Deployment Chronicles–> Article 19 “A Rescue”

And so the monotony of life at sea has finally set in. I can’t wait to pull into the next port! I’m ticking off the days on my calendar and waiting impatiently for land. I don’t know if you understand what its like to pine for solid ground.

The girls have fought back! The other night we neglected all of our work and obligations and had this huge karaoke night in the wardroom. It was very obnoxious and perfectly what we needed after the stresses of sea life. At first it started in one of the staterooms and my friend K has this plug in karaoke machine that has thousands of songs on it and 2 microphones. The helo was taking off so H was back there because she’s the helo control officer so we called her and told her to get her butt up  to the stateroom as soon as she was finished. I was a back up dancer. We were totally ridiculous. She came up and joined in so there were 5 of us all together.

We started getting really loud at this point and we were laughing hysterically because myself and E cannot sing… AT ALL. I mean I don’t think you can even begin to understand how bad I am. I have never karaoke’d in public, not even if I was really drunk, because I still think I would be told to get off the stage. It’s seriously that bad. So the fact that I was even participating in this, means I was loopy.

H and K were actually pretty good singers, and E and I were really bringing them down. Well a few minutes after we started getting really loud there came a loud knock on the door and this officer from the medical detachment was standing there looking very aggravated. She started yelling at us, telling us to keep it down, saying that she was very busy, la-de-da. Seeming that none of the medical officers onboard really do anything, we knew that was not true, so we just laughed and she was furious. We told her we would be quieter and then as soon as we shut the door we were louder than before. I was willing to start that war, even though she outranked us. haha.

She didn’t come back but we decided to move our party to the wardroom and so we did. 5 minutes later she walked in to eat dinner all of a
sudden even though dinner was over and she was glaring at us. We sang louder and danced around until she left. It was awesome.

I had my second SWO board for my pin, two days ago and I passed! I have to go before the captain for my final board and he will drill me with questions and then if he thinks I am ready he will sign my letter and I will get my pin.

While I was on watch a few days ago around 0330 in the morning someone started screaming frantically on the bridge to bridge radio saying their ship was being attacked and they needed assistance immediately. I of course picked up the phone and started talking to them. We were collecting information, but the position was too far for us to provide immediate assistance so another ship in the area went in for the rescue. Their ship was on fire and it was an oil tanker so that is not a good thing. There were explosions coming from the engine room and everyone had run to the bridge and locked themselves inside. Shortly after, they abandoned ship. The Philippine Sea was pulling them out of the water approximately an hour later. I couldn’t believe that I was the first contact with them, it was pretty cool.

It’s a vicious world out here. The merchant vessels are very vulnerable and I would be extremely afraid to be on a merchant vessel crossing this part of the world. Being held hostage for over a year is not in my life plan.

Since our next port is going to be extended, we are planning different things to do such as a paintball tournament. This I am very excited
about. I love playing paintball! And we will have dinner parties. SUPPO, will have a wedding down. He was just promoted from LT to Lieutenant Commander and normally when you go up a pay grade you take the wardroom out for a party called a “wedding down” in which you are supposed to spend at a minimum the difference of your pay-grade. He said I could help him plan it!!! I love planning party’s!

Well there’s not a whole lot going on at the moment. I’m reading a very engrossing novel called Unbroken about Louie Zamperini an Olympic runner who got drafted into the War in 1941 and was on a B-24 Liberator which ended up crashing in the ocean. He and the pilot survived and floated for 40 days some 2,000 miles to the Marshall Islands where they were picked up and put into a POW camp by the Japanese. It’s a very intense and emotional read but I can’t put it down. More soon!

Deployment Chronicles–> Article 8 “The Rock”

Let’s see where do I even begin??? We’ve been in a whirlwind of activity the past few days! I unfortunately lost my voice three days ago but I’m still talking as much as usual so this has not gone well for me. The ship was given the small pox vaccination over past few weeks in preparation of our world travels and the shot leaves a pretty nasty black lump on your arm if you’re familiar. Some of the symptoms can be common cold like things, so my cough and loss of voice is due to that… I think.

A few days ago we were out playing chase with the carrier and it is not my most favorite thing to do. Basically while the carrier conducts flight ops, which is all the time, they have a smaller ship very close and offset behind them in case there is a crash. At night it also sets the planes up for their landing when they are coming in. The idea of cyclic flight ops is actually quite in genius.

They have a group of F-18’s take off, plus some other aircraft, and they start at a very high altitude and circle down in this big race track loop and when you get to the bottom altitude you land. A few months ago I actually stood out on the bridge wing and watched it for a few hours so I finally started to understand how it works. We had not played this game with the carrier in a while so the Captain was on the bridge with about 3 other Lieutenants (LT’s) and there was a lot of yelling to say the least. One of the main reasons is because once the aircraft takes off from the carrier they turn around and steam back to the beginning point very fast so they can turn around and recover their aircraft with the right winds. We must chase after them and its always nerve racking to be out steaming so close to the carrier. Here is a diagram that might explain it a little bit better.

By the end of watch we had it down and the Captain was actually sleeping in his chair. Ha. I talked to J about his room on the carrier since all officers are normally right underneath the flight deck. He said it is SOO LOUD as they get catapulted off and when they are landing. I can only imagine. They were flying in pairs and two flew by our ship and it was a loud roar as they were zooming past. I ran out to the bridge wing and waved, I don’t think they saw me.

A few days after that we had an UNREP (this is where you come alongside of a oiler for fuel and stores) so we also had our first real Vertrep in which a helo brings pallets of food and drops it off on the flight deck. This is how we get stores without pulling into ports.

Well I was a conning officer which means I was driving the ship while within 200ft. of the other oiler. As I said before my voice was pretty much gone and I just had a bad feeling about this one. As soon as I got up their I realized that it was pretty windy and very hard to hear. I was setting myself up for a battle the whole time shouting and trying to be loud enough.

Well, I took the CONN from one of the other junior officers and not two minutes after I did, two very bad things happened. One I waited a little bit too long to speed up when we were falling back and two I ordered a left course change instead of a right course change and no one was paying attention to me so no one caught it, not even myself and I had been up there on the Conn for about 6 times previously.

That .5 degree course change in the wrong direction was not good. As we sped up the ship to regain position, the pocket of water between us and the oiler since we are only 160ft. away pushed us out just from the dynamics of it. And when I gave a left order instead of a right to come back, we got pushed out really far. So far in fact that the fuel lines popped out with a loud pop. I was just watching it happen and everyone started screaming. The captain jumped out of his seat and got really close to me and started giving me orders. I followed all of them promptly but I was really shocked with the events.

My hand was clutching the phone that I was yelling into, and I was gripping it so tightly my hand was actually asleep and cramping and I couldn’t even move it. These are the  no shit moments when you make it or break it. My only consolance was that the captain did not fire me and allowed me to finish conning till we broke away although we never were able to regain fuel at that station.

Some of the gages cracked and the pressure was very high so they couldn’t bring the lines back across. At the debreif afterwards I told everyone it was my fault that we had lost the fuel lines and about the screw up I had made. It was very hard since normally I do a pretty good job, but I mean when you screw up you must fess up. I had watch after that and the captain came up to the bridge and asked to speak to me on the bridge wing. I was freaking out because I had a very bad feeling I was going to get yelled at. It was quite the opposite actually.

He told me that he has not lost any confidence in my ability. He said the conning coach screwed up too because he did not have his full undivided attention on me as I was conning. He finally said that he has done a laundry list of things in his naval career that are horrible and I should think about what happened today because it wasn’t good, but I should get over it and move on, because that’s all I can do. So encouraging in fact that I lost no sleep that night. It was a HUGE lesson learned though. I don’t ever want to mess up an UNREP again.

A few other days ago we transited the STROG, which is the straits of Gibraltor. See the pictures attached because they are very informative (Thanks M!). So when you enter the STROG you are able to see Europe on your left and Africa on your right. It is very cool.

This was sort of how we transited across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

If you see Spain and Morocco that very small slit between the pink and the purple of the 2 countries is where the Straits of Gibraltar (STROG) is located. You can see both countries as you sail by.

A gorgeous picture of Morocco.

Proof that I was there!

I have a port coming up shortly and I signed up for 2 tours that sound absolutely amazing. I must go now though, I have watch shortly and have to do my rounds beforehand. See ya!

Holding “The Rock” in my hands!





Deployment Chronicles- Article 7 “Dancing Penguin”

It has been an eventful last 48 hours to say the least. I was up for 30+ hours of them so I would know. Haha. Why I haven’t started drinking coffee yet I may never know. We have been  extraordinarily busy today and by we I mean my division and I specifically. Two nights ago we had a scenario and it was 10 hours long and it didn’t start till midnight. I had the watch before that, so I was already an unhappy camper coming into it and my mood only got worse. At 1900 the next evening when I was still awake and had barely sat down for 5 sec. and had missed two meals, pretty much everyone commented on how ridiculous I was acting. I just chalked it up to series of unfortunate circumstances.

We’ve been doing a lot shiptastics lately (that’s a combination of ships + gymnastics AKA DIVTACS). That’s basically when all the ships in the formation are steaming along and then a signal is given for example–> all ships form into a straight line with 2,000 yard spacing, it will say execute to follow and we take a few minutes to prepare and then they will say standby, execute and all of the ships in the formation move to their specific position promulgated by the signal. Overall it looks pretty cool because we make formations such as diamonds and columns and reverse the order, but it is also very stressful because you are in close vicinity with 4 other ships and the captain comes to the bridge and normally yells a lot.

Well I had been so exhausted from not sleeping that I kind of slept through that training a little bit since there’s like 15 ensigns on board I thought it would be okay if I wasn’t up there for the beginning. That did not go over very well because when I did come to the bridge I got yelled at. Later, at the underway replenishment brief [under way replenishment is when you come alongside another ship, normally an oilier and take on fuel] I was dismayed to find my name on the watch bill under the dancing penguin.

Let me tell you a little bit about the penguin  and how he came into existence. The mascot on board my ship is the penguin mostly due to the fact that the Commodore the ship was named after, used to bring penguins on board the ships he commanded, as pets. The chief’s mess has since embraced that concept and they have collected a small pile of stuffed penguins in which they put on display. [They have this one specific penguin they use for everything and the wardroom has already opened that can of worms and stole it so we are waiting for the rebuttal still.]

One of the ensign’s had told his mom about having the mascot as a penguin and she loved the idea and went and bought him a full body penguin suit to wear around. During underway replenishment’s when you are coming alongside the oiler the tradition [that just started since our deployment] is that the penguin will go outside and dance his little heart out as we pull up to the other ship and he will dance again, we break away. Since J brought the penguin suit he was the first one to wear it last week. And my did he make me laugh. He was out there doing all kinds of crazy things such as pretending to lay eggs and then throw them at people and “making it rain” if you know that term. It was pretty funny.

During the next underway replenishment two days later the watch bill had since come into existence for the dancing penguin and I found my name on that space. To be truthful I didn’t really want to do it, but I finally decided to go ahead and just suck it up and make a fool out of myself. Sooo, I did just that. I prepared a play list mostly comprised of B. Spears, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Cascada, and the mama mia soundtrack, and then I went out there and definitely killed it
in the penguin suit. They were loving it.

I also danced the entire time which was two and half hours, so I brought this thing to a whole new level. I even busted out my signature move  and that is the shopping cart, with my personal twist. People were practically rolling on the ground in laughter. When we came alongside the oiler I ran out to the Forecastle which is the forward most part of the ship and danced right behind the line of people out there standing in ranks. Overall I consider it to be a huge success.

Today we brought 6 Spanish officers on board and they are staying for a few days kind of like when I went to the Japanese ship and stayed with them for a day. We have a few on board and they actually do speak Spanish so the barrier is not so thick and they already seem to be enjoying themselves. The foreigners love our ships and I’m pretty sure that its because we have ice cream on board. [Well at least what the pilots haven’t totally demolished yet. urgh. ha!].

We are currently 5 hours ahead of the east coast, so I am quite exhausted.

Deployment Chronicles- Article 5 “BLOODHOUND AWARD FOLLOW UP!”

For this article I’m going to refer you to a previous article written before the Deployment Chronicles began.  That kind of gives you an idea of what the bloodhound award is and why it is very important to me.

If you don’t have time to read that article, then a quick recap is that the bloodhound award is presented once a year one winner for the Pacific fleet and one winner for the Atlantic fleet. Its kind of a big deal because it distinguishes you from all other ships on the water front and makes you the best ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare) ship there is. Anti Submarine Warfare is basically the ability to locate and stay away from submarines. Onboard I am the ASWO (Anti Submarine Warfare Officer), so you can see how important the ASW 2010 Bloodhound award was to me.

Well, we submitted for the award in December and the results were said to come out in March of 2011. I was really keeping my fingers crossed but there were quite a few people who were very skeptical, including my senior chief and the captain. I spent A LOT of time on the write up and it was very fun seeing everything unfold that we had accomplished over the past year.

When we submitted it to the Desron (the next higher chain of command off ship) I blew a kiss, crossed my fingers, and could only hope for the best. A few months later we found out that they had chosen us as their representative for the fleet wide competition. This would be all East coast nominated ships. Now we really had a chance…

A few weeks later I was sent to Rhode Island to attend the Advanced Surface Warfare Officer School (SWOS) class which is a requirement before you can get a SWO pin. Its a 3 week long course that prepares you for your final boards to get your pin once you get back to your ship and its a requirement to get the pin, so you have to pass.

During the three week period our ship had gotten underway and one night when I was sitting in my room studying for one of the tests, I got a call from an unfamiliar number and decided to answer it anyway. I always answer my phone just in case its someone from the ship.

It turns out it was my Weapons officer and this is how the conversation went:

Weapons Officer (WEPS), My department head: “Hello Ms. H, is there something you think we should talk about?”

Me:  “I don’t know. The ship is underway. Did something happen? Is everything okay?” I immediately went into panic mode because the ship was underway and I was being called. Never a good sign.

WEPS: “I just talked to the Senior Chief from the Desron and he said he had asked you for some important information on the bloodhound award and you never sent him what he was looking for.”

Me: “What?! That’s absolutely not true! I would have for sure followed through with anything regarding the bloodhound award. I promise you that.”

WEPS: “So your telling me you never received the email he sent?”

Me: “No! When did he send it?!???” In my mind I was completely devastated, thinking I had dropped the ball big time on my division’s behalf.

WEPS: “He must of sent it right after you left for RI, so I guess that’s it. We lost our chance at the bloodhound award.”

Me: “That’s completely impossible, I submitted everything on the requirements list. You’ve got to be kidding me.”

WEPS: “I am. We won. We are the 2010 Bloodhound Award winners.”

Me: I mean seriously. Wait. WHAT?!???? WE WON? WE WON?” Then  I was on my feet screaming and jumping around and I jumped onto the bed and I was completely ecstatic. Best news ever. Shortly afterward it sunk in that WEPS had completely duped me.

Me: “WEPS. How dare you trick me like that! What the F*** were you thinking?!??”

WEPS: “Shhhhhh…” I could hear him fumbling on the phone. ‘I am in the captain’s state room with a few other department heads and you were just on speaker phone!”

Me: “Ahhhh! Well I don’t care. You shouldn’t have tricked me like that!”

And that’s how I found out that we were the 2010 bloodhound award winners. I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to be with my division when we initially found out and it was first sinking in because I’m pretty sure that would have been an awesome time too.

Anyway. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.

So we found that out in late March but we were not presented the award itself until after we deployed because the commodore wanted to be the one to present it to us. And that is where this comes into play on the deployment time line. Enjoy the pics!

PREVIOUS<– Article 4 “Portsmouth England News Article”

NEXT–> Article 6 “London”

Deployment Chronicles- Article 4 “Portsmouth England News Article”

This was a news article that was released a day before we pulled into our first port visit, which was very very exciting! Enjoy:

________________________________________________________________________________________

The Yanks Are Coming!

(PORTSMOUTH NEWS (UK)

Portsmouth is bracing itself for the arrival of up to 6,000 American
sailors as the world’s newest and most powerful warship anchors in the
Solent.

USS George H W Bush will drop anchor in Stokes Bay, Gosport, on Friday
after taking part in the biggest training exercise hosted by the Royal
Navy in recent years.

The 1,100ft super carrier – with a ship’s company of more than 5,300 –
will be joined by an American destroyer and the Spanish frigate
ESPS Almirante Juan De Borbon – meaning almost 6,000 sailors and airmen
will descend on the city until Tuesday.

Portsmouth bars and clubs are preparing for a bumper bank holiday
weekend as the sailors let off steam.

Peter Emery, Gunwharf Quays centre manager, said: ‘US ships have come
alongside here before, and what tends to happen is it provides a huge
boost to everything from retail to food and beverages. Last time they
came we had been drunk completely dry of Budweiser within a couple of
days, so we are bearing that in mind. <–(Bidweiser. Really?!                                                                                                                        Wouldn’t have guessed that.)
‘But in general the Americans are incredibly well behaved and act like
absolute gentlemen.’ <–(they forgot to add “and ladies” to this sentence.)

Southsea seafront manager David Evans said: ‘The cafes, pubs and bars
will obviously benefit, but they might also take this opportunity to
visit the D-Day and Royal Marines Museums. Obviously they could travel
up to London, but I’m sure many of them will take advantage of the
opportunity to explore Portsmouth.’

A mammoth policing operation has been planned for the weekend, with the
US Navy paying Hampshire Police to provide two extra sergeants and 12
extra police officers to patrol the streets. They will be joined by six
senior US sailors.

While more senior ranking US sailors have been given extended shore
leave and may head to London, many junior ranked sailors are set to hit
Portsmouth as they will have to be back on board by 1am each morning.

The Bush – named after the US President who held office in 1989 to 1993
– is the largest US warship to stay over since USS Theodore Roosevelt
stopped in Stokes Bay in 2009.

Police operations planner PC Alan Hockley said: ‘In 2009 [the operation]
went fine.

‘We had no issues

**This is all I’m going to leave you with tonight, stay tuned for updates on our first port visit of the deployment!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PREVIOUS<– Article 3 “The Brits”

NEXT–> Article 5 “Bloodhound Award Followup”

Deployment Chronicles- Article 3 “The Brits”

Another update! Well as you know I don’t sleep very often and to add to my stress I was in talking to the captain last night and at the end of our conversation concering submarine tactics he asked me if I’m ready for my officer of the deck board. I told him that I was but I had not been able to schedule one thus far. He said consider it done, your Officer of the Deck [OOD] is this week. I walked out of his room and shook my fist at the ceiling. I don’t know that I’m completely, but I suppose I am as ready as I’ll ever be.. He wants me to get it before our first port visit and that’s in 9 days! I feel very perplexed and even more stressed but I made some phone calls and I’m getting support from the other officers so I guess no sleeping for me at all this next week… I might actually have to drink an energy drink! How horrible 😦

Last night 6 brittish officers and chiefs from the royal navy came onboard and stayed till this morning and to talk tactics. A warrant officer equivalent to an E-9 or masterchief in our navy was the anti submarine specialist and his name was Rocky. What a great guy. An older gentlemen full of gestures and good humor. I just love the brits! They were making jokes and overall have always been an enjoyable group this far. Of course I slide right into the british aire, if you will. I was walking around saying “top of the morning to you” at midnight last night and “bloody hell” when things weren’t going well. O how we laughed. Rocky has been in the British navy for quite some time and is full of experience. I talked with him late into the night. They left this morning via helo. I bought him a ball cap and waved him off and he was just delighted.

Yesterday while I was studying for my OOD board in the wardroom [the place where all the officers hang out], a warrant officer came in and there’s one thing you should know about warrant officers. NEVER PISS THEM OFF. They are a bunch of sea rugged, well educated, specialized people, who become officers because of their high stature and they can do pretty much anything and get away with it. It is not advisible for a junior officer to walk in their way at any time. You don’t believe me, just ask a few of them on my ship. But me, I disregard all of this politics and I have become good friends with all of them. ha. He tells me many stories about the days of the gulf war and there’s one in particular that I would like to share. One of the warrant officers told me about his first deployment during the gulf war when he was only 18. We had been going over engineering situations and I got into a debate with him over a casualty and how long you could steam before having to pull in somewhere to fix it. He said, “trust me, I win, my first ship steamed with this casualty for 4 months while deployed before we got home and had it fixed.”

“I said “what!? no way.”

He told me that he was off the coast of Iran on christmas day [his first deployment lasted 11.5 months instead of 6 due to continuous tasking] and they had authorized their ship to attack Iran with all the tomahawk missles they carried on board. On Christmas day! And so they did. They put in the firing keys turned on the missle switchboards and unloaded every opposition missle they carried until they only had defensive missles left. And while they fired all of these missiles two at a time the captain from the bridge blasted here comes santa claus over the 1MC [the loud speaker system]!! O my! That would have been quite an
experience.

He also told me about how he joined the navy at the ripe age of 18. He had actually been pulled over across the state boarder and had 5 jugs of moonshine in his trunk. If you get caught across state boards with moonshine then this is a federal offense. The judge gave him two options, take 5 felonies and go to jail or pick a fine institution such as the military service. He replied, “hello water.” He also told me that deployments are nothing like they used to be back in the day. Before you had no means of communicating except via letter. Now we have email and the internet and all of this stuff. He said I hate hearing kids complain about being on deployment, its not a deployment if my wife can still bitch at me.” Haha. I love his vulgar attitude to pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

PREVIOUS<– Article 2 “Seasickness isn’t for the Weak”

NEXT–> Article 4 “Portsmouth England News Article”

Deployment Chronicles- Article 2 “Sea Sickness isn’t for the Weak”

Hello all,

Well I finally feel good about transiting the ship forward to aft without puking my brains out. Yesterday the ship was rocking so much it was an extra effort just to transit from one place to the other because you had to focus on not running into things and I had to hold onto equipment so I didn’t slam into the bulkheads. It was soo annoying. I was miserable. When I was in the shower I almost fell over twice and had to grab the shower curtain, while the  water was sloshing all over the place because we were rocking so much. I can’t believe that’s how I started the deployment. Ugh.

I asked J how he’s doing on the carrier and he said well… [This is a day in the life of him:] I stop at starbucks in the morning and then head on over to the gym and play some b-ball and then I stop by the library and pick out a nice book and then I go to the lounge to read through it. Finally I head to one of the ready rooms to hang out with the pilots and then I pretty much call it a night. Jerk. I don’t think they can even feel the rocking on the carrier. I’m still glad I’m over here though, on my small little ship, bumping around in the ocean, at any rate its much more personable. At least I know all the names of the crew members.

The other night when the helo was about to take off, rotars were engaged and turning, one of the pilots got very sea sick and threw up in the helo. Therefore he was unable to fly. Then, we had a meeting with the commodore in the wardroom and everyone was making bets beforehand on who was going to get sick… Well, the commodore was in the middle of something [idk what] and I saw masterchief get a fireball out and put it in her mouth. I didn’t think anything of it. Then a minute later she turned her head and I heard the fireball hitting the floor and along with it well… the contents of her lunch. The captain didn’t even know and that was the funniest part because he was sitting beside her and he didn’t even turn to look. She left and as soon as the commodore was done talking I can down to our room to ensure she was okay. She didn’t even look sick when it happened. She assured me she was feeling much better, but she and I both spent the afternoon in our racks.

My guys always know when I’m sea sick because our spaces are very far forward and when I get sick I can’t go to them and work there because I can’t stand the rocking. Today they said, “I see your feeling better ma’am, you’ve come back down to sonar and are working.” My response: Shove it.

Everyone has been asking about my sister, who came to see me off. They all say my goodness you and your sister are an exact replica of each other. Then the next question every time is how old is she again? Men. I just tell them she’s out of their league. Period.  Haha.

I’ve been studying diligently for my Officer of the Deck board… Okay fine maybe not diligently but periodically. I just don’t want to study! My board will be in the next few weeks and once I get my letter I’ll probably move to the bridge. I’m on watch down in combat right now, but there’s nothing like being up on the bridge. They moved the clocks ahead one hour at 2100 as we are crossing the ocean and I definitely got screwed with that. I only got to sleep 2 hours before I had watch and now its 4am and I have 2 and a half more hours to go and I’m dying. Hopefully I’ll be able to stay awake. I guess I’m going to go and look over some of my notes. More to come…!

PREVIOUS<– Article 1 “And so it begins…”

NEXT–> Article 3 “The Brits”