Paul A. McWilliams - USS SALVOR ARS-52
In January 1994, I reported aboard the auxiliary rescue/salvage ship USS SALVOR, in Pearl Harbor Hawaii. Aboard Salvor, I served as a deck seaman until the summer of 1995, when I was rated Quartermaster 3rd class (QM3).
During my time as a seaman, I worked in deck department. My various duties included preventive maintenance, preservation (chipping rust and painting), and plenty of cleaning. I also handled lines (ropes) and anchors when we moored and unmoored the ship. At sea, I stood watch on the bridge as helmsman, steering the ship, and on the signal bridge as lookout, scanning the horizon for other ships. When the ship was in port, I assisted the petty officer of the watch (POOW) in carrying out the daily routine on the quarterdeck as messenger of the watch.
During 1994 and 1995 USS SALVOR made several short deployments to the eastern Pacific. In early 1994, USS SALVOR towed the decommissioned tank landing ships (LSTs), ex-Peoria and ex-Tuscaloosa, from San Diego to Pearl Harbor for storage.
In the fall of 1994, USS SALVOR returned to the eastern Pacific Ocean to tow two decommissioned nuclear submarines, ex-WOODROW WILSON and ex-RICHARD B RUSSEL, to Bremerton, WA for recycling. During this deployment USS SALVOR in Acapulco, Panama, San Diego, Vancouver BC, Portland, Bremerton and even my home town, Everett, Washington.
In early 1995, USS SALVOR performed several salvage jobs near Pearl Harbor. Those included the complex recovery of a shot of chain from the bow of the decommissioned frigate ex-DUNCAN, which was under tow to Pearl Harbor by the fleet ocean tug USNS NAVAJO T-ATF 169, and the recovery of 13 shots of anchor chain lost from USS WILLAMETTE AO-180. By march of that year, USS SALVOR was tasked with the salvage of a US Navy F/A-18C that had crashed into the ocean. The Hornet was recovered from a depth of 5,000 feet in waters of San Diego.
In the summer of 1995, I successfully advanced to petty officer third class (QM3). Navigation was my new military specialty once rated as quartermaster, however ample opportunities to bust rust, paint, and clean remained. At sea, I now assisted the officer of the deck as quartermaster of the watch (QMOW). As QMOW, I used visual bearings, radar, and the global positioning system (GPS) to plot the ships' position, maintained the ship's deck log, recorded hourly weather observations, and recommended course and speed changes to the officer of the deck.
I also soon began learning how to plan a voyage, spent lots of time making chart corrections, and took on the reponsibilities of petty officer of the watch when the ship was in port.
June of 1995 saw USS SALVOR enroute again to Puget Sound and the Bremerton Naval Shipyard towing the decommissioned submarine ex-SILVERSIDES, this time along with her sister ship USS SAFEGUARD ARS-50, towing another decommissioned submarine.
At the completion of that voyage, which also included stops in Seattle, Victoria, Kodiak, a little known pinnacle in the bearing strait called Fairway Rock, and the Arctic Circle, USS SALVOR returned to Hawaii for a lengthy period in dry dock.
In 1996, I advanced to petty officer second class (QM2). Later that year USS SALVOR departed on a 6-month Western Pacific (WestPac) deployment, which included visits to:
· Sasebo, Japan
During this deployment, I demonstrated my knowledge of our ship, her systems, capabilities, and characteristics and qualified as enlisted surface warfare specialist (ESWS) in early 1997.
I departed at the end of my active service obligation on USS SALVOR August 3, 1997. USS SALVOR was decommissioned and transferred to the Military Sealift Command in January 2007.