A challenging task..MISSISSIPPI PRECOM duty By JO1 Jerry Atchison and Josh John LarscheidSome call it shore duty. Others say it’s sea duty. It’s still one tough job.The more than 450 men assigned this duty saw only that they were being transferred to Mississippi (CGN 40) as part of the precommissioning (PRECOM) unit.If any arrived in Newport News with the notion of being in just another Navy billet, they were in for more than a mild surprise.What’s it like to take a ship so new she has yet to earn the prefix USS and turn her into a bona fide Navy ship? Is it good or bad duty?Achance to learn these and other answers came a few weeks before Mississippi was commissioned in Norfolk. The crew had moved aboard about two months earlier. They had already made two sea trials; some last minute fine tuning here and there was all that was needed.The first of Mississippi’s crew to arrive in Newport News found not much more than a steel hull sitting at pier side. Chief Yeoman Otis Fullmer and a few other admin/supply types were the first aboard. “You’ve got to have a paperwork organization before you can have a factual organization,” he said.Since Mississippi is also Chief Fullmer’s second tour of PRECOM duty, he spoke from experience as he described what makes the work different.“First, the people are unique. They’ve got to build their departments from scratch and that requires across-the-board knowledge of an individual’s rate. Without that full range of technical knowledge, it’s awfully hard to make something work in PRECOM.”Building from scratch means long hours for everyone. But the work is not without its rewards. “You’ve got to adapt yourself to the organization as it is being built from a few people to an entire crew,” Chief Fullmer said. “From the very start, about 50 percent of the crew is the nucleus crew. They work aboard ship, learning her systems and layout and setting up shop even as the ship is being built around them.“The remainder, called ‘balance crew,’ are away from the ship attending technical schools and fleet training activities.“The idea is to bring the two crews together aboard ship to teach each other what they’ve learned. Some departments get a late starton the building process, though, because the nature of their work requires that a larger-than-average number of people be away at school. They couldn’t begin putting their departments together until the entire crew had moved aboard.”Patience is a real virtue for PRECOM crew members. Building something from nothing is going to mean a few false starts. That’s all part of the learning process, though, and that’s what makes it interesting for so many.“Being part of the PRECOM unit has given me a chance to get to know people better than if I’d been assigned to a ship already in commission,” said Ship’s Serviceman Seaman Richard Smith. “Since everyone is new, we’re allstarting out even trying to live up to the ship.”
INSURV team members inspect equipment onMississippi’s stern.
The sunrises onMississippi crewmen preparing for a long day of work getting their ship ready to join the fleet.
This article appearned on All Hands Magazine- November 1978 Issue 472