Deployment Chronicles–> Article 30 “Coming Home.”

Our trek back across the ocean was not very eventful but it was full of little exercises with the ships we were transiting with. The seas were rough but that’s what you can expect in the late fall season entering winter months. We managed to avoid all of the storms and stay on the good news side of things. I did need to take a few motion sickness pills but nothing too serious.

Once we transited the Atlantic we came sailing into Mayport FL, the whole strike group included… even the carrier. While here we embarked different individuals for what was called a “Tiger Cruise”. I’m still not really sure how the Tiger Cruise got its name but it basically is where you embark friends and family (no wives or girlfriends allowed) and they are able to sail back with you on the ship and the ship does a whole bunch of things that show everyone a little bit about the Navy. My dad sailed back from Newport RI a year before, and this time I invited my best friend from college M to join us for the deployment reunion. She of course wanted to finally see what I do for a living, and she was very excited to come back with us and see.

We had a grand time. They held all kinds of events with the strike group, we even did a full power run against all of the other ships to see who was fastest or realistically who was the least broke. haha. Fighter jets performed an air show from the carrier and we conducted an UNREP for everyone to see what that is like as well. It was really a lot of fun.

THE NIGHT BEFORE WE PULLED IN:

The night before we pulled in we did have a channel fever night, (although I don’t think it is anything like the English Channel fever the British do), but none the less there were events leading into the night and most importantly a very serious game of BINGO. J had, like always, bought $$150 in bingo tickets and so he definitely needed help for his last chance to win. I was really pulling for him this time since we had about 6 bingo games throughout the deployment and he had seriously paid no less than $100 on tickets per game and didn’t win one thing.

We were sitting on the mess decks and the big game was about to come up for a 46 inch TV and I was playing 6 of his cards when the captain tapped me on the shoulder. He said, “I just found out where you are going, do you want to know?”

I instantly became very nervous because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know or not so I told him I would come up to his cabin to find out once the game was done. I was nervously looking at M and I told her I wanted her to come with me. She said she would.

After the game we walked up to the Captain’s cabin and the Executive Officer (XO) was in talking to him. I looked at them both expectantly because I knew that the XO knew too. The captain said, “You wanted to go to Japan didn’t you?”

I hesitantly said, “yes”.

He said, “Well you’re going to Sasebo, to an LSD (Amphibious landing ship dock)

I just stared back at him not even realizing I had been holding my breath. I was very torn. I had wanted Japan very much, but then when I got it, it became very overwhelming all at once too.

He told me about my next ship, one that I had never heard of, he told me I’d probably get my orders in the next few months, and then he said I could digest all of that and come back and talk to him later with more of my questions.

M and I walked out of there and I immediately went into freak out mode for the next 20 minutes. Japan, Japan, JAPAN! I’m moving to Japan for almost two years. I’m going to be living and communicating (or not communicating since I know not one Japanese word) in Japan for the next two years. Wow. That was just something to take in.

COMING HOME:

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Needless to say I didn’t sleep very much the night before the end of my first and the ship’s first 7 month deployment. When we pulled in everything was a whirl. I felt like my life was on fast forward and I was watching everything happen but outside of myself. When we pulled into the pier I saw my dad’s worn WVU hat that I had given last Christmas bobbing in the crowd. My mom was waving frantically beside him. They were looking for me, but were unable to find me.

The brow was thrown across and the first group of people came on board. It was a very crisp, cool, winter day to finally be back home.

When I was finally able to get off the ship, I ran to greet my parents with M in tow and after we had made a greetings I broke the news to them about my next tour. My mom started crying, I should have guessed. She was just seeing me and I would be leaving again soon to live overseas. It was overwhelming for her too. We laughed a lot and I told them about some of the deployment and introduced them to the new officers. I don’t think my day calmed down at all until that night when I finally got to sleep in my own bed again, after so long.

Coming back to the house to see everyone was great! My roommates were all there. The house was packed that night since we had my four boy roommates, me, M, and all of our family members. It was a very sarcastic night as well, since we had not been able to make fun of each other for so long aside from the emails.

The experience of a “Coming Home” is not one I will easily forget and nor do I take for granted all of the little things that mean so much. It was a great day to be A’mericin.

Deployment Chronicles–> Article 29 “ROME<3"

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Rome Rome Rome! Soo excited! Once we were peirside they promised maximized liberty and my liberty group booked 2 rooms at a five-star hotel called Sofitiel, which was right next to the Spanish Steps and the Fountana Di Trevi (Yes this is the fountain you throw a coin in for the first time you visit Rome, the second time for love, etc.) ROME is Gorgeous!!! We packed our stuff and got our ball room attire clothes ready for that evenings events and impatiently awaited for our liberty call to be put down. It did not come as early as expected (This is very typical),  but we were excited none the less and made a beeline for the train station which was actually right by where the ship was. We caught a train into Rome and took a taxi to our hotel. It was mesmerizing. I have big plans for when I visit Rome again, which I absolutely will, it was by far the best port. There’s so MANY MANY things to see and do.

We arrived at the hotel and immediately we bought a round of drinks to be sent to our rooms while we were getting ready. H and I were in a room together and we got all doled up for the wardroom event they were holding. We both had fancy dresses and high heels, it felt very good to be a girl again. We then took a taxi to the restaurant but the problem was the taxi driver didn’t understand us and he ended up dropping us off right at the Coliseum!

We were walking around the coliseum looking at Roman ruins at night, beautified, staying at an extremely ritzy hotel in downtown Rome, it was so surreal! It was one of the best times of my life. We unfortunately did get lost and we ended up walking around for quite some time looking for the restaurant (high heels on cobblestone streets = very bad idea), but eventually after some confusion and a lot of hand motions (translations between Italian and English) we did get pointed in the right direction and we found the restaurant. We arrived extremely fashionably late which is our style and started playing catch up since everyone was already on course 3 of a 4 course meal. We starting drinking the wine that comes with each course immediately and ate the food which was quite delicious.

Afterwards we walked back up the street to the café that we got directions from, which was located directly across from the coliseum and we drank some drinks and smoked cigars and it was glorious. We were right there beside the coliseum! Dieter, one of the pilots, took a picture of me smoking a cigar with the coliseum in the background!

 

 

Quite a while passed and we were deciding if we should head back to the hotel because it was late, when fireworks started out of nowhere right above the coliseum. I have no idea what the occasion was, but we stayed and watched them till the end. I threw in a few Oooo’s and Ahhhhh’s for old times sake (My dad used to do that every time we saw fireworks when I was growing up).   When we got back to the hotel we went straight to the seventh floor and continued our party a little longer out on a terrace above Rome and it was just a fantastic evening and such a beautiful night.

The next morning, we went to brunch and started off with a few mimosa’s to help with the headache and then we got showers, packed our bags, and went back up to the terrace from the night before to get some pictures overlooking the city. I just love the old style shutters on all the windows and how everything is made around rock formations. We had much to do, so afterwards we asked the hotel to check our bags for us since we had checked out of the hotel and we headed out for the day.

We walked to the spanish steps which are gorgeous and we shopped around that area for the better part of the day checking out all of the BIG TIME stores like Gucci, Burberry, etc.. 🙂 We stopped for a light lunch and then ventured farther out where we ended up at a café buying more bottles of wine and enjoying appetizers right in front of this huge museum.

I unfortunately did not get to go to the Vatican because most of my liberty group had already been there, but I saw it and it was breath-taking to say the least. Many people from the ship went on tours there and one of the officer’s knows a guy that lives and does research at the Vatican so he was able to get a much more in-depth tour then you would normally receive. I thought there were tons of historical things to see in London, but Rome tops that times 10. There’s SO SO SO many things to see. It’s all on my list when I go back. I can’t wait!

By the time we got back to the hotel to pick up our stuff, it was getting pretty late so we had to go eat dinner, which was delicious, I mean it is Rome, and then we caught the train back to the ship. For duty the next day I got to go out for shore patrol and I bought 3 bottles of Italian wine and Lemon Cello which is this alcohol you drink when its cold and you can put it on things such as ice cream. The captain told me about it.

We stopped for a few hours of wi-fi and stayed in Civeteveechia, eating some very good homeaid pizza for dinner. That closes out my first Rome trip. We were underway the very next morning, transited the straits of Bonefacio which are located to the North of Italy and we are now out in open ocean coming across the Atlantic.

We will be pulling into Mayport FL in a few days where I will be meeting M, whom is sailing back to Norfolk with us, and that should be a very good time, there’s a few big events in store such as an air show by the carrier. I am SOO happy to be back to reality soon! It’s very exciting.

Deployment Chronicles–> Article 28 “I got Promoted!”

And the thunder rolls… That’s how I can explain the last few days out at sea. It has been quite the journey and very miserable indeed. We are rocking all over the place. Thank the lord I took my motion sickness pills as soon as we got word of the rough seas. The past few times I’ve walked by the galley, we’ve taken a pretty big roll and all I can hear behind the door is “Crash Crash Bang Bang Mutter Mutter”! In the wardroom the main table is bolted to the deck but the side table is not and at lunch I was sitting at the side table. We had to have our hands on our plates, cups, and utensils all at once. Well, We took this huge roll and I caught my plate and jumped up just in time for the table to roll forward. Another girl was not so lucky and she was just two inches from a pie in the lap. Luckily one of the guys grabbed it right before it slid off of the table onto her. I gave up at that point and retreated to my room and ate a granola bar for lunch and drank water from a bottle with a safety lid.

Taking huge rolls off the beam (side) of the ship.

Stern View.

Normal View Outside.

Not Normal. Only seeing Water.

Our clothes flying around as the ship was rocking.

That night I went to bed early because there was nothing else to do and I spent the whole night in my rack sliding and hitting my head on the metal in front of my pillow and then rolling back and smashing my feet into the other end. I took so much medicine before going to bed, I could barely keep my eyes open I was so drowsy. The rolls are not what makes me sick, it’s the pitch that is just awful. We were pitching so hard that the front part of the ship right on the keel shudders back and forth in the water because the whole front of the ship will pop out of the water and then slam back down into it, and you could hear the banging all the way up in my stateroom. Ugh. No one ever said crossing the Atlantic ocean in the middle of December was a good idea, so now we must all suffer. I didn’t eat anything yesterday for fear I wouldn’t be able to keep it down.

The next morning was the day before pulling into ROME and I was the Officer of the Deck for the transit through the Strait of Messina. The Strait of Messina is this very small channel in between the tip of the boot of Italy and the island of Cicely. We had an exact course and an exact time to make it to the Straits and the course we were on was not alleviating any of the horrible rolling. I was up in the pilot house holding on to this metal rope that surrounds the whole place and we were taking rolls up to 26 degrees as we headed for land. I was walking from bridge wing to bridge wing and the water was just unrelenting. Sometimes I thought I was going to be able to touch the water from the bridge wing as we were rocking although that is a very unrealistic. If I could skim the water with the tips of my fingers from the bridge wing, the ship probably wouldn’t be righting itself again.

I had taken an apple to the bridge as my snack and had set in on the window seal. BIG Mistake. The captain had just come to the bridge and was sitting in his chair when this apple just went whizzing on by and rolled down in the corner by his feet. I watched that happen and just mentally slapped myself in the head for being so stupid. And then as the ship rolled the other way that apple just went flying with it and I looked over at the captain and knew I better get that apple and place it out of the way real quick. For 3 hours I had watch like that and it was exciting and stressful at the same time.

As we entered the small Strait the water calmed and even stilled and it was like the rainbow after the storm. The rough seas abated because we were finally secured between two pieces of land and I was relieved. Another qualified Officer of the Deck came to relieve me so I could be promoted and all of the girl officers came, which was quite awesome. Now to give you an idea of how closely nestled between land the straits are, I could walk tot he bridge wing on one side and see people on the beaches of Sicily and then I could walk to the bridge wing on the other side and see people on the beaches of Italy at the tip of the boot. It was very close indeed.

Sicily (Left).

Italy (Right). Tip of the boot.

Everyone knows that transiting these small little areas in the world are a huge navigational hazard I was very shocked that he had chosen to promote me during the transit. A lot of bad things on other ships have happened from doing that. We went to the starboard (right) bridge wing which was closest to the tip of the boot of Italy and they passed the word that I was going to be promoted. A small group of people showed up since mostly everyone had a watch station for the transit and there wasn’t very much room on the bridge and as soon as we were out there, the Captain told me to raise my right hand and repeat the oath of office after him.

One of my favorite Pictures!

Yay!

He never takes normal pictures… but O well. haha.

The Captain pinned me and then we took all kinds of pictures. Once through the straits I took the deck back and I headed us toward Civeetavechia which was the port in Italy we pulled into (which is one hour outside of Rome).  We pulled in early the next morning.

Deployment Chronicles–> Article 27 “Idea Gone Bad”

Airboss is gone 😦 We had his farewell yesterday. He went to the carrier for the rest of the deployment and we sure are going to miss him. On his last flight aboard the ship, he logged his 2,000th mile and in celebration we hosed him down and antiqued (poured flour all over) him!

The plan itself backfired a little bit because he was sitting on the starboard (right) side of the helo and when he got out of the helo he backed up and I couldn’t get around to throw the flour in his face. Instead I had to climb under the tail of the helo because of the restrictions on the flight deck with the nets down and when I threw the flour at him, the wind blew half of it back on me.

 

Flower Coming Your Way!

Now for the Water.

Now its My Turn. This Flower is just about to blow back on the both of us. haha.

 

 

There’s the rest of the air crew getting him good with flower and water. I was so happy they let me join in on the festivities since technically I’m not actually part of the air crew.

This is the aftermath. As you can see it didn’t go very well in my favor but I would say at least 1/4 of the flour did land on Airboss.

And that’s the finished product with Airboss. I love this pictures. haha.

The British officer that was onboard with us for a few days saw me afterwards and he was laughing so hard. He said, “What happened.” And when I told him he said, “Bloody hell, that’s a typical school girl mistake.” hahaha.

In case you are wandering the British ships serve alcohol onboard, so you can drink every night and on the weekends unlimited. All I have to say to that is “It’s Bollocks!”

On the night before they pull back into England they have a “Channel Party” in which they transit the English Channel and proceed to get completely sloshed. He said on his last ship when they were going up the channel and from the stories he was telling it seems like a pretty good time. I don’t want to get him in trouble otherwise I would tell you, but just know that drunken fun at the end of a deployment = crazy times! I was very educated on British formalities. This launched an entire conversation about the dutch because apparently on dutch warships everything is co-ed, even the bathrooms! I’ll save that for another day.

I’ve got to go. I get promoted to LTJG (Liutenant Junior Grade) tomomorrow on our transit through the Suez Canal, so that should be interesting. The captain says he has something big in store. Standby for that. I’m moving from gold bars to silver. Woot Woot!

Deployment Chronicles–> Article 26 “SALALAH OMAN”

 

Salalah, Oman. The View.

Talking about the terrain.

Blow Hole

At the Water’s Edge

And this is two of the Pilot’s Dieter and Tink who went on the tours and who I stole all of the pictures above from. 😉

We just finished a two day trip in Salalah Oman and it has been by far the worst port visit thus far. AND here’s why… While we were in Bahrain last time, there was a drinking incident and long story short that got us all in trouble, therefore, while we are in the 5th fleet (Suez Canal up to the Persian Gulf) drinking has been banned for EVERYONE except for designated establishments or beer on the pier, none of which were available in Salalah Oman. The pier we pulled into was a sorry excuse for land I’ll tell you that. It was a rickety plank of wood with no railings that wasn’t even as long as our ship. It was a concern immediately when we pulled in because of what bad shape it was in.

& the rain came down. I have not seen rain since I left England back in May. It has been a hot desert wasteland with no reprieve, but on the morning of us pulling into Oman, you could see the sheets of rain up ahead and the down pour was coming. It hit hard as we blew into the small port and we were being pushed right towards the rickety pier, thank the lord for the tugs.

After we were moored, I was happy to sit back and watch everyone leave as I had duty. This meant 2 days off, but what I would be doing I had no idea, since there wasn’t much to the town and the no drinking thing was a huge bummer. What does Oman have to say for itself? Well there are 2 things. Salalah is the frankincense capital of the world. It is said that this is where the wise men picked up the frankincense and Mir before heading to Jesus’s manager to present him with the gifts at his birth. This is also where the grave of Job is said to be. There was a tour for the frankincense and Job’s tomb but for once I didn’t feel like going on a tour and decided to nix it off my list. The people who did go enjoyed it but I don’t think it was the best one.

The second morning we woke up ready to go, but were upsettedly deterred when the captain informed everyone that he was trying to get the one base club approved for drinking and that he wasn’t calling liberty call until the results came back for it. Ugh. We ended up waiting till 1300 (1pm) to leave in a liberty port so that was extremely disappointing but what can you do?!

While we were waiting we had to go get a tour of a South Korean warship. At first I tried adamantly to get out of it, but that was mostly because I was being forced into it and that makes me angry. I don’t want to be forced into anything, but when you are in any organization you are faced with things you don’t want to do, but you still have to do them. So I unhappily went on the tour, and once arriving my attitude changed quickly.

The captain was standing on the brow to greet us when we walked onboard. No one spoke any english except their one interpreter on board. They brought us to their wardroom and gave us treats and tea which was very good and then showed us a movie. The name of the ship was MUNMU the Great DDH976. They were very funny. Always laughing about stuff. I never knew about what, but it was contagious. It turns out that South Korea bought their first ship from the U.S. for 18,000 dollars and renovated it completely themselves. That was very interesting. In the pilot house they asked who stands Officer of the Deck. I pointed at myself and they were very surprised. They said only Lieutenant commanders and above stand the bridge watches because of all of the fishing nets right outside of Korea and of course they have North Korea right to the North which is never a good thing I’m sure.  They gave me a hot pink hat with MUNMU the great written on it and a coin! It was awesome! Their ship was So SO clean.

When we got back to our ship, they did receive approval that we were allowed to drink and that was the very good NEWS! We hopped on one of the buses and headed to the RITZ CARLTON to relax in the jacuzzi, eat dinner, and then head back for some beers.

 

This is us at dinner, with empty glasses… Not Drinking. Ugh! We still look happy though?

Along the way we were stopped at a red light. While sitting on the bus, I turned my head and there, right across the small street, was a car blazing on fire! I mean it was bad. There were like 6 people grouped around it trying to put the fire out and then all of a sudden the car started rolling backwards and there was a small explosion and huge flames erupted from the hood. It was very exciting. They got a fire extinguisher and put the fire out before the light turned green so it was all was over in a couple of minutes but I commentated the whole thing to the bus, complete with play by play of what was happening since I had the best angle. Haha.

After that we headed back into a tree filled area which had tons of banana trees and coconut trees. I didn’t know they grew bananas in Salahah! When we arrived at the hotel we got a room even though it was only for a few hours. There were 8 of us so it only ended up being about 23 dollars all together and we call it an ADMIN room, just a place where we can hang out and shower and then use the key to use all of the hotel facilities. I immediately jumped into my bathing suit and we were running for the beach in about 2 minutes flat. They had a swimming pool at the hotel and hot tub but it was right on the beach so I made a beeline for the ocean.

I ran as fast as I could to the sand. My feet haven’t touched grass in months so that was a pleasant experience as well. When I got to the beach there was a huge sign that said DANGER NO SWIMMING ALLOWED LARGE RIP CURRENTS. Pshhhh. I blew by that and looked around and there really wasn’t one person in the water but that didn’t bother me either. I ran straight into the ocean and fell happily into the first wave. It was magnificent. The waves on this beach were huge and the current was strong and the water was warm.

Everyone else joined me a few minutes later and that’s where we spent the majority of the little time we had. I came out of the water for a little while and just took off running down the beach with the wind whipping in my hair and blowing across my face. I felt pretty free. Better than I have felt in a long time.

We sat in the jacuzzi and then by that time it was getting late so we went back and all got a quick shower, ate dinner at the hotel which really wasn’t that good and headed back to the base for drinks!! While we were standing outside of the hotel waiting for the bus, this huge explosion occurred a second time and the lamp-post right in front of us exploded and a class charlie started! It was crazy. That was the second fire I saw in one day! It was burning all of this black smoke and all the lights went out outside of the hotel. The bus pulled up right then and I was like “let’s go people.” There was nothing we could do so we jumped on the bus and headed back. [As a disclaimer the hotel staff was informed before we left].

I promised everyone that I was going to hold two beers in both hands the entire night and when we arrived we only had 3 hours left so that is indeed what I did. This was my first experience with Kilkenny’s and it won’t be the last. I drank the first two as fast as lightning and I was feeling it after the first sip, its been over 30 days since my last drink. Haha.

 

Group Shott!

 

Being Funny.

After the second two I was slightly deterred by the captain who came over and asked me who the second beer I was holding was for. I just looked at him and smiled. He made me give it to him 😦 He said that he didn’t want his officers giving off the wrong impressions. Boo. Don’t worry though I continued to party on with only one beer.

We headed back and of course ended our drunken night in the wardroom with  mac and cheese. It was awesome as always.

The next day, drinking got banned because of something stupid that happened and so we spent the entire day at the Hilton since the Ritz was out of rooms and I ate sushi for lunch! Then we got massages and pedicures and lounged around all day. It was nice. We came back around 2300 and went to bed because we were getting underway early.

 

This is what we do when we can’t drink, Steal the spotlight from children at the pool’s slide.

That’s the end of the story.  Our next stop will be ROME!!!! Standby for that!

 

 

Deployment Chronicles–> Article 25 “I jumped overboard… FOR SWIM CALL!”

The best thing happened to the bridge watches starting last week. WE WENT TO FIVE SECTION!!! Its amazing. This means that instead of always having a rotating watch, we have the exact same watch every day! && I have the 12-1700. I couldn’t have been happier getting that as my daily watch since it is during the day and there are a lot of evolutions during the day. We stay very busy.

 Going to 5 section has led to two things:

  1. I now work out every morning on the aft missile deck and watch the sunrise. [Best part of the day 🙂 ]
  2. My energy levels are always up now and I’m not half asleep all the time. 

 Sunday was quite a day onboard the ship. It was a full day of relaxation and it was glorious. This is how it went.

Getting the brief.

       In the mornings on Sunday they do not pass any words, not even reveille… until noon. This allows us to sleep in and do whatever we want in the morning. After lunch our swim call started, right off the coast of Yemen! I was the officer of the deck so we had to go about 10 NM away from the swim call point to pump all of the VCHT over the side (poop) and then secure it so no one would be swimming in it. Ewww [that would be horribly gross if it happened]. Then we put our small boats in the water and went back towards the South where we would swim. They had people with guns on the bridge wings, aft missile deck, and in the small boats. It was for a shark watch. Now, you can imagine my uncertainty of jumping in the water when there’s that many people on a look out for sharks. It’s kind of freaky and since I’m deathly afraid of sharks I immediately thought of a back up plan and decided that if a shark was spotted instead of swimming for the ship I would swim to the small boats and have them pull me in. Hopefully this would work and deter the sharks from attacking me.

Setting up for the festivities!

K & I before swimming!

During… I can’t barely see with all the sun.    

     I of course, being the person I am, do everything, so I talked to someone for a relief, went and got my bathing suit on and headed out to the flight deck. There was already a group of people in the water. I was standing there watching people swim and I couldn’t quit thinking “we are so American.” We were off the coast of Yemen diving into the water and BLASTING country music, it felt just like a red neck yacht club. Haha. Everyone had to turn in their ID cards and take off all of their jewelry so it wouldn’t attract the marine life. I brought my goggles with me and they asked me if I wanted a life vest. I said thanks, but no. They blew the whistle for the first group to get out of the water and then it was our turn. As we were waiting for people to climb up the ladder, the captain walked out. He had told me at brunch that he was definitely not swimming, but I suppose he had changed his mind, and so there he was ready to go.

      Just as he was about to jump in the water, we heard DING DING, TRUXUTN DEPARTING, and as he jumped over the side, one last DING for the stinger. Everyone was laughing pretty hard. I was 2 rows behind so as I walked to the edge and peered over I knew that this was going to be FUN! I heard the whistle and I was in the middle of 3 people so I took a running leap and jumped as far out and as high as I could go as I plummeted downward. When I hit the water I went down pretty far, I could tell because of the pressure in my ears. When I surfaced I moved away from the group as everyone else was jumping in. I put on my goggles and dove down, but when I opened my eyes I got really freaked out because this was the deep water blue that you don’t see very often. I could easily see everyone in the water but then it just turned dark into nothingness. I ripped off my goggles when I came back up that time and I was really scared. I wouldn’t see a shark until it was upon me. I let some people borrow my goggles while I tried not to think about it, and then I decided to get past my fear and try again.

On the count of 3… JUMP!

      This time when I dove down I was facing the ship and when I opened my eyes under the water I saw the propellers, RIGHT THERE!!! They are huge! There are 2 on destroyers, only one on frigates, but it was crazy. Don’t worry (the engines were secured) but I was mesmerized. I kept bobbing up and then I would dive back down and look at the stern and the propellers and the under bottom of the ship. I didn’t go under the ship, don’t worry about that, but I was very close to it. 

     The last time I dove down, I saw a HUGE jelly fish just bobbing along, and that’s when I decided that I may have pushed my luck. It was this pink mass of mucus with some purple insides and since I have never been stung by a jelly fish, I didn’t want today to be my first. I surfaced again and told everyone around me about it and we moved away and swam for a little longer then we decided to head in. They had a pilot’s ladder and a cargo net draped over the side. Being the adventurer that I am I decided to go with the cargo net. My mistake. When I first started climbing I had to use just my arms to pull me up and there were two other people on the net so it was just swinging every which way.

Group shot from the ship.

       I began the ascent and I felt like I was on a crazy obstacle course trying to make it to the top before anyone else. By the time I was high enough to grab onto the rail I was huffing and puffing and completely out of breath. People had set out towels and were sunbathing on the flight deck. I had to go back up to watch, but I didn’t mind. After the swim call was over they set up for the Steel beach picnic and they grilled ribs, hotdogs, burgers, and chicken, they had 2 different flavors of pasta salad, baked beans, chips. It was lovely. While I was on watch, the sea hawk (our Nofolk Friend) flew onto the forecastle (front of the ship) with a huge fish in his claws and he ate it right on top of the 5 in. gun! He’s a pretty big bird.

Closer.

When I went back to the bridge from the last part of my watch WEPS (weapons officer)  was playing the ATTWO (Anti-Tactical action officer) and we both decided to go to the bridge wing and blast the beach boys via the LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) and if you’ve seen whale wars they use them on those vessels when they go after the whaling ships. Well lets just say the LRAD was acting up and instead of it playing music it was blasting this loud high pitched noise that freaked everyone on the flight deck out and we both got yelled at. I laughed so hard I had to hold on to the railing.

   

People struggling up that damn cargo net.

Once I got off watch I went back to the flight deck and they were just passing around popcorn for the flight deck movie. We watched Xmen the beginning (or whatever its called) and it was actually pretty good. It was pretty hilarious when they went to the scene where the Russian warship is about to cross some line and the American warship is waiting to stop them. That was pretty surreal since we were sitting on a warship and just laughing about how wrong everything was.

SAR (Search and Rescue) Swimmer hard at work. haha.

      Afterwards I helped clean up and then went to bed, I was quite exhausted.

      For Halloween I am dressing up as Sandy from Grease and J is dressing up as Danny. It should be pretty good. We had good reviews from our last bingo hosting, so we will see.

J & I hosting B-I-N-G-O! It was a success.

News photo pose.

      For my next biggest event I will be performing with Lt T, for dinner. He will be playing the guitar and I will be playing the violin. We’ve been practicing for 3 months now (well not him, but me) and he says I’m ready. We have our final practice this week. I will tell you how it goes. Good or bad.

 


Deployment Chronicles–> Article 24 “Pirate Update.”

I am finally yearning to be home again and doing all of the things normal people do. I WANT a Pumpkin spiced latte from Starbucks, and I want to kick leaves, and get my free nook book every Sunday at Barnes and Noble. Haha. It’s been pretty quiet on the Western front if you know what I mean. I have been turning over my current job as ASWO (anti Submarine Warfare Officer) and taking over as AUXO (Auxiliaries officer).  I’m now in charge of habitability items onboard the ship, such as the refrigerators, air conditioners, RO’s (which turn sea water into drinking water) and that kind of thing.

We have been doing some fun things on board, just yesterday they set up a big screen out on the flight deck and we watched THOR. It was exactly like the drive in back home, which made me miss being back in my small town where the highlight of the night is to go lay out on the grass and watch a movie. We were barely moving and we could see tons of stars and the breeze was a little warmer than room temperature. It was the perfect night for a movie. I also found out about our Sea Hawk friend that has been with us since deployment. There’s a Sea Hawk living on our flight deck and he has a nest and everything. During the day he sits and hangs out back there and then he goes out and hunts fish and then comes back. He was at movie night. I was very excited to finally meet him.

About a week ago something of special interest happened which I was trying to find the news article about but the internet is being VERY VERY slow tonight. All of the Officer of the Decks have been hanging out on the bridge wings during the night watch because the middle east heat has finally cooled down enough to be manageable and it is actually very enjoyable out there. That’s exactly where the Officer of the Deck was at the time when all of a sudden this huge blast of flame shot up in the air. She immediately called the captain who came straight to the bridge and it turns out that Al Qaeda (found out later in the news) had blown up a fuel line in Yemen, and the blast was so big that we could see it from our ship!!! Now we weren’t right off the coast, we were still a good ways, but still, it was very exciting. That’s pretty much all of the excitement we’ve really had in the past few weeks. I’m looking forward to the next port visit.

A SHIP FROM THE STRIKE GROUP UPDATE: M one of my room mate  friends from a CG sent out an exciting story that they participated in a week ago and I thought I would share that as well for a little more excitement. THIS STORY IS IN HER OWN WORDS (which is everything posted below except for my signature at the bottom):

A motor vessel was pirated and anchored off the coast of central Somalia. Apparently, two hostages on the ship, one Ukrainian, and one Algerian, after 292 days of being held hostage, had become very sick. A British ship had recently arrested 4 pirates, and so apparently, the pirates on the motor vessel had arranged through the Algerian government to release the 2 sick hostages if the British would release the 4 pirates. The Algerian government contacted 6th Fleet (the Mediterranean), who contacted 5th Fleet (the Middle East), who contacted my ship and they took tactical control of us to complete the task.

Our VBSS (Visit, Board, Search, Seizure) team took a small boat half way in between my ship and the motor vessel, where the pirates were waiting in a skiff with the two hostages. They handed over the hostages and everything was fine, until they got upset that we didn’t bring them any Jack Daniels whiskey (apparently someone told them that we would bring them whiskey…which doesn’t really line up with my research on Somali pirates…since they are Muslim and don’t drink at all…allegedly). We brought back the hostages. One was on a stretcher because he couldn’t walk, so we had to hoist him up onto the ship and then stretcher bearers had to take him back to the flight deck and put him in the helicopter.

5th Fleet positioned other ships in the area all along the Somali coast up to the Gulf of Aden. Our helicopter took the hostages up, lily padding one ship at a time, all the way up to the Gulf of Aden, to a big deck, a large US Amphibious ship that has a doctor onboard, where he was able to receive medical care and is now doing much better.


Deployment Chronicles–> Article 23 “The Seven Seas!”

So we pulled into Bahrain again… which was unexpected but nice. This time it did not turn into a casualty thank the lord. Instead we prepared to give the tour of our ship to 3 flag officers (admirals) and the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) of the Saudi Arabia Navy. It is crazy that I have now met the CNO of Saudi Arabia but not the CNO of America (Admiral Roughead). The first day we pulled in, it was very busy. I had a lot going on and when they called liberty I was not ready to go. No one felt like waiting for me so I had no liberty buddy.

This was not the end of the world because for this trip you could go without a liberty buddy but you could not leave the naval base and you could not drink. I wanted to drink a little bit so I was very frustrated, and the XO saved the day. He told me to sign out with him and the Captain. I agreed to. The best part was getting a ride from the CO’s sedan. I didn’t have to wait for the bus at all. I got to walk right off the ship and get in the car and we drove over to the base and I saw about 50 people waiting for the bus. That was pretty nice since it was already late evening and we would only have a few hours before liberty expiration.

When we arrived at the base, the CO and XO were going to some meeting, which I reluctantly attended. It did not seem like a fun time and when we arrived we were already the outcasts because everyone was wearing their uniforms and we were in civilian clothing. Everyone there was a lieutenant commander or higher so I did not fit in at all (I’m just a measly ensign). It was a typical SWO function. I’ve never enjoyed a SWO function yet. Well actually that’s not true. The best SWO function I ever attended was the SWO Christmas party at baby SWOS right after OCS. They let all of the ensigns stay very late with a keg of beer and we were just obnoxious. That was fun. This was not.

We immediately were segregated. There were only about 10 people there and there were definitely supposed to be at least 30. We were also the only ones drinking(I mean there was a keg, what else were we supposed to do?). Then about 10 minutes after we arrived Admiral G arrived. It was shocking to meet him since he was a person I had been studying for my SWO pin just a few days earlier. He is the deputy Commander for 5th fleet, 5th fleet = Bahrain. He’s kind of a big deal if you know what I mean. Of course everyone jumped up to greet him. We on the other hand, just stood in our group and kept talking.

Just a few minutes later he migrated over to us and it was very funny. We completely stole the show. My Captain apparently knew him from XO school and so they talked and then he turned to me and said, “You look familiar, have we met?” hahaha, yeah okay. I shook his hand and said, “No sir.” He then asked me my commission source and I told him OCS. He said, “O, which college?” I said, “West Virginia University.” He said, “O, where is that located?” Now if an admiral asks me that question the last answer I’m thinking he wants to hear is Morgantown, so I said, “West Virginia.” The captain and XO have not stopped making fun of me for that one. The admiral gave me some SWO advice and then he started talking to the captain.

We had quite an interesting conversation that I was actually happy to be a part of. It’s mostly classified but they did start talking about the engines and he asked the captain what kind of power our generators have. The captain looked at me since I have just been studying and should know the answer. I replied 4,800, but I didn’t say which units. I had been talking AMPS. He replied, “Wow, 4,800 KW, that’s a huge difference!” Instantly I knew that I was doomed. I had misinterpreted the question and given him the wrong information, but how do I correct myself to an admiral??? Of course I kept my mouth shut. As soon as he walked away, I turned to the captain and said, “I’m sorry!!!! I was wrong, I was thinking amps.” The CO and XO were dying laughing and told me I should correct myself if I get a chance. I never did.

The next day after the tour with the Saudi Arabians the captain came and found me and said, “I could have killed you. I was in the middle of giving the tour and Admiral G turned to the CNO of the Saudi Arabi Navy and said, “You’ll be excited to know that this ship is rated at 4,800 KW.” Ahh! I have caused a catastrophe. An admiral listened to my false information and told the CNO of Saudi Arabia! Sometimes its hard to be a SWO.

      

 

P.S. I sent this email to my dad right after it happened and he replied, “Way to go honey, never hesitate to confuse them about what’s under the hood!” haha.

Deployment Chronicles–> Article 22 “This Girl Got Pinned!

And so it finally happened!

After all of this time and all of the hard work, this girl finally got her SWO PIN.

I had a few boards leading up to the main one and each one was more intensive than the last. It was very challenging for me. Before I joined the Navy I couldn’t even tell you the difference between a first class and an officer. But if I can do it anyone can do it, I promise you that.

So when the final board arrived with the commanding officer, I was extremely nervous as always. I’ve never been a good                   boards-(wo)men. They make me very nervous and get sweaty palms but its part of the process I guess.

The wait for the board took 45 minutes, this is not unusual. They normally make you wait a long time, mostly because its hard to get all of the department heads, the XO, and the CO together while you are on deployment. While I was standing outside of the wardroom impatiently waiting for them to commence the board already, the Captain walked out of his cabin and right before he walked into the word room he leaned over and whispered “I’m pulling for you. Good luck.”

That made me feel less queasy. I went into the board and I felt good coming out but I definitely didn’t blow it out of the water. I wish I would have, but they can really ask you anything in the world and I just can’t know it all. Afterwards, I walked out into the p-way (hallway) for the deliberation. It seemed like an eternity but they finally called me back inside. The captain told me that I had definitely missed a few questions that he would like me to learn about, but he also told me that he’d seen me grow over the past year and he was very happy to give me my SWO pin. I was ecstatic! It felt really good. And afterwards, we celebrated in true Navy fashion with some cubans and the pilots on the bridge wing. It was so clutch. It just felt so good. 19 months I had poured into getting that stupid little gold pin. And all of a sudden I had it. After all that.

Captain & I

That pin… Finally!

The Pilots came to celebrate with me.

All of us, Smoking Cubans, Enjoying the Sunset. Glorious.

Deployment Chronicles–> Article 21 “DUBAI”

Over the past 2 weeks I had been smack talking to the captain about how I was definitely able to kick his ass at any video game he chose. Of course I really wasn’t sure of this fact, but I played it up excessively. Ha. Well, the night before we pulled in (TO DUBAI), it was game on! In the wardroom we had two XBOX’s set up, and I played on a projector while the captain played on a big screen tv. The game he chose was homefront, one that I’ve never played before, but I was ready for the challenge. We ended up playing for over 4 hours and it was awesome. During the game we both had a second although it was a one on one challenge, the captain’s second was the XO and my second was the JORG (most junior ensign on board). He helped coach me to victory… at times. haha.

We played 8 games. In the end I won 4 and the captain won 4. It was a draw, but it was neck and neck the whole time and very exciting. I had so much fun. I was screaming and yelling and the best part is when the most people were in the wardroom watching us play, I was winning!!! We both had a blast. At one point I was running around looking for him in the game and I thought I heard footsteps behind me, so when I turned around he was trying to sneak up on me. I got really scared and pulled the trigger it was a head shot hit even though I had closed my eyes. haha. He was not happy about that one.

DUBAI
Early the next morning we pulled into Dubai, the richest city in the middle east. I was once told that the streets in Dubai are lined in gold. This is not the case, but they might as well be. They have the tallest building in the entire world. A pair of twin towers are being built in Korea in 2015 and they are projected to be 151-story twin towers in Ichelon International City in Korea and will be the second tallest building in the world.

Projected second tallest Building in the world, located in Korea

The tallest building is called the Burj Khalifa and when you take an elevator to the top you never feel it moving. Its 126 stories high! I did not go inside, but I saw it. I also saw a hotel that is so rich and famous it’s supposed to be rated at 7 stars or higher. Each room has their own personal butler. It’s absolutely ridiculous. They live the high life over here.

The Big Kahuna of all Buildings, the Burj Khalifia located in downtown Dubai

Upon pulling in we had to complete our biggest stores unload this deployment thus far. It was over 75 pallets deep, plus 16 pallets of mail. Ahhhhh! I decided to put myself right in the front of the working party line and so off I went straight to the pier. It was miserably hot (112 degrees Fahrenheit) and I helped moved ALL of the stores. Wow. Even though I filled my water bottle up 4 times during that unload, I still felt extremely dehydrated the rest of the evening. After the stores on load was over, I collected my 4 packages from the mail pallets, including new clothes from Boden and leather boots from J-crew! This was very exciting because although I did some online shopping while on deployment, my things would come like 2 months later. haha. My two roommates and me had something like 12 packages between all of us and our room looked like a packaging center. The guys kept walking by and just shaking their head muttering things about women under their breath. We didn’t pay them close attention. It seemed like an eternity but finally the announcement was made and we were put on LIBERTY CALL!!

Our usual liberty group set off as fast as possible and we took a taxi to  downtown Dubai, where we went to dinner at the Hofbra House, which is located in the Marriott hotel. It had already grown dark when we started driving but everything was a sight to see. I couldn’t see things fast enough and I was sticking my head out the window, letting the wind rush against my face as I looked up at all the magnificent buildings. The Middle East is a hot dry place, but it is fascinating none the less. There’s apparently only two true Hofbra Houses in the world and one is in Munich and the other one is here in Dubai. They served beer by the liter! We had been our to sea for 5 weeks. What a bad idea!?!?? Haha. The waiters wore german style clothing with little hats and suspenders and when he brought out our round of 9 beers, it was delicious. The food was not the best. I have tried and tried, but german food just never seems very good to me. I’m all about the german beer though, and the stuffed pretzels. I could eat and drink that stuff all day.

We stayed at the Marriott until we had to go back to the ship which wasn’t very long because our liberty unfortunately expired at midnight. However, when we got back to the ship, they were serving beer on the pier and many people were out enjoying the festivities so of course we joined in. 5 new ensigns had flown in from Norfolk that evening and I was able to meet them.

The next day I had duty and it was pretty unexciting, so moving on.

The final day in Dubai we went back to the Marriott in the morning and this time we pretended like we were guests of the hotel and it was very ridiculous. We were so convincing that we were guests of the hotel, they allowed us to go to the top floor where the pool was and swim, && enjoy the swim up bar, which was just glorious. That is where we spent the rest of our day. The Marriott is right next to the Dubai airport and so as we were lounging on the top of the building you could watch all of the commercial airplanes coming in and taking off. Luckily, the swim up bar had just enough seats for the 6 of us. It was awesome. We took the specialty drink menu and just started ordering each drink down the line. Shortly after we had taken up residence at the pool bar this guy came over to us with wings tattooed right on his chest. It turns out he’s a recently retired marine pilot that flies commercially now (like my neighbor from back home). That was pretty cool. We talked to him for a while. The flight attendants and the pilots all stay at the hotel and leave together to go to the airport (we saw them leaving later on in the evening.)

After a few drinks I left with Dieter to go to the spice Souq, which was very interesting in and of itself. Dieter is one of the best bargainers I’ve ever seen. We took a taxi and at the water harbor we saw tons of dhow’s (small wooden crafts that transport cargo out here in the gulf) tied up to the piers 3 across and stores everywhere! It was a very bustling place with people jumping from dhow to dhow as they lifted cargo up. I loved it!

Dieter, checking out some Gold at the Gold Souq

Me at the gold Souq, I look horrible because I had just gotten out of the swimming pool!

Walking around at the Gold Souq

Then walking down the street to the Spice Souq

Checking out some of the spices available

Bushels and Bushels of spices!

We found all natural viagra! hahaha.

Dieter Bargaining is the best!

Snake oil drops… what are those for?!

We did some serious shopping and got all kinds of spices. I got fresh pepper and mixed curry for chicken, and all kinds of packets. We tried mints and fresh vanilla and very tasty chocolate treats. Afterwards we went back to the Marriott and went to this extremely ritzy (we were very  under dressed) restaurant and it was AMAZING! I had a plate of char grilled lamb chops, that were mouthwateringly delicious. We drank 3 bottles of red wine with the steak and absolutely stuffed ourselves. They brought us bread and all sorts of small treats, compliments of the chef.:)

Shacker looking at the menu. It was quite the menu all on one side!

Then it was back to the ship again, and our usual mac and cheese late night snack in the wardroom. Overall a VERY VERY successful trip.

I was very sad to find out that I would be leaving my division. They are moving me to the engineering department. This is very sad. I have been holding a huge grudge and do not want to go… I will be turning over next week and taking over as AUXO at the end of next month. This is very sad news and good news to. I will now be working on my EOOW letter, which is engineering officer of the watch and a huge deal to get. I still have some time, so I suppose I will give it a shot.