Chapter Excerpt__ "Spin the Rep"
1985 – Being an NQC inspector had its lighter moments. In between the high profile 'political' jobs were many of a more routine nature; verifying materials, certifying attributes such as lubrication, torque of fasteners and such. And of course, the backbone of our routine work, NDT; performing visual and dimensional inspections and dye-checks.
Certain dye-checks mechanical inspectors did routinely; evaluation of 'arc strikes' (accidental melting of material by a careless welder) and inspecting base materials where seal-welded closures were 'cut' (reopened) for maintenance. Remnants of old weldment must be completely removed from a parent metal to get the surfaces ready for a new closure weld.
One day's fun began when Marvin came to the office with a request to perform a dye-check on a valve body after its weld remnants were removed. Marvin was one of a small minority of Outside Machinists I was always happy to support. He was highly competent and well organized and you could bet your last dollar that the job would be done right. This made my job relatively easy. After getting my PT kit together we proceeded to the ship, a Los Angeles class boat. The job was in the upper level Engine Room at the Reactor Compartment bulkhead (the shielded 'wall' dividing the Reactor Compartment from the Engine Room). This was just forward of maneuvering; an enclosed space perched like an island in the center of the forward Engine Room – the heart of a reactor plant's operation.
As is often the case the valve was in an awkward spot; at deck level and below a bank of another system's piping. After getting on my knees and working my head and shoulders through the obstacles, I did my preliminary 'visual' inspection. I was disappointed to find that what appeared to be a sliver of old weld remnant which hadn't been completely removed.
"Marvin," I carped…
"What do you want, Kirkland."
"I can't dye-check this, it's visually unacceptable."
"What are you talking about, I worked that myself."
"It HAS a remnant!"
"It does not!" His voice rising an octave, "and you ARE going to dye-check it!"
"I'm not wasting my time with my head stuffed in this hole dye-checking something I know will be rejectable!" Withdrawing my head, but still on my knees, the disagreement ran along these lines for some moments.
This was shipyard camaraderie at its best.
Unbeknownst to Marvin and me our conversation was being overheard by the distinguished person of a Naval Reactors representative, easily identified by their standard uniform; grey hard-hat, a light solid-color shirt and tie and sporting a perpetual frown. A humorless breed for the most part; solemn men – forged in the image of the late Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, the 'father' of the nuclear navy.
The disagreement deteriorated to the point where, as I was still on my knees, Marvin put both his hands around my throat and in a most genteel and loving way began shaking me. With my head bobbing back and forth to the rhythm of each shake he screeched, "I - don't - care - what you - think - Kirkland, - you - ARE - going to – dye check - that - valve!!"
Marvin's back being turned to maneuvering; he couldn't see what had widened my eyes and stiffened my frame. But sensing the change he glanced over his shoulder following my eyes, just in time to see the NR representative spin on his heel and disappear down the starboard passageway; in apparent haste.
Stunned, we decided to take a break and go to the NQC office where, surely, the phones would be ringing and we'd have some explaining to do. It never happened, never a word was spoken, and we were left to wonder. In hindsight, I suspect he went someplace to have a good laugh. It must have been quite a sight. And oh, further inspection proved Marvin correct; it was a good surface for dye-check after all, and yes, free from defects. What a guy!