USS Dogfish (SS-350)

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A New Twist on Blowing Negative to the Mark [1965]

Submitted By: Tam Graham

All submariners know that you only perform as well as you practice, and consequently, we practiced a lot. By that, I mean we seemed to constantly be conducting drills of one kind or another to sharpened the crew's response to various emergencies. Hand dives, fire drills, collision drills and battle stations drills were the worst of these since they were all-hands evolutions and required everyone to participate. It's not that the drills aboard Dogfish themselves were difficult, but they frequently cut into my naps.

Some drills only involved a few people, such as responding to emergencies in the control room that were designed to test the responses of those watch-standers who controlled the boat's diving functions. Prior to one otherwise very typical dive, our executive officer pulled me aside from my diving station on the air manifold and instructed me to pretend that the negative tank blow valve was stuck shut during the upcoming dive. As ordered, when the diving officer ordered, "Blow negative to the mark." I gave it my best acting job and hollered that I couldn't open the blow valve. As he was trained to do, the diving officer promptly instructed the chief-of-the-watch to blow negative using the emergency blow valve located at the foot of the hydraulic manifold. The chief-of-the-watch, STC(SS) Kenny Caye, acknowledged the order and bent to open the valve. After a lengthy interval, the chief, now red-faced from his genuine exertion, stood upright and announced that he was unable to open the emergency blow valve. The diving officer seemed stunned by this predicament and just stared back at the Chief as we slowly glided past our ordered depth of five eight feet. "Really," asked the diving officer? "Really," replied the Chief, with a confirming nod.

I glanced at the XO searching for direction on how to proceed. He was leaning against the auxiliary gyro, arms folded, casually taking this all in. We had momentary eye contact and his slight shake of the head informed me that he didn't want to terminate the drill by having me actually blow the negative tank. The diving officer recovered nicely from his momentary shock and ordered the word passed over the 1MC for an auxiliaryman to come to the control room.

After several minutes, MM2 Pat Bresland, a.k.a. the Rhino, came forward from the after battery in response to the call. Quickly sizing up the situation, Pat gingerly eased by the XO and stepped around the gyro table to the hydraulic manifold. Giving the chief-of-the-watch his best look of disdain, he then stooped to open the stuck valve. With a powerful twist, the likes of which only the mighty Rhino was capable of unleashing, the plastisol coated valve wheel broke free. Trouble was, the valve was still closed and the valve handle, with its now sheared off valve stem, was still in Pat's hand as he stood upright and slammed the offending wheel onto the gyro table. "There's your problem," he announced, straight faced. "Damned valve's busted!"

I was laughing so hard I almost couldn't open the air manifold negative tank blow valve when the XO finally gave me the green light to do so. We all got a good laugh out of that episode. In the critique that followed, the XO asked the diving officer what he would do if a similar incident were actually to occur in the future. Without any hesitation whatsoever the officer answered, "Ask for a different auxiliaryman."


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This page last updated: July 4, 2002