I’ve told this story so many times I sometimes think I made it all up. We had a LtJg on board who was a LDO and had been enlisted and became an officer. His name was, well, maybe I’ll call him Meadows in case he someday reads this. As an LDO Meadows was a little older than the average LtJg and he was always striving to be a thoroughly attentive officer, especially when the Captain was around. Oh lets be honest, he was an “Apple polisher” (I might have said he had an unusualy dark proboscis)! We were steaming mostly north in a screen around the carrier. It was around midnight, probably a little before. It was somewhere off cape Hatteras (wasn’t it always) but oddly enough it was a calm night. Meadows had the con and I was the helmsman. The squadron was steaming along at a leisurely pace; I’d guess less than ten knots. Anyway, things were kind of slow and laid back. Suddenly the Captain appeared and took his seat inside the pilot house. I think someone said something like “Captain’s on the bridge”. Meadows suddenly became quite the squared away con officer. He began to check and recheck our position as regards the carrier and soon was making trivial course and speed corrections. These changes occurred about every three or four minutes. As I said we were heading north and I was steering more or less 000 degrees. As most people who ever steered the ship know, it moved around the course a few degrees either side. We made corrections every so often to hold within about two or three degrees of the course. Oh yes; during highline or refueling the helmsman worked very hard to keep at the proper distance from the other ship, but during normal operations you didn’t knock yourself out to keep closer to the base course. Meadows had a rough time with the concept of right and left. For example he would say “Helmsman come left to course 001” when I had been steering 000. As was the custom I would respond to him with the information that it was a right turn (I can’t remember the proper language I used when I had to correct him). He would then make some kind of harrumphing noise and say “Very well come right to 001”. This began to happen with every course change he gave and he became more and more flustered. After about the sixth time I corrected him he turned to go back to talking with the other bridge officer. As soon as he was out of earshot the Captain said to me “Helmsman you don’t seem to be able to carry out any order without correcting the con officer”. I must have looked at him with some sort of a dumbfounded look so he elaborated, “Carry out the con officers orders without correcting him”! I said “Aye, aye captain”. During the few minutes I had till the next course change I began to feel a little sorry for Meadows, his having been an enlisted man and a bit long in the tooth and all. Presently he gave the next change and, big surprise; it was the wrong direction again. I answered it “Coming left to course 001 at standard rudder, sir”. I hoped he would take notice of the “standard rudder” part which I had accentuated. He Didn’t! As the ship was passing a mostly southwesterly direction he suddenly began to feel that something was wrong and blurted out something like “Helmsman where are you going”. I replied, “Coming left to course 001 at standard rudder, sir”. He babbled a bit and said “Belay the last order”! The Captain intervened and said “Meadows we are now at least 180 degrees off course so you might as well complete the turn”. Meadows said “Yes, yes, I concur, helmsman, belay the last order”. I was tempted to ask which last order but decided that might be over the top. Instead I said “Aye, aye sir’. As you can imagine this whole scene was somewhat funny to all but LtJg Meadows, but no one laughed out loud; however we all were laughing inside. When we got all the way around I reported “Steady on course 001”. As Meadows began to decide what changes he had to make to get back on station the radio crackled and the carrier said “Castle, this is Abigail Zulu, where are you going”? Meadows looked at the Captain with a hangdog look and the Captain said “Meadows I think that’s for you”!
He then left the Bridge!David Fickle FT2 58-60