SJS,

I am sure that most of have heard of the new offensive where the Iraqi Army is trying to replace the various anti-government militias in cities such as Baghdad and Basra. So that has lead to us being extended here on our current line period. They have extended us twice because of the need for Close Air Support ashore. Both times we were told about 12-24 hours before we were going to start the process to pull into a port for a port visit. The thing that sucks was that I was really looking forward to using this last port visit to get caught up on some sleep and various personal things. The best thing about a port visit is to use one of the days to sleep in and recharge the batteries. Port visits are the weekends for a deployed sailor. Most of us work from sun up to sun down or Sun down to Sun up and the only time we know what day the week is if we have a standard Gregorian calendar in the shop. Out to see for us airdales we operate under the Julian calendar system. The Julian system breaks the day down to just five numbers, for example 08001 is the first day of 2008. It makes it easier to figure out how many days until a scheduled inspection is due. Beyond that the only other way I know what day it is Sunday when they start to call away church services at reveille. Anyhow, now we have been on this current line period over thirty days and they are talking about giving us a beer day later on this month.

A beer day is something recent to the Navy. What it stems from is when we had carrier battle groups going to a place called “Gonzo Station” following the Iran Hostage Crisis. (ed. As the member of the inaugural CVBG – IKE CVBG – we remember it well, though not so fondly, would’ve preferred the liberty, Perth, instead… -SJS) Because of other diplomatic faux pas there really wasn’t a port for a carrier to pull into so the Navy gave battle group commanders an option to give their ships a day to drink beer. They don’t have to grant this privilege, but it is primarily to help crew moral. So what happens on a beer day? Well we all muster up either down in the hangar bay or up on the flight deck. The cooks take an engine shipping canister fill it up with ice and beer cans. Then everyone musters up stands in line they walk through and are offered two cans of beer. They then have either entertainment from a house band, bad karaoke, or run a movie. Sometimes they add in the chance to have a steel beach day or we will have a buffet of finger foods. A steel beach day is where no maintenance is supposed to occur (Of course that is dependent on the Maintenance O, Maintenance Master Chief Petty Officer, and your work load), everyone is to come up to the roof or down to the hangar bay. They usually have some 55 gallon drums which were cut in half set up grilling burgers, dogs, chicken, and steaks. The MWR folks usually set up something like a driving range off the fan tail, basketball hoops, touch football, heck I have had one steel beach day where the ship had extra and expired small arms ammunition which had to be expended before the end of the fiscal year. So they gunner’s mates offered a chance for people to get setup to rock and roll with either an M-60 or M-246 machinegun, one of the Mossburg 500 shotguns, and some M-16’s. Basically a steel beach day is a chance to relax and try to decompress. If it is done in conjunction with a beer day, there is usually an area cordon off and the Master at Arms along with the CPO mess pass out two cans of beer to everyone in the crew. They usually have you drink them and then get out of the roped off area so there is room for others. Before our new ID cards came along what use to happen is sometimes they would either mark your hand or give you a pair of tickets and try to check your name off a roster. The last time that I had a beer day when we had our new id cards, basically we stood in line and we approached a desk. We stuck our ID cards into a reader and it told the MAA whether we were 21 or not (since the XO of the ship wasn’t going to allow underage drinking) and it automatically deleted us from a listing of who hadn’t had their beers yet. Once there we walked up to the coolers and got our two beers walked down to a six foot by six foot space just being enough for a few people. We drank our beers put them in bags and walked out. So that is basically a beer day and steel beach day out here.

One of the other problems with being extended or even having port visits cut back is that personal fuses are cut even shorter. The cabin fever syndrome starts to strike harder. It is really hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been out here, but for all the coolness of doing the flight deck work and being the big stick of American Foreign policy it stills grates on you after a while of getting up showing up to work and the only thing that seems to change is which airplane a discrepancy is on. Sometimes the simplest things will push you over the edge and cash you to explode against a co-worker or a junior guy. It isn’t because they didn’t anything worthy of a flame-thrower attack, but you have bottled up a whole bunch of other stressors and that one event just caused the bomb to detonate. After that happens it takes a while before things return to normal and even then it feels awkward in the shop afterwards.

A few other notes of importance to report with this postcard. We had the CNO come onboard on the 15th of April. I was asleep when he gave his presentation on how hard we were working and gave medals to the aircrewmen who jumped in the water before Christmas to rescue the three pilots who went into the water and then the helo crew who went and rescued some local fishermen on Christmas Eve while we were entering Dubai, UAE port. The fisherman’s boat started to take on water and then sank just as the helo showed up overhead. We gave them some fresh clothes a hot meal and turned them over to UAE authorities upon arrival in the port. Well that is it for right now to write home about.

Southern Air Pirate

PS: Something else that crossed my mind while thinking about extensions to a cruise. It has been about seven months since I have drive a car, been about seven months since I just decided to go into town with out having a gaggle of friends with me, finally it has been 173 days since I could go out to a movie and catch something recent instead of something that left the theaters months ago.

2 Comments

  1. JoeC

    Huh. I thought seven month cruises went out with the new “Kinder, gentler navy” theme awhile back. Like, less cruise time and more at-home port time. That harkens back to the America’s 10 months at sea in 1974 for a back to back MED-North Atlantic holiday. That euphemistically sucked a big one for the ship’s company. (one week in port after 7 months in the Med, three weeks on workup off the VA capes, then 2-1/2 months in the North Atlantic) Or the near 8 months for the bicentennial in 1976 (where the chief tried to talk me out of taking a flight back to the U.S. for shore duty just as they were to depart the MED. I remembered the last trip back of endless time of cleaning and field days and inventories and cleaning and painting and cleaning.)

    So I empathize with you mate. Just figure, this too will pass under the keel, if you can just keep from strangling that SOB in the bottom bunk who snores worse than a moose in rut, or the slob who washes his feet once a month, or the snap inspections from the MAA looking for contraban, or the bug juice in the mess or…..

  2. rich

    Southern Air Pirate-
    Thank you very much for your posts.
    I appreciate the glimpse into your activities
    at the front lines.
    Thank you for your service and that of your fellow
    sailors, airmen, marines, and soldiers
    to our country.
    May God watch over and keep you all safe.
    We here at home are getting the chance to see
    life on a carrier by watching the series on pbs.
    Reading your stories also completes the picture
    of what it’s like.
    If there’s anything I can do, anything I can send
    to make life for you and your shipmates a little easier,
    let SJS know and have him forward your wishes to me.
    I’m happy to help if I can.
    Thank you for your sacrifice.
    Very respectfully,
    rich

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