As a Navy technician, a graduate of electronic schools where I learned the theory of operation, maintenance and repair of digital and analog (vacuum tubes and relays) equipment, I also had experience in the maintenance of diesel-power emergency generators and battery backup systems. I’ve crawled under raised flooring ( computer -decking) to run bundled cables from a telephone cabinet, when cables were wire-wrapped in large panels, to equipment in vault-like enclosed rooms. In my off-time, I helped fellow trainees swap big block V-8 engines from an 1973 El Camino into a 1970 Chevelle. But I will always remember one Spring at a base near Washington, D.C. when I got the military to fund my repair of a golf cart.
There was a golf cart with a broken axle and missing (scavenged) parts rusting away in the back lot behind my building. It was forgotten. I was motivated by an idea, that a running cart might serve me and my shopmates travel between one end of the base to the other; however, we had weekly tasks in several buildings at that facility. Every week we had to bring equipment to take measurements and perform maintenance, and it was annoying to hand-carry everything between the two. It was a ten-minute walk each way lugging gear in a hand-cart.
That particular model of golf cart was no longer being serviced by any company in the metro area. And parts were difficult to come by. This was more than a decade before the Internet was available so no Ebay nor Amazon was around to query. And finding a catalog was impossible. I called machine shops until I found one that would build the parts to repair the axle and a bearing manufacturer that would take my measurements to make a wheel bearing. I became a skilled negotiator with the finance office lady in charge of petty funds. After some weeks of dealing, I was able to get these items approved.
Two months later we rolled out the now -running golf cart, and was set to do the next round of maintenance at the far end of the base. My workcenter supervisor was pleased. My fellow technicians who earlier thought me crazy, were also looking forward to using the “shop cart”. But no good deed goes unpunished.
My shop Chief announced the repaired vehicle was needed by the Department Head. My Chief also intended to use it to perform audits of the maintenance checks in all the buildings we serviced. I never used it after that. I spent the next year working at the Pentagon communications center, so the “Golf Cart Bravo Zulu” was actually my opportunity to support the Director of Naval Intelligence and stepping stone to the next adventure in my Navy career.
What is the most unusual thing you have repaired while in the military?