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Friday, October 28, 2011

People: The Bomb Farm


A medium time ago I worked for the navy on an aircraft carrier. I was an aviation ordnance man, we dealt in bombs, guns, pyrotechnics, rockets, missiles, and torpedoes. But mostly we dealt in bombs.

We assembled bombs, moved bombs from place to place, or guarded bombs until ordered to put them on something leaving the boat. I spent my entire naval career hanging around explosives.

A completed live round had two yellow bands painted around its nose. Two blue bands meant the bomb was inert. Basically just a big rock that would never be anything else.

Live rounds included a complex system of safety blocks, and required an insane amount of applied pressure to trigger a reaction. If assembled and maintained properly there was an astronomically small chance they would blow up prematurely, even though they had the potential to do so. They were designed to sit around until it was time to get to work. A very specific pattern of mistakes were always the culprit if a yellow band bomb went off before it was supposed to, or not at all.    

The last stop on the boat for live explosives was a flight deck staging area called the bomb farm. During combat operations the bomb farm became a sea of yellow bands. The only difference in them being size, shape, color, and kinetic potential.

I assembled, protected, and drove around most of the bombs that ended up there. And now it was time for them to leave the nest. But I was more nanny than father. I played midwife, babysat, then put the kids on the bus. Luckily at that point in their development they were very low maintenance, so my job was pretty easy. When they left the boat they became someone else's problem.

One day a pilot told me the bomb I loaded on his plane had successfully neutralized the bunker a high ranking general was hiding in. I asked him if the bunker was in a populated area or out in the desert. He responded, "Why the fuck do you care? We didn't hit Homoville."

Homoville could have been the target for all I knew. He might have been mad at me because the bomb was ordered to destroy Homoville but hit the ground like a lazy rock instead. He figured since I raised the bomb its on me, I made a mistake somewhere down the line and the bomb failed at the only thing it was ever taught to do. I tried to stay positive about the situation, at least the general and his bunker are neutral because I managed to raise one bomb right.

I never knew what was going on there, e-nothing squids were only told enough to get the job done. The internet, laptops, and cellphones were regulated, and ship television only aired sitcoms, sports, or highly edited music videos. This was done so external influences wouldn't make us angry enough to kill someone prematurely.

Out to sea when not at work I hung out in the ships arcade playing the Soul Calibur or Marvel vs. Capcom coin ops, or in the library reading books left laying around. As in when a bookshelf tipped due to bad swells the fallen books would stay in a pile on the deck until someone came along, dug through the pile, and took one away.

I spent my entire naval career around bombs and don't remember seeing any cool explosions. But at least life was simple, bomb goes on the plane, plane comes back empty. Bravo Zulu.


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