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.