[from the stabenow.com vaults, 2007]
Last night I spent a couple hours in the galley with PO Nicole Steele, the night cook for Munro. She has invited me down to make rolls, so I present myself at 9:30pm and am put to work rolling out dough. She is at present trying to figure out a recipe for rolls, because the CG cookbook’s roll recipe is too dry. Also, someone wished a twenty-pound box of individually wrapped Ande’s after dinner mints (you know, the ones in the green foil) on her and told her to use them, so she’s also concocting a mint chocolate frosting for the white cakes she baked earlier. The whisk in the mixer is the size of a baby’s head, and the dough mixer is taller than she is. I love the galley, and I make sure I’m very nice to her so I leave with an open invitation to return in my pocket.
At 1000 this morning Captain Lloyd calls all E-5s to a meeting on the mess deck (forward of the galley where the enlisted eat, sort of town hall for the City of Munro). He does this periodically during patrol to say what’s on his mind and to let the crew tell him what’s on theirs. It’s a pretty frank exchange.
Today what’s on the Captain’s mind is hazing. The more over the top practical jokes in the berthing areas or anywhere on board for that matter are not okay. He also touches on the line-crossing ceremony, where people who have never crossed the equator, known as pollywogs, are, um, indoctrinated in a voluntary, time-honored ceremony by those who have been, known as shellbacks. (The XO is a pollywog, a topic of great interest to the crew, and the XO looks just the teensiest bit nervous about it.) The transformation from pollywog to shellback has in the distant past been, how shall I put this, a challenging experience, especially (everyone says) when the Chiefs get involved. I tried to crash the 2pm shellback meeting in the wardroom but LTJG Barbieri booted me out. Stay tuned.
On a more serious note, the Captain says there have been multiple sexual assaults during 378 port calls in the last two months. In each of them, alcohol was a contributing factor. According to the Captain, it is literally riskier to go on liberty during a port call than it is to do a boarding. One option is to declare Cinderella Liberty (back by midnight) and no renting of hotel rooms, but the Captain isn’t ready to go that far yet, if he doesn’t have to, so he went to the Chiefs. The Chiefs came up with a plan, everyone goes ashore in groups of 3 to 6, and one in every group has to be an E-6 or higher, although the Captain makes it clear that the responsibility for getting that group safely back to the ship rests with everyone in that group, not just senior member.
Hands shoot up all over the room and there are a lot of complaints. “I don’t want to go on liberty with the same people I work with every day.” “What if someone in our group wants to come back before I do?” “What if no one in the group wants to do the same things?” The Captain and Command Senior Chief Georgios Minos are accomodating but firm in expecting crew members to work it out like grownups. In many respects this is an experiment in changing Coast Guard port call culture, and because of recent history the behavior of Munro’s crew is going to be watched closely, or as the Captain says, they are the ants under the magnifying glass and the sun is coming up.
At about 1500 hours the bridge spots a sea turtle in a tangle of polypro, and we stop to render assistance, which evolves into “swim call.” See photos. The Captain called for a GAR prior to swim call, which was a good thing because as we bring the boat back on board (there are two riflemen deployed at swim call, one on the bridge and one in the boat, in case of sharks), we see a small boat going very fast.
Time to shift gears from recreation to operations. The go-fast bill was set, guns come out. A second GAR for a second launch and a possible boarding, we’re in the green, and we assemble a boarding team and launch the boat again. The bridge is suddenly jammed with people talking to CIC, the boat deck Captain, the boarding team, the boat, the lookout, the duty gunner’s mate, all at once. Our boat is receding into the sun in pursuit, and Munro is coming up fast on turbines in her wake.
Turns out it was another fishing boat, but everyone agrees it was a good exercise that identified a couple of things that could have been problems in the real thing, and now won’t be.
It definitely got everyone’s heart started. The adrenalin was palpable at the ward room dinner table, the conversation almost noisy, everyone piling their plates high with meat loaf and mashed potatoes. About half an hour in, energy starts to drain away like someone turned off a spigot, all officers alike, everyone from the bridge to engineering. I went to get a cup of tea at 2215 and the ship was about as quiet as I’ve ever heard it.
I was a little tuckered out myself.
ENS Dan Scrader has begun posting an online photo essay of our patrol on Fred’s Place. I, who inherited my ability to take terrible photos directly from my father, am ecstatic.