was probably going to be resolved mano a mano in a quiet dark corner of the boat. you got religion after a face to face with him. crusty, foul mouthed, short tempered, and one of the most caring senior petty officer i've ever dealt with.
oh, and his COB walkthru during quals was brutal. no grape signatures from that guy.


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