Striker Fun in the Navy

Sailors preparing for an “exercise” on USS O’Brien, DD-725. ©1969, Ron Thompson

Everyone has heard the jokes about an apprentice mechanic being sent to fetch a “left-handed monkey wrench”. I’m sure that has happened many times in the military, in real life. I saw my share of such practical jokes when I was in the Navy. Some were way crueler than the monkey wrench standby. Most were pretty harmless.

One that I personally observed comes to mind from a 1969 Naval cruise. I was a midshipman (an officer recruit) at the time, doing a 2-week cruise on a destroyer, the USS O’Brien, DD-725, which was based in Long Beach at the time.

A typical small Combat Information Center.

Late one night I was in CIC (the Combat Information Center where all the radar and sonar operators worked), and we were just transiting from one place to another, with nothing else going on. That’s when a lot of the housekeeping chores are done. The guys that do most of that are new enlisted recruits—and “strikers“. Strikers are the guys who have started training for a specialty, or “rating“. Some recruits strike right out of boot camp; others go to the fleet for a while as “unrated seamen” (or “airmen” in the flying Navy).

That night a radarman striker was put to work cleaning the faces of radar scopes. Well, there happened to be a Chief Petty Officer on duty, and he says, “Hey, striker, if you’re going to do that, do it right. Tonight, give them a good steam cleaning.”

“Sure, Chief. Where do I get steam?”

The Chief, looking totally disgusted, says “How long have you been in the Navy, striker? Where do you think you get steam on a Navy ship? The boiler room!”

Big, non-nuclear ships burn NSFO (Naval Special Fuel Oil, which is barely refined crude oil) which heats the boilers, to make steam, to turn the turbines, to spin the propellers and the power generators. So, the striker goes down to the boiler room in the depths of the ship. Meanwhile, the Chief calls his counterpart in the boiler room, on the ship’s telephone, and tells him what’s going down. When the striker gets below, the boiler crew gives him a hard time about not bringing a container to put the steam in; then they find an old bucket, open a steam cock and blow steam into the open bucket.

The guy comes back up to CIC carrying this open bucket, which of course is empty, steam being a gas. The Chief puts his hand in, then pulls it out, with nothing in it. He gives the striker a cold stare and says, “It all leaked out, idiot; don’t you know enough to put a lid on it?”

The striker goes back below with the bucket, and a boilerman looks around, can’t find a lid, but comes back with an old pair of dungarees they’ve been using for a rag. He fills the bucket, this time with hot water that hasn’t yet boiled away, as well as steam, and he wraps the dungarees around it to “close the bucket.”

The guy comes back up to CIC, where the Chief takes the bucket, carefully peeks under the wrapping, then peels it off and thrusts the bucket back to the striker. Poking his fingers into the now warm water and rubbing them together under his nose. “That’s DEAD steam! Finish the job the way you were doing it, and we’ll find someone with a brain to do the steam cleaning next time.”

True story, the way things were when I was Navy.

The Jewish Feasts: Part 14, Tabernacles

After leaving Egypt, the Israelites lived in tents in the desert  for 40 years. Despite the hardships, God was living among them and protecting them from the ravages of the desert and from foes around them. God’s Divine Presence (Heb. Sh’khinah) was both spiritual and physical. He was constantly with them in the Tabernacle, and in the pillar of smoke and fire, but His Presence was and is not confined to those places; Sh’khinah, refers to any place where God dwells with His people, whether in a tent, a building, or in any other context. Other visible examples would include the burning bush, the fire atop Mt. Sinai, and clearly, the Incarnate Son, Jesus!

The 7-day Feast of Tabernacles (Heb. Sukkoth) commemorates this 40 year period of God dwelling with His people during their wilderness wandering. He is said during this period to have “tabernacled with His people.” Coming on the heels of the somber Days of Awe, this feast is the consummate time of rejoicing for all Jews. Leviticus 23 also mentions an eighth day, called Shemini Atzeret (“Eighth Day of Assembly“) which signifies the firstfruits of the fruit and vegetable harvest, and the end of the agricultural year. This eighth day is also called Simchat Torah (“Rejoicing with or of the Torah“), and as such it signifies the end of one annual public Torah-reading cycle and the beginning of another. Both the first and the eighth day of Sukkoth are Sabbaths, and the first day is one of the three days of the annual regalim, or Pilgrim Festivals, where attendance in Jerusalem is required of all adult Jewish males.

Example of a canvas sukkah, ©

Sukkoth is marked by daily festivities and sacrifices and, with there no longer being a possibility for the latter, especially by the commandment to build and live in Sukkoth for seven days. A sukkah (singular) is a small booth, or hut, set up outside, with at least three closed sides and a roof. The walls can be of any material, but the roof must be of made of vegetal material (lumber is permissible). To emphasize the temporary nature of the booth, the roof must be of loose enough construction that stars are visible through it on a clear night. Once built, the sukkah is decorated by real or simulated fruit tied to the structure with string. The sukkah must be large enough for at least one person and a table for meals. Typically, it is not necessary to sleep in the sukkah, though many do, but it is best to eat at least part of every meal there.

The Hebrew term Sh’khinah does not occur in the Old Testament, but the concept of God’s Devine Presence occurs in many places. In the New Testament, we see Jesus’ incarnation described by the Greek skenoo, “to reside or dwell, as God did in the Tabernacle of old“. The connection between the Hebrew and Greek concepts is explicit, for example, in

John 1:14 (CJB)
[14] The Word became a human being and lived [skenoo] with us,
and we saw his Sh’khinah*,
the Sh’khinah* of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.

I believe that Sukkoth, with its theme of Rejoicing in God’s dwelling with the Israelites, is prophetic of God again coming to dwell with his people during the First Advent of Jesus. As with all the other feasts, I believe that the prophecy specifies not only an event in Jesus’ life, but the very day, on the Jewish calendar, that the event was to occur. I conclude that Jesus was born on the first day of Sukkoth, Tishri 15, and was circumcised on the last day of the 8-day festival, Tishri 22

Christians celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25 with pagan décor and anachronistic legends; however, the only birthdays celebrated prior to Jesus’ crucifixion appear to have been those of pagan gods, including self-proclaimed god-kings. The traditional December date for Jesus’ birth was, I believe, chosen to corresponds to the pagan Saturnalia celebration. What is the evidence of Jesus’ birth on Sukkoth, instead?

  • First, the lack of evidence for a December birth must be noted.
  • According to early Jewish writing, sheep were not in fields during the winter months. From about November through February, they were usually brought in to “sheepfolds”, either a cave or a corral structure protected from the weather.
  • The Roman custom of recalling people to their places of origin is known to have generally been facilitated by scheduling around dates that were convenient to the inhabitants. Rather than expect people to travel during exceptionally hot or cold seasons, it makes more sense that in Israel they would have taken advantage of a festival. The pilgrim festival of Sukkoth would have been an ideal time for the census, when diaspora Jews were gathered within Israel.
  • Since so many events in Jesus’ life happened on feast days, His birth most likely did as well.
  • Unlike any other feast, Sukkoth lasted not one, not seven, but eight days. I think that Jesus was born on the first day of Sukkoth and was circumcised, under Jewish law, on the 8th day.

But Sukkot also speaks of events in Jesus’ Second Advent, and I believe this can be seen best in

Revelation 21:1-3 (CJB)
[21:1] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had passed away, and the sea was no longer there. [2] Also I saw the holy city, New Yerushalayim*, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. [3] I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “See! God’s Sh’khinah* is with mankind, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and he himself, God-with-them, will be their God.

Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
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The Jewish Feasts: Part 13, Yom Kippur Factoids