Jake and the OBA

(Oxygen Breathing Apparatus)

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I was on an OBA Repair Crew for my GQ station, which was rather unnerving to say the least.. One of the most embarrassing things to happen to me in my then short life was failing the OBA part of firefighting school at T.I. back in '62.

If you were there, you remember the 3 story high ship simulation and the fire, with black sooty smoke billowing out from all portholes and the entry where you go enter.

You're told to charge your OBA, then climb a ladder on the side of the structure and climb 3 stories up, trying to keep from panic, and then when on top, you grab a-hold of a guy-line and follow it down 3 flights of shipboard ladder going all the way down, down into the dark smoky compartments.

That alone scared the living daylights out of you sitting in the bleachers with your shipmates watching the others go through their paces, but then, as one by one they did it successfully, and then being full of panic, it was your turn, and then you began to come unraveled bit by bit.

My turn came and I donned the OBA, and headed for the side of the "ship" and changing my OBA, I began my assent up the ladder.

I got half way up and panicked so badly I couldn't breath and experienced the worse fright of my life!

Fortunately, the Firefighting Instructor Chief there yanked me down by the tail and told me to go back to the bleachers! And all that happening in front of the whole group of guys who did pass the course with flying colors! I was mortified, and I never quite forgot that fright either, and from that time forward I have been more claustrophobic and fearful of fires than ever.

The strange twist to this story is that once I got back to ship, they assigned me to an OBA Repair Crew!! I kept praying every time Condition Yoke was set that we'd not have a fire!!

I always got a thick lump in my throat every time we went to GQ and Condition 'Yoke' was set, from that day until I left ship for the last time. There certainly were some things about shipboard life and the Navy that wasn't always so good, and it does one good to remember those times too. I am glad I survived that time, but wouldn't change it for the world!

I didn't tell too many people about this situation, as you can imagine, the shame and embarrassment of having that happen to you in front of so many people watching!


Note: This Story has a later reference when several other Shipmates spoke about the Firefighting School at T.I.. Go Here and Here.

This page was updated 3 February 2012