USNS Geiger Part 2

Don't let anyone tell you that a naval Transport Ship had anything to do with the Cruise Line industry.  It matters little that they both float and haul people from point A to B.  The main purpose of a boat is to transport people to places and a cattle truck is still a cattle truck even if it does have chrome wheels.  The USNS Geiger stacked the soldiers in the sleeping quarters "High and Tight" and they managed to feed everyone three times a day.

At the close of my last episode, the "Midnight Surfer," Stubbs Wiley, was in the the infirmary with my buddy Herb Bose.  Herb and Stubbs were both taken off the ship on a stretcher when we reached Subic Bay in the Philippines.  Herb had been sick for the entire time and Stubbs was scraped, bruised and battered from his body surfing adventure a couple of nights before.  Herb recovered quickly but i never saw Stubbs again.  When I tried to share my story with him, I found out that he had passed on and his family had never heard the entire story.

When we docked in Subic Bay, the Aircraft Carrier the Enterprise was docked just down the dock.  It looked like it had snowed because there were so many sailors everywhere.  Only the officers and Non Commissioned Officers were let off the Geiger and allowed to go into Olongapo.  I felt the need to walk so I went into town to see what the place was like.  I didn't have a lot of money with me so I agreed to come back to the ship early and let one of my buddies go into town that evening because he had the Officer of the day duty.

Once across the bridge leading into town, we were met with an almost never ending line of WWII looking jeeps that had been painted more colors that I thought were possible.  They had little tent looking tops and fringe balls hanging down along the edges.  Their intent was to get five or six people as passengers and deliver them to one of the bars along the strip.   I have no idea how many bars there were but I had little intent of going to go inside of most of them.  You could tell the navy had been there for a while and many of the young Sailors were throwing their money at the bar girls.  I finally did manage to get inside one and to actually find a place to sit.  About the time my butt hit a chair, a girl sat down next to me and asked me to buy her a drink.  As I recall a beer was about a dollar and the drink the girls drank was about $5.  Needless to say I didn't have enough for me to throw a good drunk and to buy watered down  tea at those prices was just not going to happen.  

I went back outside and got into one "jeepnee" that was headed away from the docks.  I do remember there was a VFW Post there at one end of the strip.  I wasn't a member so I just continued as the driver dropped passengers on and off as he endlessly cruised the town.  At the far end of the road, he turned around and headed back towards the docks.  I rode down there and got off where we crossed the bridge to go back on base.  I felt like I had been assaulted by all the noise, smoke crush of people and music at somewhere near 90 Db.  I personally was glad to go back to the ship.

I officially signed the log book and released my friend to go into town.  I sat down in the cabin and read the special orders for the ship.  It was a lot like being the Officer of the Guard back at Fort Irwin.  Mostly they needed a person to be the go to guy if something went wrong.   2ND Lieutenants were everywhere and it didn't seem to be a big deal.  I had a radio and the duty NCO stayed in the office by the bridge.  I walked around the ship a lot and as i recall, there weren't too many fights.  There had been a lot of unrest between the blacks and whites back in the States but we all were going to Vietnam to fight a common enemy so while the frustrations were high because the lower enlisted grades weren't allowed off the ship, fights were few and mostly bare knuckles.

One of the jobs assigned to the Duty Officer was to eat in the enlisted mess.  Down in the bowels of the ship there was a mess hall with what seemed like an endless line of guys waiting to get in.  There was a pretty normal cafeteria serving line and everyone was forced to stand up to eat.  There was a stainless steel "table" up and down the room so the guys could put their tray down in front of their face and eat.  From what I saw, the food was fairly edible and smelled pretty good.  From my days at Fort Irwin, I knew to go behind the serving line and see what was on the menu and if they had "Cooks Worksheets" to tell them how and when to fix the meal.    Everything looked good except for the Barley Soup that was on the menu but no one seemed to be eating.  There were bowls but the guy serving the soup was telling people they didn't want to eat any.  I stopped there and asked him why he was telling people to not eat any.  He dipped the ladle down in the soup and showed me that there were weevils in the barley and if you got more than broth, you would also get bugs.  I grabbed the senior cook and at my direction he and the server removed the soup from the serving line.  I went back to the Duty Officer office and made a note in the log about the pretty good meal with bad barley soup.  Things went on that night and I got involved with watching the Ships' Staff watching the guys arrive back to the ship.  There was a lot of staggering going on and for the most part everyone was in fairly good spirits.  I did notice that one of the ship's crew came back on board with a set of gold clubs that clinked as he walked.  No one seemed to be interested that his 100 proof golf balls were made of glass.

The next day I slept to make up for the sleep I missed.  We set out on the final leg to Long Bin, Vietnam and someone woke me up and said that the Ship's Captain wanted to see me.  When I got down to J.B. Shortfigurer's office, I was told to go right in to his office.  In the office was a bunch of the ships Officers and a couple of cooks.  The Captain had read the log and wanted me to tell him about those damned weevils.  I told him that I checked the mess hall to see if it was clean and the food edible.  I told him that I saw no one eating the barley soup and found the weevils in the soup.  To me, a young officer from Kansas, that wasn't something I would eat and related that the soup was removed from the serving line.  One of the cooks started to interrupt me and the ship's XO told him to shut up until I was finished.   The Captain asked me if what I wrote was the truth and I told him that I took my duties serious and didn't write fiction in official logs. I was dismissed and as I was leaving I could hear the Captain issuing a senior level ass chewing that I wanted no part of.



1 comment:

  1. As an enlisted man, the food on the ship was pretty horrible. After waiting on a long line sometimes you were given the worst food you could imagine. Almost everyone lost weight during the 19 trek across the Pacific.