Malicious Compliance

The Rundown

In the Navy, we are taught verbatim compliance. What this initially means is that we are given an order, and we repeat back that order to the person that gave the order, then we perform the order as stated. This is done so that the person giving the order knows that we understand the order that was given and will carry it out properly.

However, this can have side-effects, such as situations where we also have orders to follow written procedures or where the order will cause an incident much worse than disobeying the order in the first place. In situations where following an order will cause a much worse problem, watchstanders are under obligation to not follow the order because of this. However, sometimes the watchstander just doesn’t like the person giving the orders, so will comply fully with the order despite the mess it is going to make. These are some of those stories…

The Stories

  • Testing DDS ops before we had procedures in place. Standing ERLL watch, the COB was on the dive panel.COB on sound powered phones to ERLL — “cross connect trim and drain”
    ME ” cross connect trim and drain aye” — I go on and x connect Trim and drain system as per written procedure.
    COB to ERLL: ” open TD-XXXX”
    Me: ” what procedure are we following for this evolution?”
    Me: ” I need to know the procedure before I operate any valves”
    Me — ” Say again Nicer? ” — the white rat was on in control and the entire control party heard me tell the COB to “Say again Nicer” … I swear he was in Engine Room Lower Level before I had my finger off the SPP. The month of cranking was worth every minute.
  • Someone pulled a muscle lifting something on the MTS in chuck town. They put a lift limit of like 10lbs a person. We decided that meant fire extinguishers were too heavy for single man lift during drills.
  • Engineer, “You have a moral obligation to stay in for a year past commissioning.”
    Me, “Did I sign that?”
    “Answer, no, but…”
    I am an E6 Submariner, you have been telling me for years that I don’t have morals”
  • Called away an actual “casualty” to get out of running drills for the 10,000th time. EAB hose caught on a valve cap relief causing a tiny bit of condensate to spray onto the deck. Chief looks at me and says “Don’t do it!”, me “SPILL, ENGINE ROOM MIDDLE LEVEL!”. Cancelled the rest of the drills and we, the off-going watch, got to leave… after I walked to the front of the boat in my skivvies.
  • I had a watch officer who was absolutely convinced I was an idiot. (I am not denying it.) During RCP high temp alarm, watch officer tells me to isolate the loop. I start to explain we are on a high bell and he needs to come off of the bell, so I can trip the pump off first. He yells, “RO! ISOLATE THE LOOP, THAT IS AN ORDER!” I look at my drill monitor and stare him in the eye as I reach for the isolation valve switch. Drill monitor, as a good boy, slaps my hand. I then mimic tripping the switch.Needless to say, the drill went in a completely different direction once the reactor scrammed due to power to flow, isolated loop, still steaming. Drill team was really busy trying to decide the order of the alarms. I just sat there quietly.The good thing about this was the EOOW drill monitor was the ENG. He knew exactly where this went wrong and no one even took me aside to reprimand me.
  • Engineer found a coffee cup on an electrical panel back aft for the 1,000th time and ordered all coffee cups out of the engine room.
    A Junior officer then ordered me to ‘remove all coffee cups from the engine room and make sure I don’t see them again!’. I repeated the order and asked for confirmation…it was confirmed without the implied ‘back here’. Needless to say a lot of ships coffee cups as well as the Engineer’s personal cup were ‘disappeared’ that day.
    The Eng looked for that cup for weeks, but never gave a countermanding order. I still occasionally use it, when I’m reminiscing.
  • We had a COB that wasn’t too bright. I had been bitching about some Midshipman riders eating before the relieving watch and the COB dragged me into 9-man berthing and proceeded to tear me a new one about respecting an officer, blah, blah, blah.
    Then he orders me ‘to not be subordinate again’. I repeat the order quite loudly for the benefit of my shipmates standing outside the door, ‘I will not be subordinate again, aye, aye COB’. He walked out and it was all I could do to keep from laughing as I saw my shipmates stunned faces. I was SNOB at the time, and I was effectively ordered to be insubordinate.
  • Watchstanders in maneuvering had been bitching about having to put up with spill drills, because they ‘never happened near Maneuvering.’ One day, a rather digruntled ELT walks up to the chain, after sampling the primary, and dumps a 100ml bottle over the chain. “Spill, mother fuckers.” Then he walked off.It was a drill, but they’d given him the choice of where & how, and he decided that the guys in the box were a bunch of whiners. Everyone believed it was real at first, because he had such an attitude.
  • We were in the middle of a Tactical Readiness Eval in the middle of the drill set and I’m the on-watch ERLL watch. We had badly leaking shaft seals so the ER bilges have to be pumped a lot. We have the Waste Oil Collecting tank for pumping bilges to but it’s only about 1000 gallons and you can’t pump the oil slug on top so about 700 gallons of capacity give or take. So my bilges are getting high and the WO tank is full. I’m calling to get permission to pump bilges directly to sea with the Main Drain pump which is something they don’t like to do. I couldn’t get permission but I kept asking and my bilges were getting really high to a dangerous level toward the end of watch. I had started calling the Conn directly, that was how bad it was getting. So we secured from battle stations and drills and when relieved as OOD, the Eng O comes back to see why the fuck I was harassing him so much about the bilges. He drops down the ladder and calls, “Mr Caudle WHY THE HELL…. OH SHIT(as he looks down).” On the JA phones, “CONN, ERLL Engineer Officer we need to pump ERLL bilges with the Main Drain pump NOW.”So I get the order and start pumping while the Eng is there. He said, Caudle if this ever happens again and we refuse to give you permission just sound the alarm and call away flooding. Seems I never had trouble getting permission after that except once. Apparently, one time early the next patrol I called in and initially they said no then about 30 seconds later they call back and gave me permission. One of the helmsmen said that the Eng. heard him refuse my request and he asked, “was that Caudle?” To which one of the guys confirmed it. They said the Eng told the OOD, you might want to call him back before he sounds the alarm and calls away flooding. The other crew repaired the shaft seals the next refit in drydock.
  • Someone found an obscure procedure on our carrier that if you have a WO system, you can’t just use the eductors to pump down bilges overboard (carriers have wet bilges) because you might “get a sheen of oil on the sea”. Eductors are super fast. WO system, not so much.Fast forward a few months and we’re running a loss of LO drill on one of the MEs. LL watch shifts the strainer and ~450 gallons of oil leak because the gasket blows out while shifting.

    We lit off the eductors and pumped that shit over the side.

    Don’t want to get a sheen, but apparently 450 gallons of oil is fine…

  • We had an EOOW who was a fucking noob, and a control freak. It was his belief that “Immediate Actions” were to be directed by him, and that we shouldn’t be allowed to do things without his direction. It was only time before we ended up on watch with him on the mid-watch on Sat night. CO loved to scram us after pizza night. Needless to say he did, and we didn’t and he fucking floundered trying to tell 3 guys what to do. I’d shut the throttles, but RO smugly turned around and asked him if he wanted to cutout the siren…. and that’s when the CO showed up and we just did our immediate actions anyway. As soon as we were back up and running the whole maneuvering team got relieved and we got a 10 minute ass chewing in the wardroom. He was fucking livid.
  • We got an order before drills one day that all actions should be physically performed unless we were specifically prevented by DCTT. So I ended up the nozzleman on a charged fire hose looking at a senior first class who was waving red flags around. Fire went out pretty quick.
  • I had a jackass officer that wanted to observe me doing a primary sample. I pointed out to him that the written procedure was wrong. It had you opening valves before hooking up the sink. He did not care I was to follow procedure no matter what. I left and put on the full wetsuit and mk 5. He still did not understand. My watch partner left the shack and put on his mk5 and headphones ready to call away the spill. I opened the valves, pimary coolant spraying into the sink. And he still did not understand. So I grabbed the connecting tube and said I was going to hook it up. He still stood there. So I began hooking it up intentionally spraying him down. He finally got it.
  • Our MPA LT was an idiot. He was out of maneuvering for his tour…a long time. When he came back he said to me. All those impulse steam traps are making an awful clicking noise. (for non MM’s they are expected to click that is how they work. I told him that when he got off watch he needed to tell the engineer right away. After watch we could hear the engineer screaming at him from the wardroom while we were on the mess decks.
  • My last EDMC hit a time when he got a hard-on for telling people that cups were not allowed in the Engine Room. You could only have a cup in a zarf if you were within arms reach of it. He even went so far as to send out an Engineering Dept wide email with his new policy stating that any cups found would be discarded. All cups were ordered out of the Engine Room. Except for one… the EDMC’s coffee cup remained by his laptop. Me being me, not one to violate any rules, printed out the aforementioned email and taped it to the sole cup in the Engine Room during a midwatch before field day. During this field day, the EDMC tracks me down in ERLL and proceeds to give me a monster ass chewing, my only reply was “yes senior chief” with a smirk on my face. I think that made him even more mad. I never lost my cool, never lost my composure. Afterwards the COB high-fived me for not losing my shit on the EDMC for following the rules. After a few years, this EDMC contacted me to apologize for his behavior.
  • I was at S8G Prototype in the IDE running student drills (I was RO) My U/I was a complete box of rocks and the EOOW U/I was even dumber.We were doing a rod transfer for a prac fac. EOOW U/I decrees that we will use level 1 method of control (EOOW directs every single step to be performed). Mine, EOOW O/I, and IDE operator’s attempts to convince him that that was a bad idea fell on deaf ears.

    My U/I flips the switch to transfer control. The next step is to verify a light comes on RPCP (which it did). My dense student begins to announce to the EOOW that the light was on.

    I quickly stop him and in a very loud voice announce that the EOOW briefed that we were using lvl 1 method of control, that verifying the light was on was a step in the procedure, and that he couldn’t tell the EOOW that the light was on without a direct order to report whether or not the light was on.

    Pretty sure my displeasure was well understood.

  • I dumped the whole stbd side of electric plant in fast speed Pumps because the asshole academy-grad EOOW was ordering plant shift breaker by breaker…. he ordered me to open the wrong breaker and when I tried to say something, GRABBED HIS COLLAR AND TOLD ME IT WAS AN ORDER. RO started shimming in (to avoid scram) and RIGHT as EOOW turned his head to ask WHY he was shimming I followed his order…. the CO removed him from our watch section and the engineer smiled at me in that “don’t do it again’ way….. that JG was a true Cunt.
  • Performed complete Steam Generator calibration on both SG’s. The gauges on the local cabinets did not read exactly the same but were very much in spec. Engineer said “Re-do the cal until they read the same”. Tried every legal trick to bring the gauges together, but no go. Finally just took a tweaker and adjusted the mechanical zero until they read the same.
  • Standing RO during drills. The Engineer was badgering my Div O, who was the EOOW, about what he was doing, why he hasn’t scrammed the plant yet, etc. My Div O was getting pissed and finally threw his grease pencil out the Maneuvering curtain after first hitting me in the head with it…pissing me off. He says, I quote, “Fuck this. Fucking Rx Operator, SCRAM the fucking reactor!”
    Me, pissed off for getting hit with the grease pencil repeated back the order verbatim “Scram the fucking reactor, fucking Reactor Operator aye!” Reached up and group scrammed the Rx, turned around and said “Sir! The fucking reactor is scrammed!”
    The Engineer wigged out and screamed at my Div O “You are relieved! I have the watch!”
    We did the FRSU and after getting to a NFPLU the Eng leans over to me and says “Verbatim repeat backs aren’t always necessary PO Kelsey.” They are if you hit me in the head with a grease pencil noob.
  • Scheduled drill set hadn’t started yet (so I thought). Standing ERUL and I see and hear STBD TGLO LPA. Go between the TGs and pick up the 2JV and hear the EWS report STBD TGLO rupture. Look around for a drill monitor, don’t see any, wait a few seconds, look again, don’t see any, wait a bit, and think WTF and secure both TGLO pumps and report it to Maneuvering. About that time a drill monitor pops his head up next to the Nuc Lab with eyes the size of saucers. The kicker is that before he vented the right pressure switch he had vented the wrong one and kept cycling the air operated coast down pump. Nub ERLL shut the locked open isolation valve to “make the noise go away”. ENG got on the 2MC and yelled “start any STBD TGLO pump, NOW!” and came out and started chewing my ass. EDMC pushed his way between us and used his belly to push the ENG back while yelling at him to get the fuck out of my sailor’s face and telling him all I did was follow indications and perform immediate actions. For the next month during every drill set there were at least two monitors standing between the TGs and one at the SPACP to make sure no one secured any LO pumps.
  • The Prise was in port, cold iron; I was an ELT on duty and got a call from EOS to DGA on the 2 RAR bilge so they could pump the bilge due to a high level alarm. (Hmm) OK, so I grab a bottle bag and gloves to take a bilge sample, go down lots of ladders to the RAR, smell lots of petroleum products, and see the level almost up to the deckplates: very big JP-5 leak. I run up to 2 EOS, and report that there’s jet fuel all over the RAR bilge, and the WO orders me to take a DGA sample so that he can clear his high level alarm. At this point I’m becoming very concerned, because this idiot ignored what I told him. As I was leaving, I ran into the shutdown WS who heard what I said, who I told to follow me and watch this shit. I took a sample, put it into the drying oven, which soon caught on fire (only obeying orders), and we both decided that we had to reach a higher authority. Luckily, the CHENG was on duty in Central, when he heard what we described he immediately told us to follow him, stormed off to 2 Plant, and proceeded to rip a new asshole into the LT, after calling away a casualty of the JP-5 flooding. I’m sure that Mare Island enjoyed having to process a few thousand gallons of possibly contaminated jet fuel. Moron!
  • Had a nub PPWO on 65 who decided to check all my add calcs for 8 S/Gs when we went to a flank bell. OK, so I decided to play along, lit up a cig and shot the shit with the RCA who was observing him, nonchalantly. After the second cigarette, I told the WO that I had to do other samples, and that I’d come back later when he was done with his add calcs. I ran back to the chem shack, ran S/G samples on that plant, and within a few minutes came back with new results that were almost OOS low and new add calcs. I think he learned his lesson, as LCDR Baugh just let out a loud laugh, and told him to straighten out the mess that he was about to cause.
  • Had a newly qualified Eng Officer (took 2 tries) on my last boat that said his SG add calculation (way short) was better than mine (LELT). I requested an Engineered observed add and chemistry (I was due anyway). CHEng’s standing night order was for S/G chem adds be to 280 phosphates & 10.80 pH. The newly minted eng observed my add and chemistry. As I had advised the new minted EO, his add calc was short, phosphates was 260 and pH was 10.70. I red circled the chemistry readings in the log. Chief Eng had a very short one-way discussion with the newly minted EO. BTW, the reason it took 2 tries for the new EO – Chemistry.
  • We had an EDMC get on a kick about circle X’ing everything. No matter what the procedure circle x it. Well we had a start up coming up and I was in ERUL for the start up. Asked my Chief if he wanted me to do circle x on the start up procedures for ERUL, his response was yep with a smirk. He knew it was a stupid idea, but wanted to prove a point to the EDMC that it was stupid. So we start the start up and I’m way behind in the start up procedure due to the circle X’ing and the EDMC comes running to ERUL asking why we are so far behind. Chief says due to circle x. EDMC says screw circle x get it done. Oh good times.
  • We had a new CO that didn’t like the way work uniforms were stenciled. He put out guidance that shirts should be stenciled with ” Petty Officer Smith ” over the pocket. Needless to say the next day everyone in the engineering department had Smith on their pockets. The Engineer came aft and we assumed to give us crap about it but he had a name tag on his uniform that said LCDR Smith and a wide grin on his face.
    • Note: There are regulations concerning the stenciling of uniforms that I am pretty sure this goes against (putting in the rank of the sailor)
  • This is about a deliberate erroneously compliant act by one of my Senior Chiefs when I was Eng on the Henry Clay. Thanksgiving morning on patrol, the CO tells me to run a drill on the engineering watchstanders. I tried to decline but he insisted, saying that they were probably bored and it would make the watch go faster. So I got a drill team together and planned a loud noise in the main turbine drill – simple actions and no need for the CAT (casualty assistance team). My drill initiator started banging on the hand rail adjacent to the port main turbine. The Senior Chief standing watch as EWS, who knew full well what the drill was – he had even been initiator numerous times – picked up the 2JV phone and announced to maneuvering over the white rat “loud metallic noise in the port turbine generator (not main turbine) and promptly tripped the port root valve! Now we had a real loss of the port TG bus that affected the entire ship, not just engineering as the CO expected. The Senior Chief insisted that he was following his indications and never acknowledged that the initiator was not near the SSTG.
  • My section had just been relieved and sent on liberty during a steaming in-port in Maui. We were awaiting the small boat topside, in civvies of course & with no TLDs, when I was ordered to “lay to maneuvering” to discuss “suspicious” ERF SGWLs by the nazi EOOW. This Lieutenant was literally 100% by the book 100% of the time, like we all were, of course, except that he literally literally was. I requested permission via topside to go get my TLD first…the nazi called back himself over 7MC “Petty Officer Spotts, “lay to” maneuvering means to go there without delay!” So I did. On the way aft, I passed the ENG in the RC tunnel and informed him that I had been ordered to lay to maneuvering, and why, and that I had no TLD, so he turned around and followed me.
    After the EOOW had raked me over the coals for failure to reflect the change in WLs caused by RCP shift at the correct half-hour block on the log sheet (thereby implying I – an ELT! – was radioing logs), the ENG took the wind out of his sails for ordering me into a radiation area without proper dosimetry, gave me a literal wrist slap for effing up my logs, and told me to go on liberty. The lack of action by the ENG totally disillusioned the nazi. He commented later that “if the Engineering Officer doesn’t give a shit, why should I?” Overnight, he became much more laid back, almost cool, but he was permanently broken as a nuke. He resigned his commission at the first opportunity and went back to civilian life.
  • Leak on one of the bubbler sight glasson 3 Main Engine Reduction Gear on CVN 73. MPTA came down and said we need to tighten it to stop the leak. I informed him if we do, we will crack the glass and have a loss of lube oil casualty. He then ordered me. I said no way. He ordered my Upper Level Port watch… I told him I would fuck him up if he did it. The MPTA then grabbed the ford wrench… I informed him if the glass cracked I am calling Loss of Lube oil… I reminded him it was an o ring under the cap that was bad… He tightened and cracked it… I called loss of lube oil, he interrupted the call… Then the RO, MPA, my DO, and Chief all came running down… I explained what happened… They left me alone. Stop and locked, tagged out, got an o ring… cleared tags… away we went… never had a problem with him again…
  • We had a senior EO standing an AEA proficiency when the EOOW ordered him to get him a cup of water. He really should have told him where to get it from. The RO got sprayed with hot brine when the EOOW spit it out.
  • I was changing out a bad level probe on either the scrubber or the burner, I can’t remember which. We may have pulled an expensive part out of spares without waking up the CO for permission to get this fixed. The ENG told me he wanted to see the probe as soon as we were done. By the time I had the damn thing out I had burned all the nerve ending off the tips of my fingers, it was hot. I carried it up into the wardroom on a chem wipe, picked it up and handed it to Eng. Who took, it brought it up towards his eyes, yelled “Fuck” and dropped it on the table. Luckily he had a good sense of humor.
  • E-Div’s laundry day was the same day as field day, so we always got screwed, especially if you had the mid-watch the day before. We complained to the COB but got no response, so on the chief’s laundry day I collected all of our PMs for the dryer and all of A-gang’s PMs for the washer, tagged both out and took everything apart.Whenever a chief showed up to do laundry I explained that since our laundry day is on field day, this was the only day we could do maintenance. When they asked how long it would take me I told them, “well according to the PM cards, 14 man hours.” I had arranged for the AEA to relieve me when got off watch so we could drag this out all day. I had no tools with me, so if I needed a tool I would go back to the engine room to get one, walking through crews mess in slow motion.

    After a couple of hours of this my chief told me I had made my point and ordered me to put everything back together and clear tags. I went up to control to clear the tagout and the NAV, who was OOD, looked at the tagout and asked if I was giving up. I told him I had been ordered to clear the tags by my chief. He looked at me, looked at the tagout and ordered me out of control because “I’m busy, come back after we go to PD”. His relief was the one that finally authorized clearing the tag out.

  • Standing EWS on the 18-24 watch. On the 1MC, “torpedo in the water”! ERS and I headed to the AFT Signal Ejector. No monitors. Whoosh it went.On the 2 MC, “ERS, relieve the EWS and he is to report to the CO, immediately”. CO started to chew my butt, and I pointed out to him there was no monitor. He said, ok, but wait for orders next time.
  • We were able to get the nukes out of dealing with the aft signal ejector. During TRE drills we were at battle stations and I was the JA phone talker for the CO on the Conn. He told me to tell aft signal ejector to load a green smoke and shit control to remote. So I did and the acknowledgement came back. A couple of minutes we get the report “green smoke loaded in aft signal ejector, control shifted to remote.” I let the CO know and we could see that we had control. We were searching with the helos for the practice torpedoes we had just launched. So the Capt. hit the launch button and went right back to the periscope. Next thing you here from the Capt. was something to the effect of motherfucker that was a green flare. He was pissed because of course the helos instantly hauled ass and wouldn’t return. Needless to say, it took longer to get those torpedoes back with just us and the range ship. I don’t remember any other nukes qualifying aft signal ejector after than.
  • As ERUL watch ordered by XO to stow stationary bike and rowing machine for sea because the people using it never would namely XO and CO. I did as ordered by suspending them by ropes over reduction gears.
  • I was handed a work order package at the end of the day. I told the Lt. I would get it done first thing in the morning. He told me I was staying to finish the test gear package today, then go home when it was done. I told him he couldn’t write a package I couldn’t stop. Took me about 30 minutes to identify a piece of the rig that was installed backwards. I showed it to RP. We showed it to QA. Big investigation. Lots of paperwork and explaining to do. Fast forward a month. Lt. hands me a work order at the end of the day. I say I’ll get it done first thing in the morning. He says, “Fine.”
  • Every time we did a time change, I had to write it in the RO logs. Didn’t know what to write, so I wrote, “At this time, the clocks are now retarded. The time is now 0100.” Chain of command had a meltdown over it. “Well, what -do- you want me to write?” “I don’t care, just… not that.” “Not that aye.”Next time it happened: “At this time, in the Year of Our Lord, on this most glorious day at sea, the chronological time pieces have been retarded to the maximum extent a time zone change will allow. The time is now, shipmates, 0100.

    Go Navy.”

    I was never on the 2200*-0200 watch again.

  • One Christmas we were ordered by the Eng not to put any notes concerning the holidays into our logs. The SRO decided he wasn’t going to play ball, so he carefully crafted a midnight log entry that gave all of the appropriate information as required. However, the first letter used at the beginning of each line in the logs, when read down, spelled out “Merry Christmas” It was a beautiful thing, and if we could have taken pictures of it we would have.
  • My watch team in maneuvering was ordered by our EOOW to restrict out conversations to official business only. After 4 watches of us ignoring him unless he was giving an order he broke down and rescinded his order.
  • Scene: Sonar Control on a CG in early 90s.

    Players: DIVO and STG3.

    Our DIVO comes ripping into Sonar one night on the mid watch SuperMAD about something. Ordinarily, he’s a real sweetheart DIVO…one of the best I’d ever had. This night he had a bee in his bonnet and wanted some coffee. The way we arranged watch section then was based on dumb/arbitrary rules. Sometimes all smoking teams (smoking inside was a thing back then). Sometimes no coffee teams. Sometimes all friend teams. All hedged on qualifications of course, but every underway meant a new team dynamic. Anywhoo….DIVO came into the No Coffee Team that night.

    And he was angry about no coffee even though there was a never ending flow from the CIC pots next door where his watch station was. And he chose to order some to be made, in a dick fashion, to the closest guy whom also was a short timer and stereotypical FTN kinda guy, who replied with, “You want coffee? I’ll make you a fresh pot.”

    DIVO leaves for CIC next door. STG3 gets water from radio water fountain down the hall. STG3 then places filter in basket and fill the basket level with coffee grounds and hits the play button.

    10 minutes later, DIVO quietly comes in with his cup and fills it up. He silently takes his first sip as we all surreptitiously eye him. He visibly grimaces, remains silent for 30 seconds and leaves without a word never to return.


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