Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Guarding the Missile House


Everyone on a warship wears many hats.  You may have your primary job classification, but there are just too many tasks required to run some of the most complicated machines ever built by man to have specialists trained for all of them.

At my day and age, all the security patrols were performed by the Weapon’s Department Advanced Electronics personnel.  In theory we were considered the most reliable of the enlisted crew as most of us were vetted for secret clearances and possessed higher than normal education level.  

Somewhere in the Atlantic, a Terrier Missile is 
launched by the USS King, DDG-41.
As photographed by the author.

One of these jobs was as a security guard for the Missile House.  The door was locked outside of normal working hours, but when unlocked, an armed member of the Guard Force was present to not only prevent undesirables from entering, but to maintain a log of who had entered, and a running count of how many members of the Missile House team were in there.  At no time could there be less than two men in the Missile House.

So, even at sea, in the middle of the Atlantic, anyone that wanted entry to the Missile House had to present an ID card that corresponded with list of allowed entrants.  They basically were the GMM’s of the Missile Division, all the weapons officers, the XO, and the CO.  Period.  All told, about 20 men.  Anyone else was turned away, and even the passageway around the Missile House had restricted access.

We took our Guard Force duties very seriously, and had been tested by for proficiency by Navy inspectors several times and always earned the highest grades.  The six weeks of training leading up to those inspections were periods of high anxiety and stress.  Often the officers would come up with unusual scenarios to see how we behaved, and we always shined.  After the inspection, the silly games would cease, but we continued to take pride in our actions and performed our roles well, even under unusual circumstances.  For one such unusual circumstance, see my story The Road to Leavenworth.

This was about another strange situation, but not so potentially career shaking as in "The Road to Leavenworth", but worth reporting.   To this day I have no explanation how it happened.  I was standing watch on the Missile House, when the XO asked for entry.   As the second senior officer afloat, he garners special attention.  I can’t say I had ever had him request entry into the missile before, but certainly it was within his rights to do so.  Following the rules I asked him for his ID card, which he presented.

I ran his card down the list of allowed entrants, and stopped at his name.

“What,” I thought, “Was going on here?”  His name was on the list, but the ID card in my hand was not his ID card.  

It was my Division Officers ID card.

Now in the weeks leading up to the security inspection, this sort of thing happened as a test.  And woe betide you if you failed.

But the last security inspection was six months previously, and the next one not for another year or more.  And our officers just don’t play silly buggers like this.  They have too much to do.  

Now the rules were very clear on this.  I will have to deny him entry until a proper ID was obtained.  I was within my rights to deny and was going to do so.  But saying no to the XO is never a good thing, right or not.  I was working on the diplomatic phrase to tell him leave the area.

By the time I worked through all this, enough time had passed had already told the XO that something was off and I really don’t have a good poker face, and was about to question what was wrong, when the answer to my dilemma happened walk on by.

“Mr. Carmody,” I called to my Division Officer, “Your ID card sir!”  I stretched out my hand past the XO, offering him the ID card.

Surprise ran across their faces, I could see this was not a test.

The XO look totally baffled, as did Lieutenant Carmody.  They both looked at the ID Card, then the XO left the area.  Lieutenant Carmody pulled out his wallet, replacing the card.  Other then puzzlement, no explanation as offered.  The XO later returned with his ID and was granted entry, and nothing was ever said afterwards. 

For you in the corporate world, this would be tantamount to going to work with someone else's card on a lanyard and getting stopped by security at the door.  By accident, just how do you get someone else's ID?