Milestones.Â We live our lives and measure our time while deployed by milestones.Â Workups, CQ, “safe-to-deploy,” night qual’d – those are all milestones.Â First day underway, first trap of deployment, last night the lights of home are visible on the far horizon. . .Â We chop from one fleet to another in our transit; turnover with the offgoing CVN and airwing, turnover of target folders and liberty gouge -more milestones.Â Soon (hopefully) the first month is behind – and with it the birthdays and first days of school, milestones we miss and try to live vicariously through a digital experience.Â The Teacher wrote:
The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. 6 The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. 7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. 8 All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. 9 What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one can say, Look! This is something new? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. (Ecclesiastes 1:5-10)
. . .and behold, we are now at the midpoint of deployment…
So this weekend is supposed to be, at least to my counting, hump day in cruise. Some time in the near future the cruise is supposed to be on the way down for getting ready to go home. There is still plenty of cruise left to go. That being said the other problem with the middle cruise is what can be deployment stress part II. This is the stress where after putting up with everyone else’s quirks, something causesÂ you to loose your mind. It leads to everything from a cold war between work center’s to outright fights in a berthing or work space. The hard part about this is if it happened ashore you could send someone to “lunch” or on some other errand to cool down. Out here you have 1123 feet to separate people from each other and even that isn’t enough.
It is really strange, even after the work up cycle in the same berthing with people, you never completely know someone who is living near you or working with you. It isn’t until deployment starts that things start to dawn on you. Everything from what they do when going to bed down to their own personality quirks. For example I did a deployment and living right across from me was a guy who had decorated his rack with all sorts of pictures of the various women he was dating or had dated. Then every night he would spend a moment saying good night to them and kissing the pictures. At first it was just one of those ho hum things, how oneÂ guy kept his sanity out here. Then after about three months for some reason to the rest of us it got to be a little annoying, so we started to chime in just like they use to do on the TV show “The Walton’s”. After a while our neighbor would quit saying the names out loud. Then it just started to boil back up again till someone else in our cube started to rib him and next thing anyone knew it went to a wrestlingÂ match that had to be broken up. Looking back on it now I can’t place my finger on what made it annoying to the rest of us, it just did. The same can be true as to what caused it to basically boil on over to become a wrestling match. I had one person attribute such things like that to cabin fever. Just being locked up near the same person for days on end, you start to find the tiniest thing to zero in on that starts to aggravate you; or for you to critique. Wait, what about port calls? Port calls and liberty overseas is alright, but for some reason sailors have this mentality of all hanging out together at the same places, so you will see each otherÂ again.
The stress also seems to not so much come from the people, but also as I said the feeling of cabin fever. The classic cartoon jokes of camping trips only eating beans all the time, could apply to us as well. Though the cooks really try hard bring variety to the meals. It really seems after a while that you have been served the same food again. One of the harshest things to us it seems to be when the menu starts to become like clock work. “Oh look it is Monday, let me guess they have lemon peppered cod or pork chops, with rice or scalloped potatoes, and carrots or broccoli.”, “Yea? How did you know?”, “Come on! For the last two months every Monday has had the lunch menu like that. The only difference has been whether the pork chops were the first or second meat choice.”Â If it isn’t the meals,Â then it is the fact that you head of toÂ the gym and as you walk in the staff secures the gym for cleaning. Try and settle down to watch a movie or the TV and they are secured for some drill/FOD/CO Speaking/etc. Just to get a chance to zone out and data dump the day. It becomes a challenge as well. Remember the ship isn’t set up for luxury. We are a man-o-war and there is really very little comfort built into the ship, we are a moving industrial work zone. So theÂ mostÂ you can do some days it get a shower in (if the water is on and not secured for a drill), grab a book or portable electronic device and climb in to your rack to zone out tha t way.
Adding in the above paragraph is just the bureaucracy that is around the ship. Usually it appears as stress the first month of cruise then you start to figure out the loop holes, the people that can get the jobs done, or who just can’t be reasoned with. Then after that time period you have it figured out and really seem to get the jobs you need done. Then for some reason the half way point comes and the bureaucracy creeps up again. It not from people who you were able to horse trade with have rotated out, or some one higher on the food chain has decided to change rules. So you end up having to rework your deals, horse trade something else, or finally shift the problem on to the higher authority to argue with. Sometimes the changes in bureaucracy doesn’t make any sense and it seems that someone wants their fingers in the rice bowl. At other times these changes come from the fact that some one else screws the good deal up and things go draconian. Like I said ultimately it just becomes one of those things that your head starts to hurt with and causes you minor level of stress.
The final level of stress is just from getting your turn in the barrel with the powers to be. It could be that one second were everyone is in the shop after grabbing a bite to eat and one guy is checking their email real quick when the Chief walks in. It could be the fact that you spent the last twelve hours saying your working on a gripe and when maintenance calls up for you only to say, “We just started”.Â It could be the fact that one of your guys who is the troubleshooter/final checker/IFF sniffer gets down in-between goes and flips the TV from the “Roger, Ball” show to something simple like the news or Sportscenter and the Chief walks in. Off to maintenance you go and sit there for the song and dance in front of all the maintenance controllers about how airplanes are down and until you have a zero item work load for the rest of the month you can rest and as soon as you can pass a NAMP audit with zero discrepancies can you watch something other then the “Roger, Ball” show or check your email. Quick hint for those not knowing, it is impossible to achieve either a zero hit NAMP audit and have nothing to work on regarding an airplane. Those are goals like trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow orÂ the lost Dutchman mine. So you go through that, needing to understand that it isn’t you personally or even just your work center. You just happen to get caught this time. So take your licking and go back to work.
At the end of the day though you find ways to get rid of the stress if you can or ratchet it down to a tolerable level. After which you wake up the next morning and hope it doesn’t rise again.
That isÂ about it forÂ here. I hope you all have a great holiday weekend coming up. For those of you that live near military bases take some time and see if they are offering a single solider or sailor program. Give some of those guys who don’t have a chance to go home. Sometimes getting accepted to a home cooked meal off base where they can sort of relax someplace elseÂ then a lonely barracks room. Trust me when I say cafeteria style turkey can be beaten by a home cook turkey, even a Griswold style turkey because it is home cooked.
Thanks Charles for the note and the memories.
It has been written that “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.“Â We as a nation have been blessed with much, not least of which are those who volunteer to serve in our armed forces and first responders – who hazard themselves such that our safety, our liberties are secure.Â Take time this Thanksgiving season and give back some — invite a Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman or Guardsman home to share a day away from the barracks or ship, to remember what the season was like at home – or even experience something that they never had the opportunity to while growing up.Â Stop by the firehouse you drive by every day on the way to the store, work or the coffee shop.Â Bring a sack of fresh bagels and hot coffee to share and just to say “Thank you.”
Show you care – it will mean the world to them. – SJS