Cleaning a Head, Navy Style

Phil Eakin on Zone Inspections—in Heads

A lot of people don’t realize how important it is to have clean heads on a ship.  There are enough other reasons for morale to head south on a ship in the Indian Ocean for a few months. Smelly heads move that process downhill.  You can’t have a tight ship without clean heads.  Zone Inspections are one of the command’s ways of ensuring a tight ship.  Teams of two officers, usually a senior officer and a junior officer, along with a Yeoman with a clipboard and a pen, are assigned to specific zones around the ship.  All zones are inspected at the same time.  Usually takes a morning or an afternoon, and a big Field Day (cleaning frenzy) over a couple of days before the Zone Inspection.  Every space on the ship is inspected for cleanliness.  The senior officer is supposed to take the junior officer under his wing, show him how it is done and impress upon the junior guy the importance of doing such things.  Slack zone inspectors lead to a slack crew.  The crew expects to be raked over the coals for major hits in a zone inspection and they take even minor nits seriously.  And they expect to be acknowledged for superb performance in such a menial thing as cleaning a head.  I was a senior LCDR or a very junior CDR on Tarawa in 1984-85 and hadn’t participated in a zone inspection since 1973 or 74, so I got paired with the XO, a very senior CDR.  And he did take me under his wing and pointed out things here and there as we went around, usually with some junior petty officer or seaman shaking in his boots in the space we were inspecting.  We were in a head and the XO got down on one knee and shone his flashlight on the top of the inside of a urinal.  He asked me to get down there with him.  He pointed out a yellow stain in a crevice under there and proceeded to explain to me that this is the thing that starts the smell that makes smelly heads the way they are.  I’m sure the guy in charge of the cleaning of that space was crestfallen to hear that gig.  And I learned a bit.

Phil Eakin as Midway Library Volunteer

This was based upon Troy Prince painting 3 roses on a head door for winning 3 awards for keeping the Head clean during and right after Desert Storm.  He was recognized at a Meritorious Mast on the USS Midway..

VAQ-136 Head C-0205-13L FR 187-191 During the Gulf War, I cleaned a head for a while when I was TAD. Awards were given for the cleanest ones and these were mine. The Rose Award played on the “Smells Like a Rose” theme and we got to paint one on the door for each one awarded. As you can see from the dates and my signatures, they were all very close together. I had the distinction of having the most awards in the shortest period of time by the same person. Yeah, big deal, but they’re still there and I guess I left my mark aboard Midway with that artwork.It brought back memories of my time as an Airman and I was very surprised to see these pictures when Dave Starr and Bill Purcell sent them to me in 2003. Even better was during my trip in June 2004, when I got to see them for myself after 13 years. 29 JAN 1991: First Award 15 FEB 1991: Second Award 07 MAR 1991: Third Award ~ Troy Prince, former Aviation Machinist’s Mate Second Class (AD2), USN ~ VAQ-136 Gauntlets aboard USS Midway (JAN 1989 ~ AUG 1991)

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