04 August 2008

A Day To Remember (Part 3)

By SKSN Jeremy Henthorne
This is the final in a three part series from SN Henthorne detailing his experiences during the Somali rescue operation last June.

So many emotions were being displayed; so many more being bottled inside by everyone on the ship. On the forecastle alone people were just in a daze about what they had just witnessed. Everyone was so passionate about wanting to help these people that it didn’t matter what time it was - if they had eaten, if they had to be up for the early watches - none of that mattered. Everyone on the ship worked towards the goal of helping get these people back to healthy. But there was another emotion going through everyone’s mind at this time. What were these people fleeing from back where they came from? What is going to happen when we turn them over to the Somali Coast Guard? Caught between moral emotions and the legal binds that are in place, this was a very sad night for most. Though torn apart by this, everyone knew that it was not in our hands; there was simply nothing we could do about the fact that we have to bring them back to Somalia.

The time came when I was too exhausted to be of further assistance so I asked one last time if anyone needed anything. They all were getting ready to let the next watch come on to keep on eye on each of the patients and administer any medical help needed throughout the night. In the morning we heard the boats being lowered into the water as they took each of the sick men, now doing much better from when they originally came to us the previous afternoon, back to the disabled boat.

As we left the boat and all the people in it with the Somali Coast Guard, many people were in a haze as to the events that happened the night before. Did this really happen? Did we really just help a stranded ship? all these questions floated in the minds of the sailors onboard Russell. Many tried to forget what they saw, smelt, and heard on the boat; others sat quietly reflecting about the events. The one thing that everyone was thinking about was how we came together and worked as a team to do everything in our power to help these people. It took the whole crew being selfless for a day, putting holiday routine in the back of their minds and focusing on doing what needed to be done.

I can say that I am proud to serve with the men and women of the USS Russell. What I saw that day was a sight that will never be forgotten. From manning extra watches for lookout, to getting food and water ready, to pulling the sick aboard, to the boarding team bringing the supplies to the boat and trying to calm down the stranded passengers - everyone contributed to the success of the event.

When I look back on that day and think about what I saw and what I did and what I saw others do, it makes me feel proud to be a part of this organization. And when I think of the seventy men, women, and children of that boat, I thank God for everything that I have, to be a citizen of a country that isn’t so bad that people flee and risk their lives to try to find a better life. It reminds me that even on my worst day out here, it could be a whole lot worse. I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to help someone in need and I know that many others on this ship feel the same way. It was an eye opening experience and I think it is one that many will take with them the rest of their life.

Go to part 1.

30 July 2008

Eye Candy for Sailors, Part 24

Some photos from our recent trip(s) through the Suez Canal:

The canal with the “Peace Bridge” in the distance.

A mosque at Port Suez.

The only variation we saw in the weather during our transits.

Some of the local transportation.

27 July 2008

A Day To Remember (Part 2)

By SKSN Jeremy Henthorne
This is the third in a three part series from SN Henthorne detailing his experiences during the Somali rescue operation last June.

A report comes in from our boarding team that it is a boat full of starving men, women, and children. None of them were armed and they looked like they had been out there for at least two or three days with no food or water. At this point the situation is being assessed and it was determined that this was a boat of people trying to flee Somalia and head to anywhere but where they came from. Very few of them spoke English and our boarding team members were trying to find out any information they could about these people. Our supply officer gave the order to break out food and water and prepare it to be sent to the ship immediately. As the boarding team came back for food and water they reported that there were at least two dead and five or so sick. The decision was then made to drop the food and water off and bring the sick to our ship for care. Then the Officer of the Deck stood down my watch.

Now that I have seen what is really going on, I couldn’t just go back to enjoying my Sunday; this couldn’t be more than a thirty foot boat packed with seventy men, women, and children. None were in the best of health and all were starving and thirsty. While some of the others from my watch went below to help cook dinner, I decided to stay behind and offer my further assistance. They asked for some volunteers to help use the special open topped litter to rescue personnel from the water. There had to have been at least fifteen of us on the line to pull up the cage from the water line. At the same time we were manning up the medical team and those Sailors who were trained to help during time of medical emergencies. A triage tent was being set up on the forecastle. It was erected and pads were laid out to keep anyone who may lay on it from laying directly on the non-skid surface. Medical supplies and water as well as blankets were all brought up for the sick that were being transported over.

We were then given the order to pull on the line to bring the first of the sick Somalis onboard. As we slowly heaved in, it felt like there was a three hundred pound man on the end of the line. When we finally got the first man onboard we saw for the first time just how small these men were. As we pulled the second on board it was a lot easier as they found that the first one had the rope chafing on the side of the ship. As we pulled each of the remaining sick onboard we would all look in amazement as we felt there was no one in the baskets. These poor men were all so thin, barely conscious, and had shallow breathing. Our Corpsmen onboard and the extra hands trained to be able to help all assessed each of the sick and noted the symptoms and problems they each had.

I went below to eat. I still felt this gut feeling that I needed to help even if I could only help indirectly. So when I finished my dinner I headed back up to the forecastle to see what I could do. When I got up there I asked where I could help out. At that time there wasn’t much anyone other than the medics and boarding team could really do to actively assist. So I relieved one of my shipmates who had been on communications this whole time and hadn’t had the chance to eat. When he came back to get on communications again I asked if there was anyone else on the bridge who hadn’t had a relief to go eat. So I went up to the pilot house to relieve the man on watch up there so he could eat. Meanwhile, the corpsmen were on the forecastle working hard to keep these poor men alive.

When I was relieved of my watch for the evening I decided that there had to be something I could do to help. When I arrived on the forecastle there was only about fifteen other people up there as opposed to the thirty or forty earlier. We all did what we could to help assist the medics with everything from grabbing plastic bags and rubber gloves to getting water for the sick men. This was the first time that I had been this close to them and could really see what they looked like. The first two men looked a lot healthier than when they first came on board. It was so nice to see them lying there so peacefully. For these men this was probably the first real night’s sleep they had been able to get in a few days at least. There were two others in the middle who were both very much awake. I will never forget the sounds I heard that night. As I sat down to just take in the whole situation I saw before me. The man closest to me, who had been doing so well and moving around and talking with everyone, was now so sick. The sounds that he made would make your spine shiver. I felt so bad for this man, he was in so much pain and you could see it in his eyes. His body was so tense you could see each individual muscle through the skin. The man next to him was laying staring straight up into the top of the canopy looking with a distant stare. I went over and held his hand as he was laying there in pain. He turned and looked at me as we sat there for five minutes but it felt longer. We just looked at each other, no words were needed I knew he was just thankful to have someone by his side at this time.

Go to part 1.
Go to part 3.

25 July 2008

Eye Candy for Sailors, Part 23

While in the Mediterranean in June RUSSELL took the opportunity to hold a swim call in one of the best possible locations. Here are some of the sights on that Sunday.

A Sailor prepares to jump in.

A sea of strange fish.

A satisfied customer.

22 July 2008

A Day To Remember (Part 1)

By SKSN Jeremy Henthorne
This is the first in a three part series from SN Henthorne detailing his experiences during the Somali rescue operation last June.

It was a warm Sunday morning aboard USS Russell operating in the Gulf of Aden. Sundays are holiday routine for the sailors, a day where outside of watch standing, their time is their own. Some use this day to catch up on rest they may have lost through the week, others use this time to relax and play games, go to church, study for an upcoming exam, listen to music, or just do nothing. This day was a special Sunday for the sailors aboard Russell, because a ‘steel beach picnic’ had been scheduled. Steel beach picnics are something the crew does to increase moral by having a BBQ on the flight deck. It was around lunch time when the officer of the deck got on the loudspeaker. “Good afternoon, Russell, this is the junior officer of the deck with an announcement. We just received word of a vessel in need of help. Russell has been tasked with assisting the vessel so we will be speeding to the location given. When we get closer we will set an extra watch to have more eyes to help find the vessel in distress.”

I had just woken up and was eating my brunch when I heard the announcement. The first thing that went through my mind was that I really didn’t want to spend my Sunday, my only day of rest, topside looking for a fishing vessel. The more I thought about it the more I thought of our location and the chance this could be a set up. So, I finished up my brunch and went to get my hat from my rack.

As I walked through the passage way on my way to my berthing everyone was talking about the possibility this could be a set up. I grabbed my hat and headed to my office. They were still setting up for the steel beach picnic when the officer of the deck came on the loudspeaker again. “Afternoon Russell, this is the officer of the deck again, due to this afternoon’s evolution we will not be having a steel beach picnic.” Now everyone was even more irritated because we won’t have a steel beach, nor do we get the rest of our Sunday off. The next thing was to set the extra watches to help with spotting the vessel. I put my ball cap on and headed out to the front of the ship, also known as the forecastle. When I get up there I grab a head set and get in contact with the pilot house. “Bridge, forecastle.”

"Bridge” they responded.

“Forecastle online” I reported. It was a pretty hot day out and the sun was shining bright with no clouds in the sky. A slight smell of sea water filled the air as we moved at a fast pace to get to the scene. “See anything?” I ask my partner.

“Nothing,” he replies as he’s looking off the starboard side of the forecastle.

Finally we see a faint smoke flare in the distance. I report it to the bridge. The closer we get the more evident that it is exactly what we were looking for. I reported a small orange lifeboat that was dropped off by the aircraft that had originally spotted the vessel in distress. There were three or four dye markers in the water to help us find the vessel incase the smoke flare goes out. We slow down so we can better assess the scene as we approach the vessel off to our port beam about half of a mile out. We come to a dead stop and lower our two small boats known as RHIB’s. Our team of men trained to board other vessels first stop at the life raft in the water, and then approach the disabled vessel with caution.

Go to part 2.

17 July 2008

Division in the Spotlight - R

By DC1 Bowden:

“R” Stands for REPAIR

While the “R” may stand for Repair, you will find the Sailors of R-Div doing a lot more than repairs on board this tin can. With that being said, let’s take a tour through R-Division.

Repair division is made up of 3 ratings: Machinery Repairmen (MR), Hull Technicians (HT), and Damage Controlmen (DC). Together these 3 ratings are a force to be reckoned with. There is no part too small, job to big, or fire to hot.

The MRs are, with out a doubt, sticklers for finite numbers. They machine parts that require .00001 accuracy (laymen’s terms: as fine as the hair on a lady bug’s leg). They are given complex problems to solve on a daily basis. I think I even spotted one of them finding the solution to the square peg in the round hole. Let’s just say that if it involves math, metal, and a lathe, problem solved. The MRs’ job doesn’t end there, however. They are also the resident engraving experts. If they are not busy on the lathe or other machining tools, you will surely find them hunkered over the engraver, trying to get the labeling task fine tuned.

The HTs, adhere to tolerance and specifications as well, but are a little more easy going with the math. HTs can be found in various areas throughout the ship doing a number of different jobs. They are the pipe fitters, welders and fabricators that the ship turns to when things start to rattle, shake, and roll. Their ingenuity and problem solving skills give them the ability to get the job done. When these guys aren’t busy brazing gauge lines or welding up a rusted out section of piping, you will find them lending the MRs a hand or ensuring that the waste collection system is operational.

DCs are a unique group of characters. There are no finite numbers, tolerance or specification to follow. DCs maintain the installed firefighting equipment and systems on the ship. They ensure that the actuation systems work, the push buttons operate, and Repair Lockers are stocked and ready for action. They also ensure that Chemical, Biological and Radiological Defense equipment is calibrated and operational. They are the resident experts on fire fighting and keeping the ship afloat.

Together as a division these 3 ratings teach the crew basic fire fighting, gross decontamination of the ship, and dewatering skills during ship indoctrination, as well as providing training for the Damage Control Petty Officers. They stand Sounding and Security, Central Control Station, and Fire Marshal watches. They also augment various other engineering watches such as Engine Room Operator and Auxiliary Systems Monitor. They are the first responders to any casualty, fire, pipe rupture, or flooding. These are the men that make up the At Sea Fire Party and the Flight Deck Fire Party.

14 July 2008

Eye Candy for Sailors, Part 22

One of RUSSELL’s search and rescue swimmers waits to be deployed in the water during a man overboard drill.

The SAR Swimmer prepares “Oscar” to be heaved onto the forecastle.

The SAR swimmer waits for recovery (and enjoys the Mediterranean).

12 July 2008

RUSSELL Logs Another "First"

The following is a repost of a Navy news story:

BMD exercise debuts cross-coordinated 5th and 6th Fleet operations

By CNE-C6F Public Affairs

NAPLES, Italy – As part of regional missile defense cross-coordination between the U.S. Navy FIFTH and SIXTH Fleets, a long-scheduled Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) exercise will start this weekend. USS Russell, operating in the eastern Mediterranean and USS Benfold operating in the northern Arabian Gulf will participate. Russell and Benfold, both Aegis-class destroyers, will be the first BMD-capable ships to operate simultaneously in the Mediterranean Sea and Arabian Gulf.

“Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense is a key part of the future of the U.S. Navy,” said Vice Admiral Sandy Winnefeld, Commander, U.S. SIXTH Fleet. “It is evolutionary and we are continuously seeking ways to improve our capabilities, in this instance across theaters.”

During the exercise, the ships will work with one another in detecting, tracking, sharing information and engaging a simulated ballistic missile by sharing data via a number of paths.

“This cooperation between neighboring fleets represents the latest in an ongoing series of defensive exercises intended to provide increased security. We will continue to periodically conduct these sorts of exercises to demonstrate our commitment to regional friends in the eastern Mediterranean and the Arabian Gulf,” said Vice Adm. Kevin J. Cosgriff, Commander U.S. FIFTH Fleet.

Seven nations work with the U.S. Navy in various capacities to advance BMD capabilities around the world. The fundamental objective of the BMD program is to develop the capability to defend the United States, its friends and its forces against various types of ballistic missiles. By late 2008, 18 Aegis ships are scheduled to be equipped with BMD.

“We are beginning to see the fielding of this new capability. This exercise, which we began planning late last year, will demonstrate an important application of Aegis BMD in the Fleet,” said Winnefeld.

12 June 2008

More Somali Rescue Photos

Reposting of Navy photos of the Somali rescue.

080608-N-XXX0-003 GULF OF ADEN (June 8, 2008) Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Nicholas Mason, takes vital signs of a patient brought aboard USS Russell (DDG 59) as Ensign Melanie Chambers, Ensign Lisa Bydairk and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Matthew Thompson assist.

080608-N-XXX0-002 GULF OF ADEN (June 8, 2008) Lt.j.g. Scott Mason, embarked aboard USS Russell (DDG 59) from Destroyer Squadron Nine, administers care to a Somali patient brought aboard the ship.

080608-N-XXX0-004 GULF OF ADEN (June 8, 2008) Ensign Melanie Chambers and other members of USS Russell (DDG 59) administer care to a Somali patient brought aboard the ship.

080608-N-XXX0-005 GULF OF ADEN (June 8, 2008) Sailors aboard USS Russell (DDG 59) administer care to a Somali patient brought aboard the ship.

10 June 2008

USS Russell Assists Vessel in Distress

The following is a reposting of a U.S. Navy news release:

GULF OF ADEN – USS Russell (DDG 59) responded to a vessel in distress between Bossasso, Somalia and the Yemeni coast in the Gulf of Aden June 8.

A Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 air asset notified Russell of the small boat’s distress call. Russell, operating nearby, proceeded at maximum speed and arrived on-scene to assist the vessel.

The 45-foot small boat experienced serious engine problems leaving it unable to operate at sea and had been adrift for two days.

There were approximately 70 personnel on board the vessel, some of whom were in need of immediate medical attention. Seven personnel were transferred to Russell and treated for severe dehydration and malnutrition. The vessel was also re-provisioned for the night and Russell is towing it towards Somalia where the small boat and patients will be turned over to Somali authorities.

080608-N-XXX0-001 GULF OF ADEN (June 8, 2008) Lt.j.g. Doug Marks, a former Navy Hospital Corpsman, offers medical assistance to a Somali patient brought aboard USS Russell (DDG 59) as Ens. Lisa Bydairk and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Christopher Wallace assist.
Coalition forces have a longstanding tradition of helping mariners in distress by providing medical assistance, engineering assistance as well as search and rescue.

Russell, deployed as part of the USS Abraham Lincoln Strike Group, is operating as part of CTF 150. CTF150 conducts Maritime Security Operations (MSO) between the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Oman in the Arabian Sea. MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists’ use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

04 June 2008

Eye Candy for Sailors, Part 21

Sailors practice pipe patching.

An engineer operates the propulsion plant during general quarters.

The Captain cuts the cake to celebrate the ship’s 13th birthday.

01 June 2008

Light Line Transfer

Every now and again opportunities surface to do things that are out of the ordinary. One such opportunity appeared not long ago when we crossed paths with French Ship SURCOUF. Many of our NATO allies still practice “light line transfers”, to pass small items between ships in a pouch attached to a line. The practice originated so ships could pass correspondence and messages at sea, and while it’s not used much any longer, the French Navy still must practice the procedure for proficiency. So, they invited RUSSELL to give it a go and we accepted.

RUSSELL’s key task was to maintain a very steady course and speed while SURCOUF approached from astern. On our signal, SURCOUF positioned herself off our wake at a safe distance for a short time to get a feel for the range of speeds needed to hold position close enough to pass a line. Next, she signaled her approach and increased speed slightly to slowly close the distance. Once in place, she slowed to maintain station and readied for the transfer.

Russell’s gunners initiated the transfer by firing a shot line over SURCOUF’s bow. Their line handlers quickly passed the shot line to the forecastle and bent it to the light line. RUSSELL’s flight deck crew then hauled the shot line in, pulling the light line with it. In no time, the pouch was in hand and the Rig Captain unpacked the cargo of baguettes and bleu and Camembert cheese.

After refilling the bag with some American specialties, RUSSELL gave the signal and SURCOUF hauled in their line. Once it was safely on deck the French ship signaled the completion of the task by hauling out to starboard.

In all it was a great training opportunity for RUSSELL and the cheese was good, too!

21 May 2008

Eye Candy for Sailors, Part 20

The Captain congratulates RUSSELL’s newest Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist.

The Captain administers the oath of office to a brand new Lieutenant Junior Grade.

A member of the boarding team scales a cargo net during a practice boarding.

15 May 2008

Eye Candy for Sailors, Part 19

A Sailor performs a daily inspection of one of the ship’s boats

A Sailor takes his turn on the helm.

A Sailor cleans a filter for the gas turbine uptakes.

11 May 2008

Muster All Hands For Stores Strike Down

While we’re at sea for extended periods, the vast majority of our supplies, parts and mail get transferred to us from other ships. Sometimes helicopters lift the cargo from flight deck to flight deck and other times it’s delivered on a highline connecting our ship with another. Both ways of re-supplying are categorized as “underway replenishment”, or UNREP, with transfer by helicopter known as “vertical replenishment”, or VERTREP, and transfer by highline known as “connected replenishment”, or CONREP.

An MH-60 delivers a load to the flight deck

CONREPs are further broken down into “fueling-at-sea”, or FAS, and “replenishment-at-sea”, or RAS. Both methods of transfer require extra maneuvering watches and crews to run either the flight deck or the replenishment rigs, and any time parts, mail or stores are delivered, all hands turn to and help strike the materials below. And, for a ship the size of RUSSELL, that means officers and chief petty officers, too.

A delivery ship transfers cargo by highline and pumps fuel simultaneously.

VERTREPs present the greatest challenge in stowing materials. For safety reasons, only a portion of the flight deck may be used to receive loads, so once the helicopter clears the deck, the crew has just a few minutes to get the pallets out of the cargo nets, repositioned and broken down, and the flight deck readied to receive another load.

Crew members break down a pallet of stores.

Meanwhile, the whole crew stands ready in a line inside the skin of the ship to pass the boxes and bags hand-to hand from the flight deck to their destination. A proficient crew will break down and stow materials at the rate of a pallet a minute for 30 to 45 minutes to complete an average replenishment.

07 May 2008

Eye Candy for Sailors, Part 18

One of our recent port visits; Phuket, Thailand. Here are some of the scenes:

One of many scenic inlets in the Thai coast.

Going for a ride.

A view of the harbor at dusk.

04 May 2008

Division in the Spotlight - S2

Napoleon once remarked that an army travels on its stomach. The same can be said of a Navy, and as a result, ships at sea have a long logistical “tail” that keeps food flowing to sea so the ships can stay on station. Probably the most important part of that “tail” from the Sailors’ perspective, though, is the division that puts meals on the table four times per day (breakfast, lunch, supper and midnights rations, or “midrats”) - “S2” or Food Service Division.

With a cadre of Culinary Specialists running the show, S2 is primarily made up of junior Sailors from other divisions called “Food Service Attendants”. These Sailors are sent for one or two 90-day periods in their first enlistment to bear a hand with the hardest jobs in food service – the hours of preparation and clean up required to run a galley and keep the operation sanitary around the clock. In addition, S2 is responsible for ordering and stocking all the stores required to keep food on our tables.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is not in cooking and serving the 900 or so meals per day it takes to feed the crew, but making those meals the best they can be. In this regard, RUSSELL’s Food Service Division is definitely at the top of their class. And it’s not just the crew that thinks so. RUSSELL’s S2 Division was recognized in 2007 as the Pacific Fleet runner up for the Captain Edward F. Ney Award for food service excellence.

02 May 2008

Eye Candy for Sailors, Part 17

A brand new Master Chief gets pinned.

The “Crash and Smash” team stands at the ready while an aircraft is refueled.

A “big deck” gets gas.

30 April 2008

A Moment to Pause and Remember

The ship paused on its trek a couple of days ago to take care of some solemn business. When we departed Pearl, we were entrusted with the cremated remains of thirteen brothers-in-arms to be committed to the deep. Small ships have no facilities to store casketed remains, but the larger ships frequently accept them for burial.

Most Americans - and even many veterans - don’t realize that any honorably discharged veteran of any of the armed forces is entitled to a burial at sea if they or their loved ones choose. Indeed, the majority of services I’ve been involved with haven’t been veterans of the Navy. Perhaps they had some connection with or love of the sea, or perhaps it was the best option for the serviceman’s survivors.

Just over a score of volunteers perform the ceremonies aboard RUSSELL, and they’re well practiced. It all starts with the ship lying to and passing the word, “All hands prepare to bury the dead.” The remains and the ceremonial flag are marched through an honor guard to the front and center. One of the ship’s lay leaders, or a chaplain when one’s available, reads a psalm, Scriptures and a prayer.

The remains are marched to the deck edge and presented to the officer who will scatter them as the honor guard fires three volleys and the Boatswain Mate of the Watch plays taps over the ship’s announcing system. The flag is then received by the Command Master Chief as the leader of the burial at sea detail, who then presents it to the Commanding Officer as the representative of the family.

All of this gets recorded on a DVD and returned to the family with the flag, 21 spent casings and a chartlet that marks the location of the service.

I recall performing burials at sea long ago when I was an Ensign, but it seems like there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers in the last few years. Perhaps that’s because the veterans of the Second World War are beginning to leave us. And with them go much of our history.

29 April 2008

How a US Naval Ship Stays Afloat

From DC1 Bowden:

Many a person has asked me in my 10 years “How does all that steel float?”. Typically my answer would be short and sweet. Compartmentation! However this time I want to expand and give credit where credit is due.

There is a team of special individuals that we call Damage Control Petty Officers or DCPO for short. These DCPOs are the reason we stay afloat when all hell breaks loose. An example is the USS COLE.

Had it not been for the DCPOs the USS COLE would be sitting at the bottom of the sea. Yes, it is true, that many a crew member ran from compartment to compartment closing hatches and scuttles here and there and dogging doors down to prevent the sea from flooding the ship. But who was it that allowed those hatches, scuttles and doors to work in this ships time of need? It was then men and women that maintain them, and they are the DCPOs.

So, who are the DCPOs? They are people who normally work for all the different divisions on the ship. They are the Gunners Mates, Enginemen, Culinary Specialist, Electronics Technicians, Personnel Specialist just to name a few.

What do they do?

They perform maintenance on doors, hatches, scuttles, and deck drains to ensure the ship stays watertight. They ensure that the portable fire fighting equipment is on station and that it will work correctly when needed. They clean ventilation to ensure fire will not spread through it and that the crew breathes clean air. They work on air conditioning units (see eye candy for sailors part 10) to verify that they are working at optimal capacity for when the ship gets hot. They inspect compartments for signs of rust, (a ships worst enemy if ever there was) wear, and any abnormality that could threaten the ships survival. They verify every morning and every night that the prescribed material condition of readiness is set and any discrepancy is noted. They ensure that emergency lighting works and will show the way should the ship every go dark. They ensure that emergency breathing devices are in place, accessible, and will function properly if ever needed. After that they go back to their own division and carry out any additional work they might be assigned.

DCPOs work long and tirelessly, on countless pieces of equipment, to ensure the ship and its crew are given the best chance at survival, should she ever be put in the situation the USS COLE found herself in.

It’s not until we find ourselves in an emergency that we realize the importance of the work the DCPO does. So, when we sail back into homeport, with a broom high upon the mast, know that it is because the DCPOs kept the ship water tight and the emergency equipment was on station and in working order.

26 April 2008

War Beckons

This post has been pulled, and an explanation will follow. Don't worry, we haven't been shut down. We're just working out the details of a new editorial process that I think will help with the consistency of the product. It's all part of that "Rules Which Must Be Followed" thing.

25 April 2008

Eye Candy for Sailors, Part 16

Sailors raise the ensign staff while preparing to enter port.

A Sailor records a video of himself reading Green Eggs and Ham to send home.

"Oscar" patiently waits for an opportunity to jump overboard.

What Time Is It, Again?

There are many challenges a crew faces when they deploy. Today’s challenge is changing time zones. As we travel west, we'll have to set our clocks back nine or ten times, depending upon where we finally end up. Then of course, the opposite will be true as we return. Even operating in the same fleet area can require time changes every few days or weeks.

One tricky bit is planning when to execute a time change. Since the ship operates around the clock, no matter when you schedule a time change, it's going to be a source of consternation to someone. If you move clocks back during the day, some will complain about the extra hour of work. If you move them back at night, others will complain about the extra hour of watch during what can be a long, slow night.

Another tricky bit is communicating to the crew when the change will happen. Every path of communication must be used. The Plan of the Day must include a schedule item. Word must be passed and reiterated through the chain of command at morning quarters and the evening operations brief, and announcements must be made over the 1MC. Still it seems there’s always somebody who doesn’t “get the word”.

Finally, events scheduled near the time change demand extra planning. For instance, if we decide, or the staff tells us to turn back the clocks at 2000 and we have a regular meeting scheduled at 1930, when is the meeting - on the first 1930 or the second? Decisions, decisions.

23 April 2008

Malacca News Shows Potential of Maritime Strategy

There was a good news story out of Malaysia a couple of weeks ago that illustrates the potential of America's new Maritime Strategy. According to the deputy chief of the Malaysian Air Force, the Strait of Malacca was piracy free last year.

While the ink on our strategy is still wet, the document formalizes a number initiatives that have been ongoing in the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard for years, like fostering regional security partnerships and cooperation, direct humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and training of regional militaries for joint and combined operations to remedy local problems.

Though I know of no American role in the “Eye in the Sky” operation or patrols in the strait, the sea services have been providing training on how to carry out these type of operations for over a decade through exercises like CARAT, MALABAR and others. So, as strike groups transit through Southeast Asia and Oceania on their way to the Indian Ocean, they frequently disperse to train and assist local countries with maritime interests.

In a typical exercise, one or more American ships will join up with ships from a partner nation and embark liaison officers to observe, learn about or even oversee operations. Then the combined group will spend a few hours or days using aircraft, ships and submarines to search above, on and below the water in the exercise area and practice deterrence or conduct boardings.

The goal is not only to develop an awareness of who’s out there, but also to practice the planning, logistics, communication and prioritization skills necessary to execute a given mission. It's also hoped that after interacting with the militaries of other nations, all the participants will develop a better understanding of regional interests, concerns and goals.

And apparently, it’s working.

22 April 2008

Safety Stand Down

Not long after departing on a deployment, every ship must stop work for a day to focus on safety. Living on a ship is like living in an industrial envrionment. Aside from the obvious things like explosives and fuel, there are dozens of other hazards that Sailors deal with every day and about which can become complacent. Rotating machinery, hazardous noise and heat, trip hazards, slip hazards, toxic and flammable chemicals and gases, and doors and hatches that will bite a finger or two off if you're not careful.

So, a day after the tranist of the Pacific began the whole strike group stopped all routine business to remind everyone about hazards and safe practices. After an all hands talk by the Captain on the flight deck, the crew was divided into five groups and topics grouped at five stations.

A Chief explains the use and wear of a safety harness.

After spending 30-40 minutes on one area, the groups rotated from one station to the next to ensure everyone got all the topics. Four of the stations were general topics every Sailor needs to know about: hazardous materials, hearing conservation and heat stress, electrical safety and personal protective equipment. The final station covered some general shipboard safety information and work-specific topics.

Another Chief gets passionate about electrical safety.

And, once the morning was concluded and after a brief break for lunch, the whole presentation was repeated on the messdecks with the Sailors who were on watch in the morning. After all, "all hands" means all hands.

21 April 2008

Eye Candy for Sailors, Part 15

With our visit to Singapore in our wake, I must say it's an amazing place. Despite being a big city, it's immaculately clean and shows off a surprising amount of greenery. Here are some of the highlights of our visit.

A view of the city.

The Hindu temple.

Good eats.

A big cat naps at the "Night Zoo".

Somebody's made a new friend.

19 April 2008

Eye Candy for Sailors, Part 14

As I discussed in a comment on a previous post, all the work on the site has to be voluntary and on a Sailor's personal time. When I first started and considered the needs for operational security, I wondered whether there would be enough I could post about to keep things going. Now, nearly one month into it, I have a long list of things that could keep me posting for three weeks tied to the pier in Hawaii. In fact, I just added three more during a pause in writing this post.

So, flashing back to a day at sea in March, we got to clear out some old business the ship was unable to complete during the pre-deployment period: the February & March Birthday Meals. Every month, schedule permitting, we hold a sit-down dinner of surf & turf for the crew members whose birthdays fall in a given month. Following are some highlights from last month.

The participants feast on steak and crab legs.

A view of the cake.

“The George” cuts the cake.