[from the stabenow.com vaults, 2007]
Today we did flight ops in the morning, followed by a fabulous lunch of grilled mahi mahi, during which SN Stephanie Deck made the noon approach in the wardroom. This is a long-standing, time-honored maritime tradition wherein a bosun’s mate gives the Captain the deck officer’s regards and recites a litany of ship status, the magazines have been inspected and found to be cool and dry with minimum and maximum temperatures over the past twenty-four hours, all secure about the decks, the ship’s chronometers have been wound, compared, and found to be accurate, and ask permission to test the ship’s alarms and to strike noon (8) bells on time.
I was present when Stephanie was practicing on the bridge to the general amusement and catcalling of the watch, because they’ve all been through it and they all hate it. I’m pleased to report that in spite of all the encouragement she was calm and confident in delivery, if a little pink about the cheeks. “Although tradition has given way to technology,” the XO says, “this is a way for the junior people to learn to be comfortable delivering reports to senior officers. It’s also a way for the CO to familiarize himself with the junior people of the crew who he doesn’t see on a daily basis.”
After lunch we had another SCAT drill. This one involved us being attacked by two armed small boats, and they gave us a hard time of it, scoring a direct hit on the bridge. We suffered loss of power, loss of steering, multiple fires, communications casualties and multiple personnel casualties. Since we were pretending to be dead in the water (DIW) we brought the bow prop on line for control of the ship (see photo in yesterday’s blog).
LTJG Morgan Barbieri, our training officer (as well as our support services officer and an LSO, she of the infinite patience during the helo fueling problems two weeks ago) was a casualty, she was standing next to the radar on the bridge when the bad guys took it out. We saved her. There may have been a little latent hostility involved, as she’s the drill sergeant, or was, because she’s leaving at the next port call to rotate into her next assignment. It was first on her dream sheet: Ops on buoy tender Maple in Sitka, Alaska. She is very happy, and both the Captain and the XO say it’s one of the best Coastie jobs going. In the meantime, I told her to make plans to attend the next Boardwalk Boogie in Pelican. Duty is all very well, but first things first.
But back to the drill. Really, short of an actual sinking, I don’t know what else they could have thrown at us (although I have offered my services to spice up the drill scripts, because, hey, that’s what I do). During the debriefing the XO was pleased to say that we did very well, high praise indeed. The reaction time to GC1 last week was 11:35. Today it was 4:40. According to LTJG Josh Dipietro, the first time they ran a SCAT drill (a year ago) it took 30 minutes.
At GQ, you will remember, the crew immediately dons the chic ensemble of flash gear you saw on PO Tracy Mellot during the last drill, and the crew was melting en masse by the time the training team showed mercy and let them secure from it. Then, while a few of the engineers (remember, always working ) did some maintenance on the steering gear, the truest mercy of all was swim call, although we did have to get out of a school of jellyfish before we could go in. Last time, I stayed dry and took pictures for you. This time, not so self sacrificial, fuggedaboutit, gotta go….
WHOOP!! I jumped off the main deck directly into the deep blue Pacific Ocean, the water 84F degrees and 1,646 meters deep. Go ahead, figure out the feet for yourself. Pretty soon the water was filled with Coasties and there was a continual floor show of more jumping in. We should have had flash cards so we could give scores, 9.7, 9.9, like that. Never mind, the beach ball filled the gap, and I officiated at a race between Chief Marc Blecman, SN Kris Haley, and SA Dennis Gordon. All three know how to swim (and Chris wants to go to swimmer school), but Marc won, even after he kinda wandered off course.
Swim call may sound a little frivolous, but it isn’t. This is a highly-motivated, well-trained crew, and command is responsible for keeping it that way so they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. Swim call gives them a chance to blow off a little steam while keeping the edge on. I’m mixing my metaphors but you know what I mean. Algebra class, scheduled for 1500, was rescheduled to 1900. Yet more command mercy. (EO LT Todd Raybon says his students are doing well.)
And my thanks in advance to all those on board who are about to send me their digital photos of my headfirst entry into the small boat. I probably could have helped a little more if I hadn’t been laughing so hard. I totally failed at climbing the ladder back onto the ship, which requires some serious upper body strength (the Captain made me add that), and had to resort to hitching a ride with BM2 Steve Garon, Chief Greg Colvin, BM3 Dario Garza and FN Sean Clark in the shark watch boat. I knew I could get another boat ride out of these guys…