The Root Cause

I was enjoying a weeks ‘station leave’ whilst the ship was alongside in Mombasa in Kenya during a stand down from a busy ‘Armilla’ patrol in the Arabian Gulf during the Iran / Iraq war in the 1980s. We had spent a few months escorting tankers in convoys through the Straits of Hormuz. The SOH are a ‘chokepoint’ at the entrance to the Gulf from the Indian Ocean. All shipping has to transit the SOH and at that time had to pass within range of the Iranian ‘Silk Worm’ missile batteries on shore. There was an international operation in place to escort ships along this dangerous route. At this stage I was the maintainer for the ships’ (a type 22 frigate) main command system computer, which was the system that drove the Operations room and integrated weapons systems, so without it we were essentially not able to fulfil our role.

So, we were all very much ready for this down time in Mombasa, we had spent much of the previous three months in ‘Defence Watches’ – 6 hours on 6 hours off. There were two of us responsible for the Command System, and we each had a week off whilst in Mombasa – there was a lot of deep maintenance to be done that we could only conduct alongside.

So, I had the first week off, stayed ashore in a hotel, swam, chilled and headed back on board on the Friday evening ready for a weeks work before heading back up to the Gulf. I was met with a very stressed out opposite number, and an even more stressed out boss! The system had been fully working when I left … now it was completely dead. Nothing. It wouldn’t even power up let alone process data for the displays up in the Operations room! There were spares strewn everywhere in the computer room and as far as I could see no real logic as to what was being done, the problem had just grown too big, and without the basic things in place my opposite number had lost any real logical thinking.

Life can get like that can’t it? Problems seem massive and we lose all sense of proportion and don’t think straight, and it all just gets worse and worse and seems insurmountable. I sent my mate off on his weeks leave, put the system back together (it didn’t work!) and then started from scratch, looking for the root cause and chasing it through logically. After several long days and about 60 defective units I got it all up and running again (well most of it, some spares had to be flown out from the UK). But I had to go back to the very root problem (it was a series of fuses that had gone during a main power failure and blown numerous power supplies and printed circuits).

When life all closes in and you can’t see the root cause sometimes its best to step away for a bit and start with fresh eyes, the symptoms often mask the root problem! In this case my mate had to let someone else in to help … and that was yours truly. As a Christian I believe that the root cause of our challenges in life is down to the fact that we are not following Gods ways for us … we need to sort that out to get a fighting chance at life! And the person we have to bring in to help is Jesus. Of course it doesn’t mean that all the issues are suddenly sorted out. When I found the fuse problem I could then get power back up and start to look at all the other snags that had been caused as well, but my mate had tried to fix all those other snags before identifying the main cause.

If you are facing challenges in life, relationships, family, secret addictions, work, money etc etc, it may help to shift target away from the difficulty itself and look at your relationship with God. If you are a Christian, how is that relationship? Are you spending any time with Him? Are you meeting up with other Christians? Reading the Bible etc? If you are not a Christian, it would be worth investigating the claims of Christianity a bit more. From my experience once you get back to the root and sort that relationship with God out then you will be in a better place to begin to work through the symptoms … As for my fault-finding I still had some long days and head scratching in front of me after I had sorted those fuses … and had to get some bits flown out, so it was not an instant cure, but we got it sorted and were back up and operational by the time we got back to sea. Phew.


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Marta Pawlik