Well, it’s been a short piece since we last heard from our deployed correspondent, Charles, and that from Hong Kong. He checks in today (well, actually a couple days ago but we’ve been a mite bit overtasked at the day job of late.. Yeah, yeah, yeah — whine, whine….) with another underway note:
So we are out here in the waters somewhere off the Ryukyu island chain. Trying to conduct flight ops. The last couple of days it has been fun. Between the deck dancing around, our E-2C squadron swapped out their shiny jet planes for older planes, and a couple of healthy storms. There has also been a resurgence of the cruise ‘stasche.
So where to start.
Lets start with the returning to home classes they have been offering. As it has been since the US Navy noticed an increased rise in accidents with sailors and cars, they have been bring highway patrol out to the ships to talk about safety. Then as various other things have crept to the forefront of the safety thing more and more things have crept into these returning home briefings, until it happened. One day they decided to stretch the time out over a period of a week, using trained facilitators to give lectures on everything from how to spend/save money wisely, buying car strategies, how to re-integrate as a family/couple, how to be a new dad, etc. Most of these are pretty informative and very useful. Leadership is hoping that some of these lessons will sit in people’s minds and keep bad things from happening. It will take some time and see what will happen come the end of this deployment
Our E-2C outfit traded out their aircraft over the last few days with the forward deployed guys. VAW-117 was instructed to trade their E-2C Hawkeye 2K’s for VAW-115′s E-2C group II aircraft. This was an adventures for our brethren in the Hawkeye command. To start with they had to downgrade their shiny new planes with most of the quirks figured out for older birds that have lived the forward deployed life that have new quirks to figure out. I have never done a swap of aircraft mid-cruise, the worst that I have done was picked up an old Prowler that needed to head to the depot for a repair. So we fixed it enough to fly safely off the ship and to the depot. What is really bad about getting a new bird is trying to figure out the quirks of the plane. The way that some of the different systems have gremlins in them and then trying to beat them out. Or retraining aircrew that the older systems installed don’t have all the bells and whistles of the newer systems. The last couple of weeks for our VAW friends have been challenging, on top the fact that we have had a couple of nasty days out here which suspended flight ops, they finally got all the aircraft transferred around.
(ed. Oh, I *do* feel for my VAW brethren in arms — bummer guys… When I was Maintenance DH in the Seabats we had to do a complete swap out of all four a/c two weeks before going on deployment, right after I’d just finished grooming my fourth and final bird. And while I didn’t have to swap any mid-deployment, there is the story of BuNo 160992… – SJS)
The storms that we sailed through for the last couple of days were interesting. Really reminded me of being up north into the Irish or Norwegian seas in the middle of a winter storm. A whole bunch of cold and an rain at times. Winds that were exceeding 60 knots across the flight deck. Saltines and soda water out on the mess decks. Dramamine and other anti-motion sickness pills going like hot cakes in medical. Finally a whole bunch of rolling and shaking going on. It was challenging and difficult to say the least. Not anything that I haven’t experienced before, but still an adventure. The adventure came from all the brand new to the Navy folks or brand new to sea duty folks who haven’t experienced rocking and rolling like we were doing. We had pulled a few of our escorts close by and there were a few times I saw sonar domes start to breach the surface and rudder tops come up as they went into the trough of the waves. The dramamine ran started to run low pretty quick for a few guys, the suggest then from the docs was to eat saltines and clear soda (like sprite or 7-up). If all else failed they have a few other tricks up their sleeves for the chronic motion sick folks. (ed. You know you have truly arrived when you go to grasp the handrail for the ladder going up to the next deck and come back with a hand full of someone else’s puke – and it doesn’t even phase you… SJS)
I don’t know if it was popular when you were sea going, but every cruise or deployment I have been on so far, there has been the rise of the cruise mustache. It always seems as if the guys who get away from home (and their wives control) start to try and get their personalities back. That primarily seems to be in the form of growing a mustache. I have seen everything from a bad Magnum P.I mustache down to the pencil-thin mustache. It is all cool through most of the ports the guys sport some variation of these mustaches. However the closer you get to home the sooner the mustache becomes a memory. Yet for some reason in the last couple of days after leaving Hong Kong, the cruise ‘stache has come back into vogue with a few of the guys. So it has been kind of funny watching the mustaches come back into vogue for a while and wondering as we get closer to home what will happen to these last attempts to define their personalities for this deployment. As for myself. I don’t have the capability to grow a mustache. The best that I have done after a month of no shaving during a transfer leave was facial hair that sort of resembled some beatnik beard like Maynard Krebs or Shaggy.
ed. Popular you ask? Remember, your scribe is of another age when the ‘stache ruled and everyone grew one (or attempted to) upon arrival at Pensacola. Check out this mid-cruise shot from 1980′s Ike/CVW-7 Cruise Without End and yeah, I’m in there – still have the ‘stache today. Hair – not so… – SJS
The final thing that can best be viewed as one last prank is an almost constant rumor that we are going out again for three months just after the 234th anniversary signing of the Declaration of Independence. I mean we are just finishing up an eight month deployment and they wouldn’t treat us to a basically a port visit to home and then send up back out again for three months to play in some exercises would they? I really don’t know, but I hope that if it is true we will only be out for a little bit like under two months. It will be a challenge if true, cause basically if you look at this cruise has now been extended into an eleven month deployment. Even if you figure in the time at home, this will be a time will basically be washing our clothes. Getting repacked, compressing time to get some aircraft inspections doing, compressing some major maintenance actions, and finally starting the preparations to go back out to the ship again. In my heart of hearts, I feel as if this isn’t a joke and seriously wonder if anyone above my pay grade is paying attention to wearing out our people and aircraft. Though there might really be chance to completely decompress as we begin transition to the Electric Rhinos. (ed. VAW-121′s scoreboard - 1980: 347 days underway. 1981: 198 days deployed/underway 1982: 255 days underway/deployed — joined the squadron with a little over 100 hrs in the E-2C in late ’79, left in Nov ’82 with over 1200 in the Hawkeye and 300+ traps)
I decided to cast my fate to transition. I decided on this after many hours with the wife via email. The decision broke down to what would be easier to deal with the devil I know in this squadron then the devil I didn’t know. For everyone that isn’t going to make the transition will be given a choice of where to go while having a phone call with their detailers. This goes for both Officers, Chiefs, and Sailors alike. It will be interesting to see how that goes and how the transition itself goes. Receiving brand new airplanes with the brand new airplane smells. Trying to figure out what can be fixed on the fly and what will be a science project to work on. I know that my schooling will be seven months of fun. I will spend it either in Lemoore or over in Oceana (my preferred choice). After which I come back home for an additional two months of schooling at Whidbey. After that it will be to the RAG to being working on my qualifications and actually working on the jets, all the while the aircrew are learning how to fly the new jets. The other difference will be the change up in our manning levels. A reduction of flying officers, the potential of getting a few new ground maintenance officers (such as a gunner), and some additions to size of shops. On top of that they are telling us to get use to five jets instead of the four that we have worked on before. There are all sorts of madness being planned for and hopefully some one with the right amount of insanity in their minds will be able to keep it all running right. (ed. now *that* will be cool — not only new off the production line, but a whole new airframe/weapon system to write the operational book on. That’s the ticket! – SJS)
Article Series - Postcards from Deployment
- Postcards from Deployment
- Postcards From Deployment: HOA
- Postcards from Deployment: Doin’ the Ditch
- Postcards from Deployment: “The Song That Never Ends”
- Postcards from Deployment: The Day After the Day Before
- Postcards from Deployment: Deployment Stress
- Postcards from Deployment: Of Midpoints and Ground Hog Day(s)
- “Now Hear This — Mail Call, Mail Call…”
- Postcards from Deployment: Now Liberty Call – Asia (Eat Your Heart Out Skippy-san!)
- Postcards from Deployment: Of Wogs and Shellbacks…
- Postcards From Deployment: Now Liberty Call — Hong Kong
- Postcards From Deployment — Oh Those Cruise Mustaches!
- Postcards from Deployment: Homeward Bound
- Postcards From Deployment: Almost Home