Friday, September 5, 2008

USS Lawrence /Wepo

Dear Friends,

I boarded the USS Lawrence (DDG-4) in May of 1989 as a civilian employee of Central Texas College to teach English and History as part of the Navy's PACE program (Program for Afloat College Education). I soon had a brief interview ith the CO of the Lawrence, a gigantic man named...James Brown. (Yep, the Lawrence was sometimes known as the 'I feel good' ship.) Captain Brown was about six foot six and probably weighted a bit more than when played defensive end for the Naval Academy in Annapolis. I bet nobody will guess his professional specialty. Our paths crossed again years later when I taught onboard the USS George Washington (CVN-73). Captain Brown was the officer in charge of the GWs nuclear reactor. Yep, he's a nuclear engineer. (That wasn't your first guess, was it? :) )

Anyhow, I said to Captain Brown that while I thought it was extremely unlikely that it would come up, I'd been trained as an Arabic linguist and I could probably still follow formatted communications. I informed him I was certainly willing to anything I could do to help the ship fight if it came to that. Captain Brown smiled and said, 'I might make you my Wepo' (Weapons Officer). I thought, what the dickens?

Later that day, as I introduced myself to members of the crew, I spoke to a couple of the guys on the Lawrence's 5' mount, and recounted the Captain's comment. A petty officer said to me, 'You'd probably be better than the guy we've got now.' And I thought to myself, a lot of guys on this ship do not think much of the Lawrence's weapons officer.

Over the next few months we cruised out of Norfolk, across the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal, down the Red Sea, across the IO to Singapore, back across the IO to MODLOC (Modified Location) cruising around in a designated box in the Arabian Gulf and 'riding shotgun' for the aircraft carrier, the USS America.

Early one morning, I was still in my bunk, half asleep, when I overheard a conversation beteen my roommate and the Wepo. I distinctly heard the young Lieutenant say something about writing up his letter of resignation. As in resigning his commission. I thought *Whiskey* Tango* Foxtrot* *Oscar*! Later that day I found out what had happened several hours earlier, well before dawn.

OK, folks, here's a pop quiz: you are the Officer of the Deck on a destroyer in the Arabian Sea. It is well past midnight, and well before dawn. The Captain is asleep. Your mission is to screen the carrier America from any possible threat. A unknown ship shows up on your radar, and you radio them, requesting that they ID themselves. Their response is 'We are an Iranian warship ith hostile intent.' Do you:

A. Tell them to do an IMMEDIATE 180-degree turn and get the hockey puck out of your area
B. Wake up the Captain
C. Open fire with every weapon you have (if it turns out they weren't hostile, a few hours later you can pull their Captain out of the ater and say, 'Gee, I guess the joke's on you!'
D. Do absolutely nothing, and let them steam past, giving them a clear shot at the carrier. (Endangering the lives of about five thousand sailors.)

I have spent enough time at sea that not a whole lot surprises me, but I was FLABBERGASTED when I learned that wepo, as the officer of the Deck, had done 'D'. Apparently, some radioman on a freighter had a really warped sense of humor.

He was on the next heliocopter flight off the Lawrence. I don't remember anybody crying as he left.


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