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 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.