[from the stabenow.com vaults, 2007]
I got a tour of the 76 this morning, conducted by GMC Chief Greg Colvin, the 76 being the big gun that went boom the other day. It can fire four different kinds of ammunition up to eighty rounds a minute. Each round is three feet long and depending on the kind of ammunition weighing anywhere from 36 to 56 pounds. At any moment during practice or actual operations, anyone has the ability to call “Silence!” to cease firing. The person who calls silence is the only one who can call it off so as to resume firing.
It’s that CG safety first thing again, like the swimmer on the Alex Haley’s helo telling me he had the ability to call a waveoff if he didn’t feel comfortable. You see that in the GARs as well, anyone on the crew has the ability to revise any of the GAR evaluations upward. From seaman to captain, if you’re a member of the crew you’re supposed to contribute, you’re another set of eyes and ears, part of the collective experience that will help the ship work better and expedite the mission.
But back to the 76. “The gun gods require blood sacrifices,” Greg says, grinning. “Everyone in the crew has left blood on this gun.” They also appear to require pushups, because sometimes you’ll look down at the foredeck from the bridge and the whole gunnery crew will be exercizing their biceps and, get this, laughing while they’re doing it. “It’s a gunny thing,” LTJG Barbieri says.
Then we ran drills. First we launch the “Bad” boat, then we launch the helo (did I mention our helo? more later), then we launch the “Good” boat. The bad boat hauls butt and the helo goes in pursuit, followed by the good boat. The helo radios us that they have the target in sight, that the boat appears to have no name and no nationality and that further it appears to be a go-fast smuggling contraband (probably cocaine, could be heroin, marijuana).
The bad boat notices that its neck is being breathed down by the US Coast Guard, whereupon they drop their contraband, noted by the helo and radioed to us. The bad boat takes some convincing that its smuggling days are over, and the helo radios that it has finally stopped. The Munro goes full speed ahead and recovers the contraband while the good boat takes the bad boat’s crew into custody and confiscates the craft.
Things, inevitably on a first run-through with a green crew, go wrong. Pressure to the helo fuel hose was 25 psi less than it ought to have been and the radios between bridge and hangar deck and both boats and the HCO (helo comm officer) and the LSO (landing signals officer) gave everyone a blasphemous time. Then we put the bird in the air and everything went right from there, helo stops bad boat, bad boat taken into custody, Munro recovers contraband, helo and boats both good and bad.
Everyone bolts dinner (veal parmesan, spaghetti and spinach and Senior Chief Minos is ladling it out next to the mess cooks) and then, yes, really, back to work, we’re going to launch the helo NVG, the ship in the dark with the aviators wearing night vision goggles, and do it all over again.
Don’t forget to check out ENS Dan Schrader’s photo essay of the patrol.