[from the stabenow.com vaults, 2007]
A long time ago, in a Central American port far, far away…not really, but can’t be more specific about our location or when we were there due to operational security. It was our first port call after 28 days at sea, not counting the BSF.
In stately progress, her wake spreading behind like the train of her court dress, Munro enters the channel into the port. ENS Dan Schrader has the deck and LTJG Morgan Barbieri has the conn. She looks happy and proud. “Tradition is that the deck officer leaving the ship takes it in,” the Captain says. “That’s why the smirk.” I wouldn’t call it a smirk, exactly, I’d call it a big fat grin, but that’s just me.
We embark the pilot, who has an excellent reputation among the Coast Guard fleet. He prefers a wide, slow turn, bringing us in parallel and starboard side to the pier, using our own inertia to dock us, as opposed to using the engines and the bow thrusters to “twist” us in. Later the XO explains, “We’re trained to keep control of the ship at all times using the engines and the rudder. It’s hard to let go of that.” We slid alongside the dock like the way had been greased for us, and when the XO says, “Do you want to move up a little?” Morgan says very firmly, “No, I’m happy right here, sir.” The XO looks at the pilot, who spreads his hands and says, “Perfecto.” Morgan orders the lines across and we snug up to the pier.
It is a very small town on the edge of a jungle that climbs straight up into the sky, covered in lush green growth from which the occasional tiny tree house peeps out. Catamarans, sailboats and pleasure craft dot the water, and there is even a derelict go-fast drawn up on the beach. Aft, the hangar deck becomes the Quarterdeck, with a podium with the Munro’s seal on it and the crew board beneath a blue awning, manned by Chief Greg Colvin, today’s OOD, Chief Rick Whitney who is breaking in, BM2 Steve Garon, and BM3 Tim Stamm. The temperature and humidity is that of your average rice cooker.
The A-Gangers (Auxiliary Division in Engineering) set the fueling detail and tankers begin to roll up the pier. MK1 Dan Bensley says it all depends on if the trucks are on time and how much fuel they each haul as to how long fueling will take. The A-Gangers stay on duty until the last pint of fuel is in Munro’s tanks, and not only the A-Gangers, either. Says LTJG Josh Dipietro, “FS2 Castillo spent the beginning of the day loading stores. Once he was done with that, he picked up a sounding tape and started helping out. He does this every single time we fuel.”
Long before we arrived, Suppo (Supply Officer) Tony Parker put in a LOGREQ (logistics requisition) with the HA (husbanding agent) of the port, ordering fuel, food, supplies, sewage trucks, potable water, garbage disposal, crew vans, cell phones, and the list goes on. He also supplies details necessary to our port call, ship’s characteristics, phone numbers, crew names, and that list goes on and on, too.
And of course, due to operations all this planning can go south in a moment. We’ve already been waved off one port call. If we give enough notice our monies will be refunded. If not, they won’t. As Suppo on the cutter Morgenthau, Tony had set up a port call when “a go-fast zipped right by us. Of course we had to go chase it.” Which meant paying for that day’s port services even though the ship didn’t get into port until that night.
Trucks roll up filled with groceries and supplies. The SKs (Kyle Chronister, Clarice Farrar) handle the purchase orders and Tony signs them. “OS2 Wilkerson back at the warehouse in Alameda gets our parts to us,” Tony says. “The cooks do all the ordering and the crew helped get it loaded on board. The YNs (Eve Helms, Matt Sayers, Frederick Lamarr, Dottie Davies) got crew in and out of the country. That’s a hard job involving country clearances, passports, travel arrangements, and more. The Docs handed out Deet and sunscreen.”
Later FSO Kelly Napier brings Tony our grocery list. “All we didn’t get were the cherry tomatoes,” she tells him, and off he goes to make sure we don’t pay for them. When all the supplies are aboard, around 1400, Tim makes the pipe from the Quarterdeck, “Liberty, liberty, liberty!”
At 1600 Josh, ENS Gary Kim and MK3 David Ochiai settle into to the wardroom to wait for the last fuel truck, which is late. Most of the crew has already left and the ship is almost deserted and very quiet. “They tried to trick us by slowing the pump to minimum flow to buy more time for the late truck,” Josh says. “It took ENS Greg Vera talking to them in Spanish to get them to admit the truck was late. We finally got started fueling again at 1745. We finished fueling by 1830. We didn’t get off the ship until 1930 because of all the soundings and the paperwork.”
Costs for this port call?
The next day Josh went surfing, Tony sacked out in a local hotel, and I’ll tell you what I did tomorrow.