In 1979, one of my squadron’s ships, a Fast Combat Support Ship (AOE), was long overdue for a six-month deployment to the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean. It had been a long, very difficult shipyard overhaul and training cycle, with many obstacles for the hard-working crew to overcome. The deployment date had slipped a couple of times and higher authority was quite anxious (to say the least) that “this time she goes”. As squadron commander I was responsible for their training and maintenance, as well as certifying that the ship was qualified to carry out all its missions while on deployment.
The fact that the essential ability to replenish ships with the port side rigs had not been certified was a problem. Sixth Fleet would not accept the ship until it was. The solution was to leave Norfolk on the scheduled deployment date with me as Squadron Commander/Chief Inspector along with some squadron staff to observe the events. We would take along another squadron ship, a Combat Stores Ship (AFS) to receive the various replenishment rigs.
I certified the AOE “Ready for deployment”. She continued east, and I was transferred by CH-46 helo to the AFS, which reversed course and beat-feet for Norfolk.
It was winter! The ocean was cold, so even for this short flight a quick-donning exposure suit was required. I was wearing service dress blues in keeping with deployment departure formality [i.e. everyone that could be seen from the pier would be in the dress uniform]. I donned the exposure suit, hopped in the helo, soon landed on the flight deck of AFS, and after deplaning pulled off the exposure suit. Much to my surprise I was essentially wearing a white uniform! Talcum powder which was included in the stowage procedure of the rubberized suits, both for preservation of the material and for ease in donning, covered me from head to toe.
All’s well that ends well.
The ship’s laundry and crew cleaned me up pretty well. However, I imagine the crew did share a few laughs about “The Commodore in whites”.