USS Robison (DDG-12)
Homeport: San Diego, CA
May 1983 – June 1984
I left my family in San Diego and flew over to Subic Bay, Philippines, and reported aboard the USS Robison. She was in the middle of a WestPac cruise at the time. From Subic Bay, we sailed to Hong Kong for a 5-day port visit (then Subic Bay and Hong Kong once again). From Hong Kong, it was down to the waters off Nicaragua to join the USS New Jersey Task Force and participate in the naval blockade there. On one evening, we lined up 2,000 yds behind the New Jersey (I was driving the ship at the time) and we had a front-row seat in observing the New Jersey put on an awesome gun-fire demonstration (for some onboard Congressmen) with her massive 16-inch guns. Later, we pulled into Rodman, Panama for a port visit. In September, we arrived back home in San Diego.
Ship driving . . . .
After serving on the Chicago as the EMO and OE division officer (with a division of 40+ men), this ship was a step backward and a real let down. It would be a great ship for a new CWO2, but not a CWO4. Ironically, my billet was phased out on this ship just after I reported aboard. To keep busy, I took on some collateral duties and stood underway watches as JOOD. I started my SWO qualifications, something that was next to impossible to do when I was on the Chicago (due to so many junior Officers trying to qualify, plus the requirement for me to be on call 24 hours a day for equipment maintenance problems and status). This was my first time at learning ship driving, and I found that challenging and fun. I remember my first two attempts at driving the ship during a man overboard drill, my first time was perfect. I pulled the ship right up alongside old Oscar and they plucked him right up from the main deck. Having done it perfect the first time, you would think I had the procedure down pat, Ha! The second time, I ran right over old Oscar! My first unrep approach, alongside an Oiler, was also almost perfect. My second attempt, like the man overboard drill, was less than perfect. I got caught in a suction and over-reacted in my attempt to get out of it – I did learn a lot from my error though. The CO was cool about it and calmly explained to me what I had done wrong.
USS Robison DDG-12 at sea
Mistake, pulling my papers . . . .
After a few months on board, I realized I had made a mistake pulling my retirement papers and returning to sea duty, especially on this ship. When I was selected for CWO4, the skipper and I got into a disagreement as to privileges of rank. He essentially didn’t want to give me any and wanted me to do things I had done back as a CWO2. So, I reapplied for retirement. On my last day on board, all the officers were lined up at the brow to pipe me off the ship. When I reached the last man, the skipper, He says “I thought you were bluffing!” I said “no captain, I told you I quit!” And that is how I left the Navy.
The Robison Anchored In Hong Kong Harbor.
This Skipper was different . . . .
This skipper was a strange bird. He never looked into newly reporting officers’ (or senior enlisted men for that matter) service jackets to read anything about them and their careers. He’s the first skipper I had ever run into who was like that. While in Hong Kong, the skipper and I were on liberty together, and he asked me “when are you going up for CWO4?” First, if he had looked at my service jacket, he would have seen that I was currently in front of the board, and he would have seen all my past fitness reports, and seen that I had an excellent chance of being selected. I responded to him by saying “the board is meeting right now and I’m pretty sure I made it – I’m just not sure where I am on the list, and I would be disappointed if I was not in the top 10%.” Well, he thought that was real arrogant of me. Anyone in the Navy worth their salt knows what their competition is and what their chances are in front of any selection board (from their fitness reports), and he should have known that. If that “recommended for early selection” box is not checked on your fitness report, then maybe I could understand his thinking. When the selections were released, I happened to be on the bridge as the JOOD. The Radioman came out on the bridge and said “Mr. Willis, you made CWO4.” I said “I know, where am I on the list?” He says “you’re number 50 on a list of 550.” I looked over at the skipper and he just looked the other way!
Aerial view of USS Robison DDG-12 at sea
He was an excellent, and very patient teacher (especially in ship driving), but somewhat odd and strange in many aspects of normal Navy duties and protocol. He would not submit crew member evaluations until several months past their required due dates, which could impact anyone going up in front of any selection review board – I never understood this. I had to write him a letter, several months after my retirement, to get my final fitness report.
Standard Missile Launch
My room mates . . . .
I had two different room mates, while on board the Robison. The first one was a real jewel. He was an ex-enlisted that received a commission after getting a college degree – how, I don’t know. He was kicked out of the Navy a couple of months after I arrived. I remember the day he was packing his sea bag, just before leaving the ship. He pulls this big long barrel (I believe 40 caliber) pistol out of his desk safe and asks me “can you keep this for me, as I think I may have a problem getting this thing through all the airports?” Now, we were in Subic Bay P.I. mind ya. I don’t remember what I said, but I’m sure it was something along the lines of “are you out of your #$#@^&%$ mind! I don’t know what he did with it, but I got the hell out of that room! My second room mate was great. I always required my room to stay neat and you had to make your own bunk after getting up – he was real good about both. His dad was a Master Chief, I believe, and was able to get his son into the Naval Academy. I hope he went on to make a career out of the Navy because he was an excellent officer and a gentleman. In this Officers photo, he is the last one on the right, in the front row.
USS Robison DDG-12 Officers – I’m 4th from the right, front row.
ET Gang . . . .
I will add that I did have a top-notch ET gang working for me. An excellent group of technicians. One individual ended up working for me later on in my civilian capacity. My first Chief ET was medicore, and I wrote his evaluation accordingly, which he didn’t like. My philosophy on writing evaluations is, write them as you see them – I don’t sugar coat.
USS Robison ET Gang – 1983
USS Robison DDG-12
Opera tape and movie . . . .
During the evening meal, while underway, the skipper would bring his favorite opera music tape to the wardroom and torture us by playing it during the meal. I hate opera music to this day. We also had (I emphasize “had”) a VCR tape of the movie “The Pink Panther” that the junior officers played over and over and over. Well, one day it came up missing and they blamed me for chucking it over the side. I wasn’t the one that took it, but I’d like to shake the hand of the individual that did!
The Robison underway
Clash with Weapons boss . . . .
I remember soon after my arrival on board, tangling with the Weapons Dept Head over a fan room. I guess he was testing me. Before I came aboard, the division was tasked with cleaning up and maintaining the fan room adjoining the SPS-40 compartment. When they first received this task, this compartment was a disaster and required a lot of work. Soon, after I reported on board, my guys reported to me that the Weapons Department took back this fan room and substituted a fan room out on the main deck that was even a bigger disaster. Well, I immediately informed the Weps Boss that this wasn’t going to happen without a fight. I tracked down the XO (he was in the middle of conducting a berthing inspection) and I just asked him one question, which was “does this ship’s organizational manual state, like every other ship in the Navy, that a fan room belongs to the department that the hatch opens out into?” The XO says “yes, that’s right.” I turned around to the Weps Boss and said “case closed.” He got his fan room back (since the hatch opened out to the main deck, his space). The only other time we tangled was during duty days, when he was CDO. One of my duty day tasks was monitoring the quarterdeck watches. I would allow the OOD to pass the word over the 1mc when the roach coach was on the pier, so crew members could buy something to eat. For some reason, he hated this – to him the 1mc was for official business only. I told him that well after the evening meal this was the only way crew members could get something to eat. He would bitch and moan about it, but I let them do it anyway.
Robison DDG-12 Outboard USS Lynde McCormick DDG-8 and USS Hoel DDG-13
Incompetent OPs boss . . . .
I also tangled with my own Ops Boss once while we were moored in Hong Kong. I was in the middle of putting on my civvies and going on liberty in Hong Kong. I get the word that the Ops Boss wants all Operations Department Officers in the Ops Office right away. I begrudgingly put my uniform back on and proceeded to the Ops Office. He commences to tell us that we had this immediate task (I don’t even remember what it was now – it wasn’t anything real serious anyway) that needed all our attention right away and that there would be no liberty until we completed it. It dawned on me that I had seen this task a week or more before in the message traffic, which means the Ops Boss had sat on it all this time. I asked the Ops Boss “how long have you known about this task?” He says “a couple weeks.” Having heard that, I got up to leave and he says “where are you going?” I said “I don’t know about you Frank, but I’m going on liberty and you can do this task yourself, since you’ve sat on it for so long!” And, I went on liberty. This LT. was a real lulu, he was eventually relieved for cause a month or two later.
Basic philosophies . . . .
I took some flack, during my Warrant Officer years, over a couple of my basic philosophies. One philosophy was too keep the troops busy working their butts off while the ship was at sea. This keeps their attention primarily on their job and thus not continually brooding about their families back home and keeping themselves in a continual homesickness funk. Secondly, it allows the duty section to handle the majority of situations when in port. The XO (Cdr Reimann), on the Chicago, used to chide me about my troops being the first in line (at the brow) for liberty in each liberty port. I would always say to him “anytime you want to inspect my spaces sir, I would be happy to lead the way.” He never took me up on the offer, because he knew my spaces were always clean and shipshape. My second philosophy, which I learned in the Submarine Navy, was the requirement for my CPO’s to be out in the spaces during the work day – not in the CPO quarters. I had no problem with periodical coffee breaks, just don’t spend most the day there. If I continually found any of my CPO’s in the CPO quarters, I let them know about it. When I was a CPO myself, on the USS L. Mendel Rivers SSN-686, The COB (Chief-Of-the-Boat) during working hours, would kick any CPO out of the CPO quarters, unless he was actually doing some official work (like paperwork). I always liked that philosophy and required all my CPO’s to be out in the spaces supervising the troops – that is their primary job. Many of the ship’s other CPO’s resented that philosophy, but many of these were what I refer to as ROADs (Retired-On-Active-Duty) and pretty much resided in the CPO quarters. I mention this philosophy here, because on many occasions on the Robison, I would find my division Chief sitting in the CPO Quarters. I would politely knock on the door, open the door and stick my head in, and I could hear the back door open and close as he was exiting!
Robison Arriving Portland, OR For The Rose Festival
My decision to retire . . . .
In March of 1984, I had 90 days leave on the books, so I took it and left the ship 90 days early. I went to work for Hughes Aircraft Co., in Fullerton, CA, and drew two paychecks for 90 days. I worked at Hughes Aircraft on writing maintenance procedures and entering logistics data into a computer for the maintenance section of the Submarine Vertical Launch System AN/BSY-1 technical manual.
The USS Robison was commissioned 12/61 and decommissioned 10/91.
USS Robison DDG-12 – Dependents Cruise 1990.
Chief Warrant Officer W-4 (Electronics Technician)
History of the USS Robison DDG-12