My Time on the USS James Monroe

USS James Monroe

Just a little illustration of how the navy had changed during my life. I was attached to the USS James Monroe SSBN-622, a ballistic missile submarine in 1985. We had just returned from our three month deployment from Holy Loch, Scotland, to transit to Charleston, South Carolina. I was looking forward to the next three months off, back in the states. When I returned home, however, I received a call from my detailer (the person who arranges our transfers) that I was to report to the USS Nathan Hale (SSBN-623) back in Holy Loch, Scotland in one week. The reason being that the Auxiliary gang chief had just been busted for homosexual activities and was being discharged from the navy. That was terrible news, not simply because I had just returned from patrol, but because the Monroe would be operating out of Charleston. So, I would report on board the Hale under questionable circumstances and have to adjust to an entirely new crew of guys. In turn, those same guys would have to put their trust into an entirely new supervisor.

Luckily, I was married to a wonderful woman then who understood what military commitment meant. She gave me the emotional support I needed to face another patrol so soon. What we “boomers” called back to back patrols. In a six month period, I had one week at home.

Being a Black CPO probably threw more doubts into the mix, but we quickly gelled into an efficient, capable, working unit.
When I reported to the Clay, they were having problems with one of the periscopes and no one could figure out the problem in the hydraulic system. I had had a similar problem on the Monroe and gave directions on how to fix it. Everyone was doubtful, including me. If it didn’t work, my reputation as a knowledgeable leader would be crap. The fix worked and suddenly I went from being a questionable replacement into a hero. Everything worked out very well from that time on.

I learned each man’s strengths and weaknesses and used both to manage the fifteen men team. When other CPOs were micro managing their men, I let my team go, just stayed accessible enough in case they had a problem. Instead of direct supervision, I gave each a chance to excel or fail, they all excelled and because of our teamwork, we actually accomplished many repairs in record time.

I made 31 FBM patrols in my career, at one time next to the most for an individual. There was one person ahead of me and as long as he stayed in the navy, I could never exceed his record. The last edition of the “Fractured Funnies”, my underground newspaper, was completed on the Nathan Hale.

This picture is the James Monroe flying her homecoming pennant, meaning that she has made her last overseas refit period and would be operating out of the United States.