The ship was deep… deep into the black, soul-crushing abyss known as the Shipyard. I was a newly-qualified Engineering Duty Officer, which meant that I was responsible for all operations and maintenance in the engineering spaces. I had just been informed that a danger-tagged valve had been found in the wrong position, so I went to Shaft Alley to investigate.
A valve out of position is a big deal, especially on nuclear vessels. If the valve was danger-tagged, that’s an even bigger problem—tagged valves prevent the movement of heavy hydraulic machinery and create maintenance boundaries with high-pressure, high-temperature or radioactive systems. Operation of these valves can kill people. We were fortunate in that this valve was part of Steering and Diving Hydraulics, and work had not yet begun on the system. It was a “near miss,” and we still had to figure out why our procedures had failed us—never a good day for a submariner.
I was on my way forward to inform the Engineer when I stumbled across the CO, who was in the middle of a Zone Inspection. He asked me how it was going, so I told him. Then some other ridiculous problem cropped up and I had to go deal with it, completely forgetting about informing the Eng, my boss. By the time I realized what I’d done, the CO had already accosted him about it and watched him squirm in ignorance. COs have a mysterious sense about these things, and they never fail to nail a Department Head to the wall when they know something the DH doesn’t.
Your boss should never, ever find out about something you know from his boss. In this case there’s no reason I shouldn’t have informed the CO then and there, but I should have immediately let the Eng know what had happened. Keeping your boss informed is a huge part of the job.
Years later, different department, different CO. The ship’s schedule was being threatened by some faulty circuit cards in the Weapons Launch Console, and my guys were working around the clock to isolate the problem. When we finally found it and retested the console satisfactorily, we were ecstatic. I was bounding up the ladderwell to inform my new boss, the Combat Systems Officer, when I crossed paths with the CO, who asked how the troubleshooting was going. “Its looking promising,” I told him, and he went on his way. I knew the CSO would want to inform the Captain of the good news, and I didn’t want to deny him the pleasure.