Lia Spilmon Burris ET1 (SW)
USNS Kawishiwi T-AO-146 Crew Member; 1990-1992

Before KAWISHIWI, I had been in the navy 8 years with shore billets. My choice from ET school was either  shore NEC or Tacan in Alaska. So I picked the Shore based NEC in Fort Gorden, GA. After very slow advancement, my shore NEC going obsolete and having 1 year left  to serve, orders came with 5 choices.  I came from Wisconsin and wanted to see someplace tropical. One choice, USNS anywhere in the world fit that. The other 4 were 3 year shore billets.

I waited about 2 months not knowing what ship I would get or where I would be going. My orders came in and the Name sounded so familiar that I was asking everyone "Do you know anyone on the Kawishiwi." and they would say Kawishi-what.  I finally asked my dad.  He said, "don't you remember me taking you on a tour of my ship."  I was three.  I only remember my mom not liking the grated decks while she was wearing a dress. I remember the diesel fuel smell. That smell always reminds me of the Kawishiwi and it makes me think of my Dad because he smelled like the fuel when he came home.

I transferred and I went to school in San Diego, California. Later I flew up to Oakland to wait for my port of call.  They call the room where we sat all day, the Fishbowl.  It is a room inside the building with a window.  Everyone walks by and looks at you.  Sometimes we were lucky and got jobs to do while we waited. They sent me back down to San Diego. I spent a few days checking in and then on Kawishiwi which pulled out on Monday.  I did not know it but the water was more bouncy than usual.  To me I thought that was normal because it was my first time underway ever.

I found out we would be out for a couple of weeks because we were to refuel the Kitty Hawk. She had just passed through the Panama Canal, was traveling up the coast and going right by San Diego and not stopping.  I found out we were to refuel her and that we were chasing them around a hurricane. They were trying to set a destination in the ocean that would be calm enough and outside of shipping for the refueling to take place. That seemed to be very difficult.  Everyone was asking me every ten minutes if I was ok.  Here I thought from all the stories that it was normal for the ship to be moving around that much.  I did not know that normally the Kawishiwi rides very smoothly. I was pleasantly surprised later.

I also had two brothers and a sister serve in the Navy. Mark had a shore based NEC like me. Martin went in as an AT and served on the Midway. Maria went in as a CTO. Only I stayed in until I got 20. Mark was stationed in Hawaii whom I was able to visit during the Gulf Crisis.   

I have a ton of pictures of the
Ranger. I call them the Danger Ranger. They had all the green crew all the time because they were out of San Diego and had the Fleet Training Group there.

The Ships Nurse I remember was Mr. Sidoti. We only had one medical person on board while we were underway.  He had to be prepared during all the unreps. He was happy we had an ESWS program because first aid is on it. He was also a Diver. We enjoyed his Underwater photographs.

My favorite picture that I took my self of a carrier is the Midway turning around in Pearl Harbor with the crew on the deck for the turn over with the Independence. They were the only carrier at the time enough to make a U turn. "

Kawishiwi spent most of the time with the Fleet Training Group out of San Diego until the Gulf Crisis when they sent us to Mid Pac in Hawaii.  Kawishiwi unreped ships heading to the Gulf.  She was getting refitted to go into the Gulf when the War ended. We were back to Hawaii when the Midway turned over to the Independence.  Kawishiwi followed the Midway back to San Diego and  stayed there  until the New MSC oilers became operational.

This is when Kawishiwi headed to San Francisco for Decommissioning again. I thought that they would keep the Kawishiwi because we had a rear refueling rig but I guess she is due for dismantling.  She was not famous enough. She is just a beautiful old workhorse of a ship.

"The navy kept me busy with all of its new equipment while keeping older equipment. Sometimes I felt I had to be a Super Yeoman as well as an Electronics Tech. ET came to mean "everything tech" especially when they started putting electronic and computer controls on everything. On my last ship, USS Frank Cable AS 40, we were given jobs like, Welder machines, garbage compactors and stuff like that. It was crazy. " The Frank Cable  was about as long and wide as Kawishiwi but bounced all over the place. It did not have all those nice deep oil tanks.

Sincerely, Lia Burris

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