Sunday, March 9, 2014

USS Nimitz CVN-68 Diaries... Riff Raff

I have a small handful of funny stories from my time aboard the USS Nimitz.

I just had such a most amazingly fun and slightly emotional time polishing up this story and adding the photo's... I hope you get a sense of what it was like to be on such a floating monster
while reading.

Ahoy muthafucka... ahoy!

USS Nimitz CVN-68 Diaries...

Riff Raff

Eventually, I finished all of my navy schooling, and was given my next duty station.
Say goodbye to Millington, Tennessee!

I would be spending the next two years and four months of my life, on one of the largest aircraft carriers in the world at the time…
the USS Nimitz CVN 68.

((The "CV" denotes the classification of hull type used for aircraft carriers. The "N" indicates nuclear propulsion and the "68" means that it is the 68th CV, or aircrat carrier.))

USS Nimitz CVN-68
USS Nimitz CVN-68

One big muthafucka, man!

I’ll never forget the day I arrived in Norfolk Virginia, my new home port.

I took a taxi from the airport, and it let me off at the pier. I was wearing my spiffy all-white dress uniform, and carrying my green overstuffed duffel bag. I had new guy on the block energy emanating from head to fuckin' toe.

Great, a newbie, all over again.

But, without hesitation, I tossed the cabby some cash, threw my bag over my shoulder, and began the long lonely walk down what seemed

to be a never ending pier.

I was in complete awe of what I was seeing. Because, the aircraft carrier

John F. Kennedy CV-67
was docked opposite to the Nimitz
on the other side of the pier.

Aircraft carriers docked at Norfolk pier
Not sure if any of those are the Nimitz or not.
Just wanted to give you an overall feel for what I was walking into.

And, as I began my march along said pier, suddenly, I was standing between the two biggest things I have ever seen in my life.

Two metal monsters, towering over me.

Just raw strength, ready to kick the shit
outta anyone who dare fuck with it!

CVN 68 USS Nimitz docked alongside the Ark Royal British carrier
That's the Nimitz on the right docked alongside the Ark Royal
which is a British aircraft carrier. Just look at how small
the cars are parked on the dock!!
Just imagine the USS J.F. Kennedy docked on the left instead
of that British ship. The JFK was just about as large as the Nimitz was.
I was shitting myself dude!!
No shit!

Once again, I was a bonsai tree

amongst the redwoods!

I could only think of one thing to say

at this most poignant of moments.

How the fuck...
do these things float?

(Sorry, I didn’t mean to let you guys down.
Hope you weren’t lookin’ for something
more philosophical.
C’mon dude, it's still me!)

You had'ta see these things.

You would’ve crapped your pants,
just as I was doing
right at that specific moment.

USS Nimitz
Look at how small the people are next to this big bitch!
Now add another beast just feet away...
it was very impressive to say the least!

Suddenly, I didn’t feel like the wise-crackin’ leader of the fourth floor, or even the tough guy with the sissy tattoo! I just felt like a tiny, insignificant peon, standing on the head of a pin. I mean, tiny!

USS Nimitz

But that would all change in a matter of seconds.

Hey Tommy, over here!

It was a voice from the past.
No, it wasn’t the voice of reason,
far from it.

But, it was a voice that I was very very

happy to hear.

It was Cary, a friend of mine

from the old neighborhood. As a matter of fact, he was also present the day my brother
hit me in the head with the football
way back when on Simonson Ave.
Remember that foul-mouthed fiasco?

He’d been stationed on the ship for some time now. And well, he took me under his wing, and showed me my way around this gigantic beast.

It was so funny when we made it on board and got to the first set of stairs. Oh, on the ship they refer to a stairwell as the ladder.

And, I soon found out why.

When I got to the first one and stood at the bottom, I had to look almost straight up to see the top. I just started to crack up laughing,
as I began my ascent.

It was nerve racking all over again
to say the least.

But worse yet, was when I had to go down these things. Straight down man. I had entered into a new hell! A floating hell! A gigantic, huge, steel, floating muthafucking hell!

Typical stairwell (ladder) aboard U.S. Naval vessel.
This is your typical run of the mill stairwell (ladder)
that you would find on most ships.
This one actually isn't that bad. It's not steep at all. That first one
I came across that day was almost straight fucking down... LoL
Once you gained some confidence you could just grab hold of the railings,
raise your feet and slide down just like in the movies.
I only tried that a few times, as I didn't wanna break my fuckin' neck!!

By day’s end, my nice white uniform was smeared with grease and dirt. My shoes were untied, scuffed up, and not only did I still have the new guy on the block look, but now I really felt like one as well. From head to fucking toe mofo... I WAS... the new guy!

I'm sure you guys have felt this unsettling emotion right. Perhaps when you began that brand new job. Whether you were the person in charge, or just one of the many minions... I bet it was nerve-racking! Only without all the grease and scuffed up shoes though right... LoL

This ship was just so huge that I was overwhelmed a little. Can you believe that when it was out to sea, and fully loaded with both the air wing and the shipboard crew, that there were 85 to 90 planes/helicopters, and six thousand people milling about this monster at any given time. 6000 muthafuckin’ people man!
And 90 airplanes on top of that!

USS Nimitz CVN68 with Air Wing 8 airplanes aboard
This pic was taken during the time I was attached to the ship
which was late 1981 through early 1984.
The rest of the planes are below deck in the hanger bay.

Air Wing 8...
... were our protectors reigning down
both fear & respect onto the foes of the world!

Air Wing 8 consisted of several different types
of aircraft. Now alot of planes if not all of them have been either put out of commission or the model has been upgraded over the years. But these were the aircraft that were on board when I was there between late 1981 and early 1984.

(VA is the type of plane it is. "V" is for fixed wing & "A" is for attack. The AJ on all the planes mean they are in the same air wing attached to that ship... The USS Nimitz at the time)
attack squadrons flew the 7E Corsair ll

VA-82 Marauders flying alongside USS Nimitz CVN 68... too cool huh!
VA-86 Sidewinder in flight
fighter squadrons flew the F-14A Tomcat
(VF is for fixed wing fighter planes)

VA-84 Jolly Rogers F14 on flight deck of USS Nimitz during flight ops
VF-41 Black Aces F-14 Tomcat alongside VF-84 Tomcat aboard USS Nimitz April, 24, 1980
How the logo looked when I was on the ship
VF-41 Black Aces F-14 Tomcat in hanger bay

VA-35 Black Panthers attack squadron
flew the A6E Intruder

VA-35 Black Panthers Intruder in flight

VAQ-135 Black Ravens Prowler in the forfront aboard Nimitz. Looks like A6 but has 4 seats and is much different

flew the S-3A Viking.

VS-24 Scout S-3A Viking in flight

VAW-124 Bear Aces Airborne Early Warning Squadron flew the E-2C Hawkeye.

VAW-124 Bear Aces E-2C Hawkeye getting ready to take off

flew the SH-3H Sea King.

HS-9 Sea Griffin 610 was attached to the Nimitz during my time aboard.

We were a floating city,
complete with our own nuclear arsenal!
Fucking unbelievable dude.

So, back to the story,
and to my neighborhood savior
and Nimitz tour guide.

Well, Cary gave me the lay out of the land, along with the do’s and don’ts of Nimitz life.

He was a scammer from way back.
He always had his mitts in one thing, or another back in the old neighborhood. And from the looks of things here, the scams were still in full swing!

And truth be told, I would’ve truly been disappointed if they had stopped. I just couldn’t picture him on the straight and narrow. Gladly giving salutes, and kissing officer ass. That would’ve been completely, well, in this case... completely un-American dude. LoL

I remember hangin’ out in my shop one day... (Where I worked on, Uuuhh… electronics!)...
and then hearing a knock on the door.

In slipped Cary, with a full sheet of cherry pie he had just heisted from the mess hall.
That was hilarious. And tasty!

Then there was the brief stint of being the ship’s DJ. Now this was simply the best. He would begin playing a mellow, soft sounding song. And then, pull the needle across the record, sending a horrifying scratching sound across the airwaves throughout the entire ship.

"Holy crap!
Who put that song on my radio show?
Let’s start rockin’!

Then he would start playin’ some loud heavier music like, Ted Nugent, or Aerosmith.
It was just so funny. But of course,
that gig didn’t last all too long.

But one of the coolest scams ever, was one that I was a part of. It happened at our very first port of call, St Thomas, Virgin Islands.

Now, when this ship pulls into a port, it doesn’t just pull up to the pier like it does
in it's own home port of Norfolk.

First off, it was too big to dock up to most piers. And second, most places didn’t want the ship too close to the shore, because afterall,
this was a nuclear powered warship.
It didn’t have squirrels for engines ya know!

And, of course, all of the nuclear armament aboard didn’t ease anyone’s anxiety either.

So, the ship was always anchored out in the bay somewhere. And then, we would have to take ferry boats back and forth from the ship
to the port of call landing.

Now, this was a horror.

A line a mile long would form throughout the hanger bay of the ship, with guys just waiting
to get a seat on one of those ferries.
This was known as the liberty line.

What most liberty lines look like on an aircraft carrier. Large hanger bay door opening on the left

You could wait on this line for three hours, easy! But, why should we have to wait on line?
Don’t they know who we are?
Lookout, Cary had a plan!

Well, the ship had anchored in St. Thomas, and the line began to form with hundreds upon hundreds of anxious sailors, waiting their turn
to get off this metal monster.

Cary showed up at my shop just as I finished packing a small nap sac with some extra clothes. Then, out the door we went.

We picked up another friend, Richie from Brooklyn, who also worked in my shop, and was yet another top of the line scam artist.

Now, silly me, I began heading for the end of the liberty line. Ya know, to secure our place.

"Hey Tom, where the hell ya goin’?”
I’m gettin’ on line!
No way dude!
We ain’t waitin’ on no fuckin' line!
Trust me, just follow us!

Ut ohh!
Famous last words…… trust me.

Hold on, here we go!

So, instead of heading for the end of the line like any normal person would do, we began climbing ladders up to the flight deck.

I thought to myself…
Now what the fuck are we goin’ up there for? Were we gonna jump off the side,
or something crazy like that?

You just never knew what these two guys had up their sleeves. Anything... was possible!

We finally made it to the flight deck, which is a couple football fields long, and about a hundred feet or so above the water line. Pretty far drop to be fuckin’ around up there!

And there I was, following Riff & Raff,
straight down the road of corruption,
on a journey to yet another hell.

Even my barely-a-man of a tattoo
was a little frightened at this point.

I nervously inquired...
Where the fuck we goin’ man?

Riff replied...
Don’t worry.
Shut the fuck up and just follow us!

Then Raff added...
Just trust us Tommy will ya. Now c’mon!

Oh maaaaann!
There were those Don’t worry, trust us,
words all over again. And we all know that when we hear those four incredibly innocent words, that the very first thing you should do,
is begin to worry!

Well, believe me,
my worry gland was in fifth gear by now!

We walked atop the flight deck almost to the back end of the ship. The stern, for you lifers!

This was the end of the ship where the ferry boats, supplied by the local port of call landing destination, tied up to and made their pickups from. They usually first tied up a temporary dock to the ship before the boats went into action.

Ferry boats loading & unloading at the stern of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier

Where was I, oh yeah.
So we got to nearly the very end of the flight deck when, suddenly Riff disappeared
over the side of the ship.

I clamored...
Shit! Where the fuck ya goin’?

Raff turned and said...
Just get your ass over here you fuck,
and follow us!

Now, that comment
made the hair on my balls bristle.
I shot back...

What’ta ya mean don’t look down?
Are you guys outta your fuckin’ minds?

Those inspiring words of wisdom spilled outta me, as I took a peek over the edge.
Raff disgustedly looked up and replied...

C’mon chicken shit! Move it!

I sarcastically thought to myself...
Oh, Okay. Well if you put it that way.

And, I actually followed them over the side.
I still can’t believe that I did it.

You had to see just exactly what the hell we were doing. We began climbing down a ladder.
Yes a regular ladder this time,
and not a set of stairs like before.

Really, it was just many small metal rungs, welded right to the side of the ship.
Nothing to hold onto but the rungs.
Do you know the kind I mean?

Metal ladder rungs similar to the ones welded to the side of the Nimitz
Couldn't find any closeup photo's on the ship, but these rungs here
are just like the ones that were welded to the side of the ship.
I'm getting a fucking ulcer just looking at them... LoL

No wonder Raff said not to look down.

I was scared shitless.
Me, mister skydiver, hanging onto a piece of steel that was about a hundred feet away
from certain death.

If you thought the hair on my balls was bristling before, you’d be right! But now at this point, I had a fuckin' porcupine loose in my pants.

This porcupine was actually in my fucking pants... LoL

I don’t know how I did it, but I did.
I worked my way down about 40 to 50 feet or so of pure terror!

Step by heart-wrenching step, while holding onto my damn nap sac the whole time. And, when I got to the last rung, I had to reach over and pull myself onto a small metal grate platform.

Risky shit man!
I bet even James Bond would’ve thought twice about tryin’ this stunt!

Black arrow points to where we jumped onto
That black arrow to the left is pointing to the platform we ended up on.

This platform led into a small out-cove which led us towards the rear of the ship.

Then Riff said...

Okay, follow me.
And look like nuthin’s wrong.
Just blend in.

Look like nuthin’s wrong??
Blend in??
Is he fuckin’ kidding me dude??

The look of guilt was just oooozing from my pores. Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t look this guilty after shooting Kennedy, for goodness sake!

Well, we walked out of the cove,
and where do you think we ended up?

Take a guess muthafucka.
Take a muthafuckin' guess!

That’s right, man!

We ended up right at the very front of the damn liberty line. Just a few feet away from the stairs that led the line down to the
temporary pier level!

You son-of-a-bitch you!
Fuckin’ incredible man!

And, no one even said a word to us.
I couldn’t believe it.

It must’ve been my good acting job that did it! (Yeah right!)

But low and behold there we were, about ten people from the very beginning of the line. And, in just a matter of seconds, and a few high-fives later, we were on the very next
ferry boat to freedom!

I still can’t get over that one second, frozen in time, as I looked down over the side, right before I started my descent. I swear, my legs were shakin’ like two jackhammers. Visions of the underground fort were flashing before my eyes. Public enemy number one, was about to strike again! If he didn’t slip and fall
to his death first, that is!

When I look at that last photo, it really doesn't do any justice to the story and my heightened fear. Lemme just tell you, that when you're standing atop that flight deck, looking down, it's just flat out daunting! I mean that distance starring back at you, along with those tiny metal rungs, may as well have been me looking down into the depths of the Grand fucking Canyon.
No shit dude!

Grand Canyon skywalk... pretty fuckin' awesome huh. That's what it was like!!

I know that maybe after reading this and viewing some of the photo's you might be thinking that well, this didn’t sound so frightening, or funny.

But just trust me, it was!