Deployment Chronicles–> Acticle 16 “Bahrain #3”

The day after we stayed at the hotel, we slept in and woke up for breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Then we stationed ourselves back in the pool with good morning beers. They were delicious. We did this pretty much for the rest of the day until we had to check out, which was around 1700. It was pretty funny because we kept ordering drinks from the bar and there was really nobody else outside but the bartenders kept taking longer and longer to bring us our drinks and they kept getting smaller and smaller. This made us laugh A LOT.

Unfortunately Ramadan was scheduled to start the next day which was the first, but the good news is that we were leaving the next day so it wouldn’t really affect us. What is Ramadan you are asking? This is the direct definition from Wikipedia, I know I’m not being very original but I don’t have time for original right now:

“Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. Sexual intercourse among spouses is allowed after one has ended the daily fast. During fasting, intercourse is prohibited as well as eating and drinking, and resistance of all temptations is encouraged. Purity of both thoughts and actions is important. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm.”

After we got out of the pool showered and checked out of our rooms, we took a taxi to the main SOUQ to pick up all the suits they had made, which were fabulous, and I picked up the blazer that I had designed and measured to fit me. I love it!!! Its made of black cashmere wool and it has 3 quarter length sleeves and when you roll it up there’s a different material inside completely so I can leave it down or have different colored cuffs. I can’t wait to wear it out! We shopped around for a bit then went to the carpet place so we could get a last-minute look at the carpets and say one last goodbye to Abdul the carpet guy. Then we went across the street for some home style Middle East cuisine. It was pretty inexpensive (or at least I seemed to always think this since everything was in BD but you have to times 2.75 to that total for US dollars) and we just ordered like 10 different things on the menu and had quite the feast. It was delicious. Afterwards we headed back to the ship.

This is the moment when I was informed of some bad news. As I walked across the brow onto the ship, 3 chiefs were waiting on the quarterdeck and they all started talking at once. “Mam have you gotten the word? Mam do you know what has happened? Mam?” Of course I didn’t. The only people who have cellphones on them when traveling abroad are the CO, the XO, and the master chief. I kind of like that, because no one can get a hold of me in case there is an emergency, like this (I’m just being honest).

They told me there was a major issue with one very important piece of equipment that I as the ASWO, owned. The alarms sounded around 1600 and when I arrived back it was 2300. The captain has been recalled to the ship, as soon as they had found out and I was told to go and talk with my guys and find senior chief immediately. Of course I was on the move at once. I ran down and found senior and immediately asked what the problem was. He told me the situation and things were not good. We both went to the equipment in question and did a twice over. A bad sign is all I can say. The greatest thing was that my senior chief was on duty that day so he was there to put protective measures in place. This was very good news because I’m not sure anyone else would have known what to do. I went to bed with a sinking feeling that night because there was an incident at the beginning of deployment and it seemed very related to what had happened this afternoon. My job is SOO stressfull!

The next morning we were all in overdrive. After we confirmed the worst, I had to attend numerous meetings with  personnel and a teleconference with Norfolk technicians. They flew four technicians to Bahrain the very next day and one of them has become a personal acquaintance that always repairs my equipment in Norfolk named Dwayne. The days were long for my guys who now had to undertake a 24 hour-long watch in a room that was about 90 degrees because the air conditioning vent had broken. We worked out a bunch of things, such as how they would conduct repairs and then the wait began.

We already knew that we were going to be delayed in Bahrain until after the investigation and till the casualty was fixed which ended up being about 16 extra days. The only thing to do was toughen up and get through it. I spent a lot of my time determining how to get parts and the repair path ahead. At this time we were completely restricted to base because of Ramadan, and the only place to hang out was the Bahrain officer’s club. The one in Bahrain is quite boring actually. Then again, I guess I can’t be too picky since there was beer and I wasn’t underway and standing watch.

Our days started early but they ended early, a thing called tropical hours which they practice on the ships in pearl harbor. This leaves more time in the evening for hanging out, plus we were battling 112 degree heat, so starting early helped curb the suffering, sweltering, weather… slightly. I was up at 0430 and it was go go go until finally I couldn’t do much else. When I would leave the ship my first stop every day was to the base pool. It was an outdoor lap pool that had the best invention ever. Music… Under the water! As you swim laps you can hear music under the water. I was loving it. There was a group of people from the ship who would head over to work out every afternoon and soon the competitions began and we swam races against each other every day. It was actually very fun!

Afterwards I would walk over to the base building which had everything of importance to us inside. They had a Nex, which is a grocery store and deli, the enlisted club, chiefs club, officer’s club, and food court. I would go to the smoothie guy and get a fresh smoothie made with strawberries, pineapple, and mango, and then it was off to the NEX to stock up on whatever the fancy of the day was. Afterwards I would get a light dinner and head on over to the officer’s club where drinking usually ensued. This is also the land of Shwarma’s! Shwarma’s are these mini pitas that have gyro meat in them with french fries and cheese and lettuce. Everyone here loves them and there is an outdoor vendor that you can buy them from. They are amazing! This was pretty much the routine except for the days that I had duty. I tried very hard to have good face time and internet but unfortunately high-speed internet isn’t really high-speed unless you’re in the U.S.

On the second day restricted to base, I took the diamonds I bought in Hafia, printed out a picture of the setting I wanted and took it to the NEX jeweler. They were happy to set them for me and for a very reasonable price. When I went back 3 days later and saw them I was stunned by their brilliance. I actually have diamond earrings.

But I guess this is all I have to write for now. Stay tuned for the next installment.

Deployment Chronicles–> Article 15 “Bahrain #2”

I am still trying to catch up on past few days in Bahrain and so I will continue the tale.

Friday was the big day!! At first they told us that we were going to be restricted to the Bahrain base starting on Friday, but then they changed their minds because Ramadan didn’t actually start until the 1st  (More about that later). Originally there was no overnight liberty for Friday only Wednesday and Thursday, which I had duty Thursday, so that was a huge bummer.

But Alas!, as it turns out the Captain did authorize overnight liberty on Friday but he told the department heads that evening  right before he left, so it was very hard to route a chit through since it had to be bottom-lined by the captain. Unfortunately that’s the only way to get you overnight in foreign countries.

Quickly we did some research and members of a medical detachment on board were staying at the Diplomat Hotel so that’s where we decided to go for our overnight. We had every intention of leaving right after the duty swap the next morning to head for the hotel, but of course the captain was sleeping and as stated above we absolutely had to get the chits signed before we could leave. Around 0930, the two other girls I was going with and myself started to get very antsy and I finally just decided to call the captain and ask him to sign the chits. We flipped a coin for it and of course I failed. Someone was going to have to call because we had signed up for the most expensive brunch of my life and we had to be to the hotel by 1100 to enjoy it. He answered the phone and he didn’t seem happy when he answered but he told me that he would sign them in a half hour. When I went to his stateroom he questioned me about where we were staying and what we were doing I think he was concerned with our well-being, but he did sign the chits after all and off we were running… Or so we thought.

I was so excited and we were trying to run off the brow to catch a cab to the hotel but At the brow (the plank between the ship and the pier where you debark), the Officer of the Deck stopped us and told us that the Combat Systems Officer (CSO) wanted to speak with H. This is where the drama began. H had paid someone to switch duty with her so she could get an overnight with us in Bahrain and that somebody had let it slip to (CSO)  How stupid! I mean everyone knows that you can’t pay someone to take your duty but EVERYONE does it anyway because there’s an unwritten line which everyone agrees upon. We had to wait on board the ship while H received a huge ass reaming from three different people, BUT they still allowed her to go with us so who really cares? Not us. That was when the fun finally began.

We made it to the hotel just in time and it was a feast to behold. This was what it must have been like in olden times when everyone ate a big feast at a castle. There were 10 HUGE tables with all different types of food, sushi, Mexican food, sea food, breakfast food, Greek food, I mean you name it they had it. Included was champagne and beer. We drank unlimited mimosas for 3 hours straight, it was actually quite ridiculous now that I think about it. We went through 22 bottles of champagne in 3 hours between 8 people (we met up with 4 of the medical officers that had debarked our ship in Bahrain and one of them was friends with a NAVY SEAL who was stationed in Bahrain).

There was a Philippine band playing music and they don’t know any music greater than the 1990s so it was a welcome flash back, I felt like I was at somebodies wedding. A guy who had transferred from my ship before deployment was also there and he is on a PC so I talked to him about his second tour and new life and what he thought. He is loving it. On the smaller ship there are only a few officers so they do 5 different jobs instead of just one and they run the show right beside the captain. It is really cool to take a position like that for a second tour but also a lot of responsibility.

When I couldn’t eat another bite we went to check out our room, which was absolutely gorgeous and a suite at a 5 star hotel, to change into our bathing suits and head down to the pool. H wouldn’t come, she wanted to stay and hang out with the medical nurses and continue drinking. She was confused because as soon as we got poolside we ordered drinks, but I was too lazy to go tell her to get her butt outside.  4 other officer’s from our ship had stayed at the same hotel the night before and they saw us and they ended up coming out to the pool to hang out as well. And so it began. It was a glorious day.

It was extremely hot outside (112 degrees) but somehow I did not get sunburned which is crazy since I’m very white and did not wear sunscreen. The middle eastern men were very taken with us since we were all in bikinis and actually in the pool, where as all of the middle eastern women were clothed from head to toe in their black sheer attire, and sitting on lawn chairs. It must be so hot to wear those all day, but they looked relatively comfortable. One guy even insisted on giving me his number even though I told him 3 times that I didn’t have a phone.

In the early evening many of the other officers had showed up and the chicken fights began, we were just trying to bring a little bit of America to the middle east. Haha. It was the most fun I’ve had in the past few months, and it was with other officer’s from the wardroom… weird. In the early evening we went back to our hotel rooms to get ready for dinner. The shower was huge and it had a very large shower head mounted to the ceiling in the middle of the bathtub. It was glorious. I blasted some Miley Cyrus and danced around with plenty of room the bathtub/shower was so ginormous. After we dressed for dinner we went downstairs and ate at one of the hotel restaurants. There were 15 of us and we were the only ones at the restaurant so it was very nice.

Afterwards a huge group of the officers had to go back to the ship before liberty expiration and the girls and I went back to our room to Skype with family and enjoy our time in the hotel room away from the ship and all of the people on it.

I still heave a sigh of contentment when I remember it.

TO BE CONTINUED