Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Navy terminology: a “one-armed Goekle”

SAN DIEGO – In 1968, Boatswainmate Chief Petty Officer Jones, a small, wiry Arkansan, befuddled the chief’s quarters on the U.S.S. Hawkins.

Upset, he barged into chief quarters announcing, “You just can’t get anything done right with a one-armed Goekle.”

The Hawkins chiefs, crusty experienced destroyer sailors were perplexed. They had never heard of any deck equipment called a Goekle, much less a one-armed Goekle.

The previous April, I reported aboard in Malaga, Spain for my first tour before the ship steamed through the Straits of Gibraltar and headed for her homeport of Newport, RI.

I became the first lieutenant, a surprise, as I had just completed a two-month Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) school in Key West, FL, and wrongfully assumed I would immediately become the ASW Officer. But the reigning ASW officer didn’t leave the ship until autumn. So I became the first lieutenant, or deck officer.

For the rest of my career, I benefitted from those first six months with boatswain mates. Deck seamanship with “tin can” sailors was a vital elementary education.


Shortly after we returned to the states, two twin brothers reported aboard and were assigned to my division. They were clean cut Mid-western boys, sincere and well-intended. But they were about one brick shy of a load in the intelligence department.

Soon afterward while chipping and painting, the eternal task of deck seaman, one twin was chewed out by his leading petty officer. Upset, he drove his fist through the screen of an intake vent, breaking several knuckles and cutting his hand, which required stitches and an arm cast. For BMC Jones, this twin became the one-armed “Goekle.”

Chief Jones retired that August, returning to Arkansas to become a gem cutter. The Goekles and I remained on the “Hawk” through a six-month overhaul in South Boston, a three-month stint in Guantanamo, Cuba for refresher training, a change of home port to Norfolk, VA, serving as the Apollo 12 Atlantic recovery ship, and the observation platform for below-surface Polaris missile test firings from submarines off of Cape Canaveral.

Legends of a Different Kind

I became ASW officer in September. The Goekles became legends.

One twin attempted to qualify for the storekeeper rating and was in charge of the ship’s paint supplies. While in the Portsmouth (VA) shipyard to strengthen the fantail deck to hold the Apollo capsule – it landed as planned in the Pacific – paint supplies were moved to a large conex box on the pier.

As command duty officer, I was in charge of the ship on a summer weekday when the duty boatswain mate reported this Goekle twin missing. We searched and discovered he had locked himself inside the pier paint locker. He never adequately explained how he did that.

His brother one-upped his twin after he became a “striker” for radioman. That autumn, the Hawkins was nested inboard another destroyer at the Norfolk piers. Again, I had the duty.

This Goekle had watch duty until midnight. His major responsibility was to receive messages and deliver them to the command duty officer (me).

After I took my tour of ship’s spaces around 2100 (9:00 p.m.), I turned on the wardroom television for the local news.

Tropical Storm

The first story reported a tropical storm had been headed northeast but made a sudden west turn, was upgraded to a hurricane, and was bearing down on Hampton Roads. Apparently, Navy ships had been ordered to make an emergency sortie.

I immediately called the senior duty radioman and asked if any radio traffic concerning weather and a sortie had been received. He said Goekle had been on duty.

About ten minutes later, the duty radioman came to the wardroom and handed me a pile of messages. The top message ordered an emergency sortie based on existing instructions. I had pulled out the instructions and determined, because of her status of repairs, the Hawkins would not be required to get underway for 72 hours. I called the commanding officer and reported the situation.

The storm turned again and we, nor any other ship, was required to get underway.
It turns out this Gloekle twin had locked himself out of the radio shack and was too embarrassed to tell anyone.

So now I always remember Gloekle’s need two-way locks and it’s difficult to get anything done right with a one-armed Gloekle.

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