All posts in “Postcards from deployment”

Postcards From Deployment: Almost Home

The best part of deployments are the homecomings — and the worst part of deployments are the homecomings.  As each day counts down and your homeport draws near, time slows to a crawl, the clock seems to freeze and restlessness grows.  Nervous energy abounds as do anyone of a number of “oh yeah, we also need to do…” tasks, ranging from preps for the post-cruise corrosion inspection from the wing, the post-deployment reports to the ISICs and plans for the inevitable trip tot he shipyard for an availability period and the creation of the supporting work packages.  Still, channel fever grows in direct proportion to the anticipation of arrival...

SJS,

The end of this wonderful government paid vacation is around the corner. We have been making an end run home. There is supposed to be one last port visit, to my home town in the Emerald City before the ship actually ends this cruise. That port visit most of my command is slated to leave. We will be embarking tigers and doing a tiger cruise from the Emerald City down to San Diego. I am doing it this time and bringing my father-in-law out with me. So he can get a chance to live my life for a few days. It will be interesting, they will have the usual stuff planned. Everything from an air power demonstration that may drop live death, to night time fire works as the self-defense mounts fire off their tracer rounds, big bucks bingo, ice cream social, movies on SITE TV that will be interrupted by FOD walks, etc. Basically a week in the life, and not the stuff they showed on those shows like JAG or in the movies like Top Gun.

While trying to get ready for home coming it has been nothing like meeting and paperwork hell. Last minute taskers that get assigned and then unassigned and then assigned again, all because some one else had the good idea fairy visit them. Then the good idea fairy spray came out and then the good idea fairy came out again. There are some of us that believes the good idea fairy is like a cockroach, you can kill one and then another pops up someplace else. Anyhow, like I said it seems like some training event gets started, then canx’d, then started again only because someone realized that the requirement needs to be fulfilled. On top of that it has been how to document the training. If not that then it has been paperwork hell simply because some additional paperwork that has become a requirement just before coming home. Everything from verifying personnel data in the service jackets to updating training to cover the good idea fairies. I think I have succeed in the last forty-eight hours to use enough paper that would justify clear-cutting the side of a mountain.

In the middle of all this as well has been the work to prepare our jets for our fly off. So it has been competing for hangar space trying to get enough of the little gripes that would affect the navigation and aviating of the airplane off the ship to the home base. I think I have talked about this portion before. To add into it we have dived into some storm that is tossing us around a little bit. Again just enough to make the suggestion to a few people that they should resort to the soda and saltine diet. What makes it even worst though is that there are some flying requirements that we need to hit as well, but due to the storm the ship isn’t feeling safe enough to launch jets or recover. Just a couple of days ago it seemed like everyone was trying to beat snakes in the cockpits while landing. Even the E-2′s were having problems and at the time we were doing flight ops the closest divert was NAF Midway, so when they came in saying “Trick or Treat”. The powers to be in charged decided to recover that event and knock off for the day. You know it is a bad day when the E-2 calls trick or treat. Since then we have had the deck open for a couple of hours in driving rain and high winds getting only the most basic of maintenance done. Again just enough to make sure the planes are safe enough to operate. We aren’t trying to break anything or lose anything in the high winds cause we are opening up panels. It sucks to lose an aircraft panel over the side this late in the game. It is sort of like losing a tire off your race car with in inches of the finish line.

When I have had a chance to bounce over to your site, I noticed a few people asking about the personal side of my life. Married life has been alright. Now I have only actually spent time with the wife for about a total of three months out of the first year married. Beyond that, I am living the geo-bachelor life right now. We are working on trying to get that fixed. That has been low priority compared to anything else going in our life. Such as getting a budget together, downsizing our respective stuff, deciding between sailor bachelor décor and her décor. Basically learning the idea that I need to be like a reed in a wind storm instead of being a huge oak. There is a time and place to stand firm and a time to bend to the winds of change. At times it feels like I am bending more and at other times I think I am standing firm only to find out that through her feminine trickery or wits, she has brought me around to her thinking. Other that that we are planning on home coming and dealing with some time off and together.

So the end is almost here and with it my contact to outside world. I hope you all have enjoyed these postcards and I hope soon to get time to work on my own site again. Get back into my a couple of my hobbies, work on my house, and basically try and enjoy some time on the life. So here is to the end of the last round of postcards. Remember, just as I am coming home there is someone else in this nation’s military ramping up to leave or is leavening. If you see one of them give them a shake of the hand and an honest pat on the back.

Sincerely,

Charles

Charles — BZ on a deployment well done, on your faithful and illuminating correspondence and all our best wishes for speedy homecoming and reunion with the CINCHOME.  Have a blast with your father-in-law and the Tiger Cruise, I think you’ll find that will really help the time pass.   – SJS

Postcards from Deployment: Homeward Bound

SJS,

Since the last post card not much else has changed out here. We are just approaching the International date line again. So soon we are going to repeat a day to catch up for the day we jumped over about eight months ago. So in preparation (or as a cruel joke) one of the movie stations has been running on constant loop the movie “Groundhog Day”. Other then that the other issue we have is trying to get some of the maintenance computer systems to properly track the date change. The biggest issue for our aviation maintenance admin types is getting the NALCOMIS computers to understand that even though the date changed back a day, cause of the way it is programmed; workers can only work on a certain maintenance action once in a day for a time block. The program gets all confused when dates repeat themselves. So there are extra hoops that we have to jump through to get it all working.

Quick aside just so your readers know. NALCOMIS is an acronym that stands for Naval Air Logistics Command Operating Maintenance Information System. It is a computerized system to track maintenance actions on aircraft. When an airplane flies, the aircrew come back with their issues from the airplane. They will come down to the maintenance control desk, take either a specific computer terminal set up for it or there will be a specific pad of paper to write the discrepancy on. At which time the gripe will be reviewed by the relevant work center and entered into the computer system. From there the gripe will appear on the work center’s work load. At which time the supervisor of the work center will be able to task people to the gripe and get it fixed. What is supposed to make this all better versus the old Visual Information Display System/Maintenance Action Forms (VIDS/MAFs ) boards was that the computer is real time. That is when it doesn’t crash for some reason, hung up cause of an error, or if people aren’t doing the data entry properly into it for the tracking purposes.

Back to the program, So besides having to trick our NALCOMIS computers to understand the date didn’t change. We also get to repeat a few things such as fly days and standing specific training evolutions. Since our day to be the air wing safety observer and lead in the hunt for FOD is that day. We get to repeat leading the charge in safety and FOD hunting. Overall it will be a weird day over all. I have some family that have made the Trans-Pac this way and repeated birthdays, Thanksgiving, even Christmas. Overall it is just one more day closer to home.

Coming closer to home we are getting big time in to trying to fix the jets enough so they can safely fly off and make it back to the beach. This might sound wrong, but if we can fix the plane and get it to the point where it can bring the crew home, safely taxi to its parking spot, let them get out and then collapse into a bunch of parts so be it. At least the crew got home. The hard part about this is we are at the wrong end of the supply chain, running low on parts. So there are times we are trying to make a decision on whether it is worthwhile to submit the part for rework onboard or get it fixed enough to fly home and then pull the bad component back at home. Along with that there are parts that are going bad which we are looking at trying to make the decision on whether their inability to function is going to affect safety of flight back home. A big juggling act in the shops, maintenance control, the DH’s, and finally on the skipper’s. We aren’t the only ones involved in this situation either, all through out the air wing similar decisions are being made.

On the personal side of cruise. This last couple of weeks is where back in the berthing or our racks. All you can hear is “when I get home..”. Guys jonesing for space away from everyone. Guys jonesing for their favorite meals. A chance to take the hottest and longest shower, sleep in a real bed without hearing any announcing system. Heck even to just sleep in on a weekend and know that there are such things as weekends. Me personally. I can’t wait to get home and do that hot long shower thing. Then when a Sunday rolls around, go out get the Sunday paper. Sit there in my chair reading the paper eating breakfast and enjoying that there is nothing pressing right away. The meal that I really want is a stuffed Turkey breast, that has stuffing, cranberries, and oranges in it all with a glazed honey sauce. I don’t know but for some reason that meal has been creeping into my head the past couple of days. The first time I got it was a couple of years ago, while shopping for a quick meal at the local supermarket before my girlfriend at the time (now Mrs.) showed up for a date at the house. Not having enough time getting out of work late to actually cook something. Walked through the deli section and found this thing. All it took was a quick 30 minutes in the oven and faster then you can say “BAM!” the meal was on the table and I was finishing up the veggies when she walked in. Totally impressed that I was able to prepare a meal with out destroying the kitchen and make it tasty as well. With a quick wink and smile, I let her know that I am fully capable of something more then just frozen waffles and soda pop (which I had to cook the first dinner cause I totally spaced on grocery shopping).

It is only a few days left and I will be done with this part of the adventure soon. I can’t wait.

Postcards From Deployment — Oh Those Cruise Mustaches!

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:

SJS,

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)

Sincerely,

Charles

Postcards From Deployment: Now Liberty Call — Hong Kong

If it’s Saturday, this must be Hong Kong…and time for another postcard from our deployed correspondent:

SJS,

So I am in one of my father’s favorite ports and a few of the old WestPac sailors favorite ports as well. Hong Kong. Home of fast action films, mainland Asian banking, and an every changing landscape. To start with quick history lesson. Hong Kong has been one of the major ports along the Chinese coast since the time of Neolithic man. It became a British Colony 1840′s and US cargo vessels along with US Navy warships have been regularly arriving in the city since the 1850′s. Hong Kong was the major embarking station for a US Sailor coming to serve out time on the Yangtze Patrol. After the war Hong Kong was one of those ports that a WestPac sailor savored to visit. Being that one the main streets it have a very modern and western feel to it, but with the right navigation and gumption you could find your way down an alley way and go back about forty years (or more) and arrive in the China that was describe in Pearl S. Buck novels and pulp novel stories they grew up on. Even today you can find some of that as well. In 1997 the British turned over to the People’s Republic of China the city. As part of the deal Hong Kong was treated as a special case territory where it could still live its capitalist dream but report everything it did to the Beijing Government. Since the city was officially found as well it has been constantly under construction. Whether that is filling in portions of the harbor to create more land for people to tearing down classic sections of the city to rebuild it with more modern buildings, it is very much a city in constant change.

The first thing to be said is that when we pulled in the weather in the region turned to snot. We experienced fog, low clouds, drizzle and temps that didn’t seem to want to break the low 50′s in the day time. I guess the karma of me crowing about the nice weather at the last couple of ports has come back to bite me in the arse. Thank god, I was smart enough to purchase a coat while I was in Thailand. It had only cost me about 5 dollar US for it, but it was wonderful to get on the liberty launch for the ride out and not be one of the shivering masses on the launch. A couple of the guys I was with on the first day we made a bee line for the closes shopping center and they bought a couple of thermal liners or fleece pull overs to tide them through. After that the first popular destination we visited was the Wan Chai district. This is one of the three primary nightlife districts in the city. It has a number of restaurants ranging from traditional Chinese city fare next to upscale steak house like Ruth Christ’s franchise. Also dotted through out are various bars were business folks, ex-pats, and sailors are able to pour themselves into for a good time. Also dotted through out the region are various dance clubs, though after walking into a couple I know them by their more popular European term “Buy-me-drinkee” bars. Basically a pretty Asian girl will be your friend for as long as your able to feed her overprice drinks. Had to rescue a couple of more younger guys out on their own liberty from walking in as rich sailors and walking out as poor sailors. At the end of the night we were sitting in some bar called the Doghouse singing along with a couple of UK bankers to bad drinking songs.

The second day in town, I left with a few guys early in the day and we spent it trying to find our way to some of the upscale shopping on Hong Kong Island. We mainly found our ways over in what is called the Central District. What is really cool about this area is that it is the upscale shopping and low scale at the same time. Walk along a few of the main streets and you run across Hugo Boss, Tag Hauer, Armani, H&M stores and then you look down some of the alley ways between these you run across street peddlers that have set up stalls selling everything themed a certain way. For example we ran across an alley way that was selling costumes and costume gear. Which a couple of the guys were slapping themselves because pirates seem to be the popular theme in these street peddlers wares. The guys that were slapping themselves were shellbacks and wish they could have had some of this gear to make up their costumes. After doing some window shopping, we found our way over to Lang Kwai Fong district. This is the other popular nightlife spot. Most of these are more upscale then what you might find in Wan Chai and to top it off there are no girlie clubs. So it is another popular destination for the Western Tourist, mainly cause these are nicer places. We found a nice and quiet Irish bar to spend the night. Listening to a house guitarist play some nice ballads like “Patriot Game”, “Long Way to Tippernary”, “The Girl I left Behind”, and some straight guitar instrumental stuff. It was great, drank some Strongbox or Bulmers cider and played darts until we decided it was time to go home. After which it was a quick and cheap 20HK dollar taxi ride back to fleet landing.

The third day I woke up much later then I wanted to, I think it was cause of the cider I drank the night before. Most of the guys I normally would have gone out with had left for the day. So I just hung out on Fenwick Pier at the Servicemen’s Guide Association Club. The SGA is a private group that produce nice little booklets that welcome sailors to the Hong Kong. This place is a combination rec center and shopping center. They have a three store building at the foot of the pier. In there one can make a phone call home. Turn over their personal laundry to a trusty laundry service in town, mail some of their larger exotic goods home. There is a tailor shop were you can get yourself a “number 1 100% silk suit” or any tailoring you need done in 24 hours. There are a few outposts for some decent jewelry shops represented there, and finally a small book store and convenience store so you load up on bottle water and a few magazines for the boat ride back. The other cool thing about this place is they have a decent restaurant on premise and a bar/pub on the premises as well. It was interesting to walk around it and check out all the different gear that one could shop for. After getting a late lunch/dinner, got back on the launch to head back to the ship.

The only downside about Hong Kong is the use of these liberty launches. The harbor’s waters are very choppy and these are flat bottomed service boats that roll and pitch like a drunken sailor. So it makes for a fun ride in even when your sober and a worse ride when your drunk. That is why the biggest suggestion to everyone was come back early and sober up at the pier before getting on these launches. Most of them were smaller then what I have been use to while visiting 2nd or 6th fleet ports, but there were more of them so you could expect a boat just about every ten to fifteen minutes. The downside is that when there is a decent chop, which seems to be every time a major cargo hauler goes in our out past the common anchorage point of the carrier, the Bosun delays the arrival of the launches until the chop dies down a little bit.

Overall, I think Hong Kong is on my short list of ports that I have visited in the last twelve years and six deployments that I really would spend the money on coming back to visit on my terms. It really seems to have just that flair which would make it a fun place to visit with the wife.

R/

“Now Hear This — Mail Call, Mail Call…”

In this age of (near) instantaneous contact via email or, where accessible, the various pieces of social media our deployed Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen can access, there is still nothing, and I do mean nothing, quite as satisfying as a letter or package that arrives in the mail.  The whiff of perfume still tenuously clinging to the envelope with the distinctive cursive writing, or the smooshed package that nonetheless opens to homemade chocolate chip cookies regularly trumps the electronic media.  Why?  Because it carries an intangible – that somewhere along the long, busy process of delivery from Somewhere, USA to USS Nimitz or a dusty forward base, the hands of someone we love and who loves us touched it.  And that is one of the reasons mail is so important for our deployed service members…and why one of the most important calls a COD can make upon checking in inbound on Button 1 is pounds of pony express.  Hence our latest postcard from deployment.

– SJS

SJS,

So it is now only five days until Christmas as I write this, we are getting a ton of mail delivered out to us via underway replenishment and via COD. To a couple of your readers, I just received the Peet’s coffee mailed out to me. I know it was ordered in October, but one of the joys of military mail is how long it takes things to arrive on station to us. It was still fresh and appreciated because right now they are offering some bitter freeze dried bricks of coffee from the mid-east. So to understand how it works I thought this little postcard could explain it away. There are some mistakes for those of you in the postal fields, but this is how it was explained to me by a postal clerk and I try to break it down even more Barney Dinosaur style to the readers.

Nearly all military mail for units uses an system called APO/FPO and unit numbers. The way the system is designed to work so that you don’t know where the military person is located if the mail gets intercepted by the enemy. All they know is that LT Steeljaw and AT1 are assigned to VAW-13 det 5 at unit 99999 FPO, AP. Remember that point in the last sentence about no one knowing where the person is, that is slightly important. Most of the mail now a days is shipped via commercial air to the closes us military base and from there it is then sorted into bags to delivered to units around them.

APO and FPO’s are holdovers from world war 2 and they are short for Army Post Office and Fleet Post Office. These used to be primarily located in three distinct places in the nation. San Francisco, New York, and Norfolk. They were the big processing centers. Depending on where the unit was home based mail would leave your hands and head to one of these locations for routing to the military member. San Fran for most of the Pacific based units and those home ported on the West Coast. Norfolk for the East coast based units and up to the Mississippi river. New York was the clearing house for most of the European based units. So as that letter leaves your hands to me, it travels to the San Francisco post office. They then say to send it up to me in Seattle.

That letter arrives in Seattle and is shipped over to my base. At which point the base post office handles it and goes VAQXYZ is unit number ABC. Consulting a list they have about who is home and who is deployed, realizing that I am deployed the mail is dropped into a bag waiting to be shipped out to me and my unit. Once that bag is full, they then consult another list and mark it for shipment via airmail to the closes military base to where we are operating at the time that list came out. This list seems to be typically about two to three weeks behind. So even though I have been gone from Singapore for about a month. All the mail is routed there initially because the supply system hasn’t caught on that I have moved to another operating area.

So they hold on to it until the new mailing list arrives and  then ship it to the new operating area. Once it arrives on station, such as the 5th fleet operating area, they store it in a giant warehouse waiting for further sorting and shipment. The COD’s have to adjust for fuel loads, passengers, and pony. Strange as it may seem, VIP’s trump mail; ditto for parts to fix things on the ships and planes. So the letter that left your hand at the beginning of November is still sitting in some bag at the bottom of a pile awaiting sorting to be thrown on a COD that can be sent out to us. When it finally gets on the COD, it comes out to us it is then sorted by the onboard clerks to delivered out to our commands. The commands then sort it even further to work shops for deliver. What is even funnier is sometimes the supply system will try for a massed burp of mail via an unrep, so they will try and hold one of our supply ships. Throw a whole bunch of large boxes called tri-walls and fill them to the top with mail. It all finally arrives to us sometimes about a month late or even months later.

Remember how I mentioned you needed to remember why no one knows where people are? Well for some units people are moving so fast to arrive on station, that no one knows where the mail is supposed to go. Or the unit numbers on the mailing lists are mangled so unit 99999 is actually in Naples, but the mailing list says they are in Al Asad. So it goes there sitting forever until someone wonders why it hasn’t been picked up. They then ship it back to the states, via the same sort of route it comes out to us. No kidding I had gotten Christmas gifts that were mailed out in first week of November, show up to me in June when I was back home. The Christmas cookies were stale and the gifts were written off as lost.

Military mail system is one of the reasons that a large number of internet companies won’t ship high priced electronics out to us and it isn’t recommend to ship anything perishable out to us. Don’t send even chocolate bars cause there is a chance they will melt before it gets there and  just turn into a mess. So it is usually recommended that you do hard candies and imperishable foods It gets even worst around the holiday times, that the US Postal Service will actually state that if you want  a package to arrive to your military member before Christmas it should be postmarked no later then sometime in November. The best part too is letter mail can be days and months late, so you get a weekly new magazine that is about three or more months old and you already know how the story has turned out. It is just one of those things to shrug your shoulders at.

Hope all of you all enjoy your times with the families this week and remember that there will only be 364 days until Christmas on the 26th of December.

Sincerely,
Charles

Postcards from Deployment: Of Midpoints and Ground Hog Day(s)

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Milestones.  We live our lives and measure our time while deployed by milestones.  Workups, CQ, “safe-to-deploy,” night qual’d – those are all 091121-N-6720T-075milestones.  First day underway, first trap of deployment, last night the lights of home are visible on the far horizon. . .  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.  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.  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…

SJS,

091123-N-3038W-047So 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 causes  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. 0080615-N-4133B-071For 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 one  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 wrestling  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 other  again.

090914-N-5345W-130The 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.”  If it isn’t the meals,  then it is the fact that you head of to  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 ar091104-N-3038W-152e 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 the  most  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.

070807-N-9864S-003The 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”.  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 or  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. 080415-N-4879G-310

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 is  about it for  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 else  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.

Sincerely,

Charles

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.“  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.  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.  Stop by the firehouse you drive by every day on the way to the store, work or the coffee shop.  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

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Postcards From Deployment: Daily Routines

090929-N-2918M-057 INDIAN OCEAN (Sept. 29, 2009)  Boatswains Mate 3rd Class Maraalyssa Maneru rings the bell on the bridge to indicate the time-of-day aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).  The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Peter Merrill/Released

090929-N-2918M-057 INDIAN OCEAN (Sept. 29, 2009) Boatswains Mate 3rd Class Maraalyssa Maneru rings the bell on the bridge to indicate the time-of-day aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Peter Merrill/Released

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AT1 checks in today with a post about routines – daily and otherwise.  Folks who have never been to sea or put to sea for extended periods often ask how one gets by on  a day-to-day basis, what with the monotony of the scenery and smallness of the ship and all.  My answer is, as well, developing a routine.  When in the squadron it usually meant at least one, if not two sorties to look forward to (even if it was a ‘yo-yo’ PMCF).  Ship’s company was different – but even then I had a well developed routine that began with me rising before the CO to check out the hot water.  See, when underway the CO, myself and the air boss had (*small*) staterooms in the island, the better to be near the bridge/tower if we were required post haste.  Since we shared the same hot water pipes and since, at least on IKE, there was a proclivity for the hot water to be lacking (quantity and calorie) – substantially so on occasion, my deal with the CHENG was to be the first to the shower and call him and his merry band of henchmen should the hot run, well, cold and thus avoid a growly CO to start the day.  So much better to have a growly ‘gator instead, you know… :roll: – SJS

SJS,

So here it is the second week of being on Gonzo Station. We are flying hard and fast in support of the guys on the ground. Every hour and fifteen a package is going out ready to fly close air support. Beyond that not much else I can tell you about what we are doing without violating rules and regulations regarding NSA of 1947. That being said. Our lives have settled into this routine while being on Gonzo Station. We fly a certain number of days with a day off for maintenance and paperwork. Then fly a certain number of days with a day off for maintenance. Our ship’s MWR works hard at providing ways to keep people entertained and keep the burn out from setting in on this second full month of cruise. Some examples have been board game night and we did a movie night where they set up a big eye projector and ran from a DVD player the movie “The Proposal” on the Mess Decks. Complete with a bag of popcorn and soda pop. Trying to recreate that movie theater atmosphere.

090922-N-3038W-085 INDIAN OCEAN (Sept. 22, 2009) Members of the shipÕs flying squad take part in a rescue and assistance team drill aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Philip Wagner Jr./Released)

090922-N-3038W-085 INDIAN OCEAN (Sept. 22, 2009) Members of the shipÕs flying squad take part in a rescue and assistance team drill aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Philip Wagner Jr./Released)

That is the biggest thing while out on a cruise is you need to settle into a routine and kind of get use to having an almost set schedule to accomplish things. Example would be saying you go and attend the morning FOD walk in the hangar bay followed by five minutes later standing in line for the ship’s store to purchase the can of junk food your going to snack on for the rest of the day. Even better is when you get off from work, we get our schedules so regimented that we do things with out even thinking about them all the way through. I was talking to a fellow PO1 and then turned around before I realized I was talking to myself, because this guy tries to get changed and to the gym by 1915 every night. I watched him for the next couple of days and realized that yep, right after maintenance meeting and pass down he heads to the berthing. Changing into his PT garb and is on a treadmill or elliptical exerciser by no later then 1920 every night. The only variation is which of the two machines he starts with.

Entertainment for a large number of us comes as well from playing cards. Spades, Hearts, Rummy, Cribbage, Euchre; are just some of the games the guys try to get going on around here.

We just got bunch of new faced people in the command in the last couple of days as well. All of them coming onboard via the COD. That has

090917-N-3038W-176 INDIAN OCEAN (Sept. 17, 2009) A C-2A Greyhound aircraft assigned to the Providers of Carrier Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). Nimitz and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 are underway on a scheduled deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Philip Wagner Jr./Released)

090917-N-3038W-176 INDIAN OCEAN (Sept. 17, 2009) A C-2A Greyhound aircraft assigned to the Providers of Carrier Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). Nimitz and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 are underway on a scheduled deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Philip Wagner Jr./Released)

lead to the uptick of people with the dreaded “boat crud”. The boat crud is what experienced cruising folks have called the combinations of various cold and flu bugs that intermingle onboard a ship and give everyone a chronic sniffle or cough. The best you can do is drink tons of fluids, wash your hands, and hope to only get a weak case of it. It always seems with myself that once I get a case of the crud and I get it out of my system then I am better and immune. I am sure some of your readers wonder how we get new people out here. Basically it happens like this, a person is transferring from a location (training command or a fleet command) and they have orders to report to us by a no later then date. Once they have these written orders in hand they travel to a personnel support detachment for official travel orders from there they are told to report to a civilian terminal in civilian clothing to catch a charter flight that is going near where we are. Sometimes it is a charter flight to get people with in a geographic location with a specific military flight to get them near a specific air base where they will then board a C-2 to fly onboard as part of what is called a PAX/Pony flight. Other times they will leave the US via a charter flight that will fly them to our next specific geographic operating area and possibly even or next port call where they will walk onboard. Either way they are in a foreign country waiting to come on out to join us on this adventure. Now before anyone gets confused, by charter flight what I mean is that the US government has specifically chartered certain airlines to operate a rotator service from a couple of specific US cities out to areas. An example would be an airline called ATA that I flew on one time to deploy to Japan a few summer ago. I arrived at Sea-Tac International at midnight for a flight that wasn’t scheduled to leave until 0500 in the morning. Ended up flying on a Lockheed L-1011 from Sea-Tac all the way to Yokota AB near Tokyo.

So we have new people show up and they usually spend a couple of days if not a couple of weeks trying to get the check in process done. Seeing medical for all their shots, seeing the chain of command, getting them fitted out with flight deck gear (if needed) getting them bedded down with a rack and locker in the berthing. Teaching them all about how to live on a ship. The funniest thing happened with one of our new guys that checked in while we were in port Singapore. We had a middle of a night man overboard. So everyone had to get up, well this new guy was in the shower and went running out of the shower with a towel around himself still dripping of soap. We had to stop him just before he got out of the berthing and remind him that his shop was located near a female berthing compartment and some people might not appreciate seeing that image. So quick rinse and throwing on some pt shorts and a shirt along with his tennis shoes to head to his shop.

090929-N-9760Z-001 INDIAN OCEAN (Sept. 29, 2009) Cmdr. Max McCoy, executive officer of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 86 takes the Army Navy game ball on a mission aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).  The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eduardo Zaragoza/Released)

090929-N-9760Z-001 INDIAN OCEAN (Sept. 29, 2009) Cmdr. Max McCoy, executive officer of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 86 takes the Army Navy game ball on a mission aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eduardo Zaragoza/Released)

What to bring and wear to sleep in while onboard the ship is always something supervisors and experienced cruise players have to remind the newbies about. I usually tell everyone to bring a couple pairs of sweat shorts and some t-shirts to go to bed in. Even for the women I recommend the same though most of the women I have know love to sleep in medical scrubs. The reason being you never know when your going to get woken up and have to muster some place for a drill or because some event happened and your name was involved. That way you don’t have to try and get dressed if told to report immediately.

Sports has taken over a number of our folks out here since football season has started a few weeks ago. The hard part is if you want to catch the games “live” then it is up at the crack of dawn to catch a game. Even harder is the fact that AFN doesn’t show all the games. Rather they pick the high ratings games so if you want to watch your team you have to figure out when it is being shown on the sports channel. Which makes things rough in the fact that you can read about the score the next day and then be sitting down to eat a meal or even off work and the game will appear in the middle of the week.

Only other thing I have to share is this quick history note. The Indian Ocean wasn’t a total back water during World War Two. Did your readers know that the Japanese Fleet came as far East as Sir Lanka and that German U-boats use to use Vichy French Occupied Madagascar as a refueling stop on the way over to Japan and a couple of German Raiders caused some hate and discontent in the early part of the war to British Merchant Fleets in the area?

Sincerely,

AT1 Charles Berlemann

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Postcards from Deployment: Portcall, Singapore

Checking in from deployment, Charles passes a review of one of Skippy-san’s most favorite locations in the Far East – Singapore (we’ll let Skippy wax eloquent on the joys therein on the comments if he’s of such a mind and can tear himself away from an ongoing email war 8-) ) And “ship’s liaison group”  instead of shore patrol? *That* just doesn’t seem right…but, we’ll pass and let Charles get on with the story:

SJS,

I know it has been a while since I have written a postcard and I had hoped to be sending pictures with this one, however some issues have come up with my camera and downloading pictures from my last port visit. I was just in Skippy-San’s favorite city, Singapore. Singapore is a great city and a wonderful place to visit. Quick run down for those that don’t know. Singapore is a very modern country, it came into existence in the mid-60′s and before that it was part of Malaysia and before that it was basically the colonial capital of the British Southeast Asian colonies. It is a very modern city and a number of very modern conveniences. It is also one of the most racially diverse places in Asia that I have been to. There really isn’t any native Singaporean, rather it is a broad mix of Indians, Malayans, Indonesians, Han Chinese, and Anglo-Saxons. Singapore is also the cross roads between Asia and Europe. Since most of the sea borne trade routes between Asia and Europe go through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore sits right in the middle of it.

Continue Reading…

Postcards from Deployment: Deployment Stress

090828-N-5019M-081One of the reasons we went with the ‘Postcards from deployment…’ feature a couple of years ago was to bring an unvarnished look at deployments from a sailor’s POV that doesn’t always make it to the light of day, except in rare fora like the “Carrier” series late last year. Charles touches on something everyone of us who have walked up the brow or launched to the ship on Day 1 of a major deployment have faced.  I well recall on my first deployment receiving a telegram  (yes, yes, this was pre-internet days), barely 6 weeks into what would turn out to be a 9+ month deployment, that started with “Your Mom’s OK and will be out of the hospital in a week or so.  Now, about your car…” The feeling of utter helplessness, that decisions you would normally be making are now in the hands of someone else can be, well, stressful. Beyond that too are the signature life-milestones — births, first steps, first day at school, holidays and anniversaries and deaths that pass sans our presence.

And such stress is not a good companion in the air, on the flightdeck or in the engineering spaces or bridge.  We all developed our coping mechanisms and learned to compartmentalize – and thus ensured long-term employment for any one of a number of “counselors,” shrinks and in some folks’ case, divorce lawyers upon our return to the beach. – SJS

SJS,

Yet another awesome day out here in the Western Pacific. We are getting some exercises in with the folks from CNFJ and prepping for our ultimate mission which will be putting 090901-N-8421M-001aircraft overhead in either OEF or OIF support. I happen to get a chance to swing by the site and get caught up on the comments so far. Tell Skippy-San, that I knew I had a spelling error regarding the man-made island in Tokyo that I visited after I sent you the note. I was just trying to remember and phonetically spell what I had heard and asked for while traveling via JR trains and Tokyo Subways. As to him wanting to swap places, I would be all for it. Take orders to Pensacola in a heart beat if it meant that I had my feet on dry land for longer then a few months. That kind of leads me to my topic of the day, deployment stress.

We [us in the military] aren’t aliens or oddities that don’t deal with some of the same things the rest of the civilian populace deals with. Rather our stress is even more complex and convoluted the normal. Most people are able to come home and work through the stress every day. Being in the military sometimes means being deployed and trying to have to deal with this stress from the end of email/postal link or the ever so infrequent phone call link (remember cashing a check for rolls of quarters to use the pay phone at Sigonella and then doing the math for the time zone changes?). Both sides deal with stress and the military is working hard to have pre-deployment classes so everyone realizes the stress and can work through it. They tell us not to leave with fights brewing 090902-N-8960W-045over our heads. Try to get things resolved as soon as possible before a deployment happens or see if an issue can be tabled until everyone is home and able to talk about it. It is accepted that everyone will be angry and say some things that aren’t nice on the ramp up to the deployment. Working through that before deployment is always stressed as well. All sorts of coping strategies are introduced by the staff of the pre-deployment classes.

All of us who have deployed know the stress that I will be talking about. It is where something happens at home and you as the deployed member can’t deal with it. Having to only send word home via email, letter, or twenty minute phone call via a Sailor Phone. The stress where you hear from the Spousal unit things like: “The car is broke and the mechanic is asking XYZ for repairs….”; “Johnny is becoming a terror at the house and starting to do poorly at school…”; “Yeller took sick a couple of days ago, I took him to the vet…”. You get letters like this and it tears you up inside. You know how to deal with it if your home, but out here away from it all, some of us are at a loss to deal with the feelings or emotions. Part of it comes from the fact that you want to turn 090904-N-8960W-010to someone for a shoulder, but your loved one isn’t there immediately. Even worst is the feeling that you know others onboard are probably going through the same sort of stress, but still feel like your alone in the water. Combine this with the regular work stress of trying to maintain a work center, a workload, and keep out of the negative spotlight in maintenance control; we have a storm brewing inside everyone.

There are a number of ways we seem to deal with it. Some folks write out long flowing emails/letters describing how they are feeling, telling their spouses how to deal with it down to the tiniest detail, and in general trying to offload some of this stress. Others will spend every off-shift hour making phone calls via the sailor phones trying to get help going where they can or work through the problem. Others still will try and turn to supervisors and leadership for direction. We in turn help point them to such people as the chaplains or even the ship’s psychologists as people to talk to. Some of us will compartmentalize the information and off load it while in port some place or they will go to the gym and work out the stress that way. Some will just take a day and everything that goes wrong will explode against people about little things, after a day of just venting they will feel better. The final 090904-N-8960W-003way is the worst way and I personally have only seen it done once on a deployment years ago. That is through hurting themselves. As someone in leadership, having to attend training trying to recognize this stress and intercede before the final option is exercised has emphasized constantly during workups in most of my cruises. The ones that usually go the final route are those in the first term/first deployment cycle.

Most of our first cruise folks are dealing with being away from home and again those feelings of being alone, even though they are around five thousand other people. It gets even harder when they are TAD to some place on the ship and only feel more and more alienated. This isn’t what they were expecting from the TV shows, the recruiter, the instructors at the various schools were telling them what the fleet was like. When you add to that a letter that begins “It isn’t you it is me…” from a girlfriend/wife, that usually seems to be the straw that breaks the back for a large number of our first cruise folks. It is hard work to bounce back from something like that, as supervisors we work very hard to pay attention to mood changes. Sometimes all it takes is some engagement, opening up a chance for someone to vent. Sometimes you need to be the initial contact and then refer them to other people who are better trained and prepared to help work through the issue. Engagement is always the word of the day for some of this stress.

I am going through my own deployment stress. Being a newlywed is hard, even more so when you were only home for two months before starting the in/out of the deployment cycle. I was smart and loaded up with nearly all the cards for the birthday and anniversary that I could get while in San Diego and Japan when I could. Every place I hit for a port visit I try and remember to hunt for some little curio to send home and share my trip with her. Even more then that though is just the thought that I really want to just spend time at home getting use to living the married life. We were dating while I was in work ups for my 2007-2008 deployment. Trying to get personal time in-between duty weekends, training detachments, etc. Got 090831-N-3038W-037married in Nov 2008 and changed commands that winter, only to start the whole cycle again. I have a slew of things to figure out beyond finishing up this deployment. The biggest tickler in the back of my head is finding a house where the two of us can live together, but the other thing fighting that is I am expected to rotated in January of 2011 (basically a year and four months from now) to another duty assignment. So even if I found a good house at a decent price could if I did have to move could I make a profit on it? Family is also a big stressor right now. My last deployment, some very close family members passed away, they weren’t in my immediate nuclear family, so I couldn’t take leave. The most that I could do was shoulder the news, compartmentalize it and move on. There wasn’t the time nor the money to make a transit from the Gulf all the way back to the US to make the funerals. When the deployment ended is when the emotional release happened, still very hard for me to deal with even now some of these thoughts. I am really in the mood for a break from this sea duty and want some nice shore duty place where I don’t have to see a ship for a while.

Oh, and the home front goes through deployment stress as well. It is even harder for them since most of the time they are in the middle of the storm that started the letter or email. It is really helpful if friends or neighbors are able to help out from time to time. Even something simple as helping to cook a meal because of a hectic week is appreciated from time to time.

Well that is it for deep thoughts from out here. I hope this little glimpse in to some of the other things that make up our lives beyond fun port calls and living out the dream of being Top Gun has been enlightening for your readers .

Sincerely,

Charles

Postcards from Deployment:

090530-N-3946H-086Those of us who have spent any amount of time at sea recognize the syndrome – after the first week or two, when the initial rush of getting underway and operating at sea begins to wear off, the routine settles in and pretty soon, one day (or night) melts into the next and the only way you tell the difference is the calendar on the bulkhead with the crossed out days…  So how do you avoid becoming a seagoing zombie that slogs from berthing, to workcenter, to flightdeck, to chow (Rinse. Repeat.)?  Well – our deployed correspondent has some ideas.  We have another one for you, good reader, at the end.  – SJS

SJS,

The hardest thing about being on cruise is not letting yourself get into that groundhog day mentality. It is very hard to let that mind set slide in on you. It is very much wake up, get some water on your face, go grab breakfast, attended the morning maintenance meeting, go to pass down to your work center, work till lunch, eat lunch, work till shift change, give pass down and do tool checks, then progress to dinner. After shift it is go to the gym, go to a college class if your enrolled (I am not because I am that point with my college to start taking advance classes towards my major of aircraft maintenance), go study for a qual, or just grab a shower and head to bed. Rinse and repeat for the next one-hundred and eighty plus days. It sounds silly, but one has to work hard on preventing a dull mind set from getting in place. So 090812-N-1245S-007that is where pranks and humor see to arise. What I have always noticed on the previous four deployments that I have completed is how much longer a deployment goes the cruder the humor goes. Since this is a family site, I won’t go completely into the rudeness, but you have been there you know. To give you an example of a prank that was pulled recently. One of the guys in my berthing compartment always talks through every movie that we are trying to watch. Whether that movie is on the TV channels or someone’s borrowed DVD. It is incredibly annoying and this joker has been doing this since workups. He makes stupid jokes or comments about the character. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was every so often, but it is ever frigging moment. So a couple of guys went out and bought some water pistols while we were San Diego and snuck them onboard. Last night once of the guys had broken out his DVD of Iron Man. We were sitting around the TV trying to listening to the movie when the talker walked in. The guys with the water pistols were ready when he started to make comments during the movie, first was the verbal warning and then the talker started again. BAM! Three people turned and hosed the talker with ice cold water all over. To top it off our A/C works really well in the berthing. So he was starting to freeze a 090618-N-3946H-044little bit. One of the guys told him that was his first and only lesson, he was going to train him like he trains his hunting dog. Every time the talker made a comment during a movie he was going to get a shot in the face with the water. Later on in the night after I got tired of watching the movie I went back to the rack only to see the three guys with the water pistols chase each other around the berthing playing tag with the water. Had to put a quick stop to it and had them mop up the water, safety reasons. Sometimes it is the simple things that keep us entertained for a while.

We spent the last couple of days hanging out just south of the Hawaiian islands. Waiting for Hurricane Felicia to dissipate from around the region. Wait before you readers ask, the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon is which side of the International Date line the storm forms on. On the Eastern Side of the date line (i.e. the side that North America is) all the storms are called Hurricanes. Once you cross the international date line heading to Guam, Taiwan, Philippines, etc it becomes a Typhoon. Typhoon’s are just as dangerous if not more so then Hurricanes. The biggest reason is that Typhoon’s have a whole bunch of open water to gather steam and quickly transition from a simple tropical depressions to a full bore category 3 or higher storm because of all the warm water they are born in. On top of that take a quick look at the Pacific Ocean. Where are the major Land Masses that can suck up that energy? That is right, there aren’t any until you get over to Japan, China coast, and South China Seas area. They take a serious toll to the nations in their path. These nations civil defense for weather like this is very good. I had a chance to experience the edges of a Typhoon back in 2006. I was visiting MCAS Iwakuni with a previous squadron and we were secured in our barracks, planted sand bags around the doors. Most of the locals moved further inland and up into the hills out of predicted flooding zones. I sat in my barracks room with my radio turned to the local AFRTS station and batteries installed. Waiting to see what would happen. I remember falling asleep later that night to the wind howling and rain just coming down in buckets. I woke up the next morning and watched outside the gate as local police were escorting power crews around to check on lines and poles. Other police were checking doors to make sure that everyone was okay. The only downside for me in the whole experience is that once the bases in Japan set a certain typhoon condition all the forces on the base are placed in a duty 081013-N-3610L-093status. I am so use to living in Virginia or the Gulf Coast and doing Hurricane parties that it was a bummer when I couldn’t buy any booze at the mini-mart to mix up some drinks while waiting for the storm to pass. Oh well. Getting back to the here and now, the ship found some calm water a couple of days ago away from the path of the storm and we just have been hanging out there to make sure Felicia doesn’t zig or zag back into our path. We took a no fly day, yesterday and now back into the business of flying. I spent yesterday knee deep in planning meetings and preparing training lectures for later in the month.

I brought a bunch of books like last time to keep me busy while I am out here. See if you can detect the theme with these titles. “Guadalcanal Diary” by Richard Tregaskis, “Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Raymond A. Spruance” by Thomas Buell, “A Dawn Like Thunder: True Story of Torpedo Eight” by Robert J. Mrazek, “Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway” by Jonathan Parshall, Anthony Tully, “Honor Bound: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia 1961-1973″ by Stuart I. Rochester, Frederick T. Kiley. Give you a second to ponder it. That is correct they are all books about events or people involved with the Pacific region. I have these titles and a few others to keep me entertained for the next six months. Outside of this theme are a couple of other books. One is titled “The Evolution of Nuclear strategy” by Lawrence Freedman. This edition was published in 1983 and I found it at a local used book store for fifty cents. It looked like an interesting book to read. As part of my continuing effort to read classics I have found an illustrated copy of “The Mysterious Island” by Jules Verne at the same used book store. This one set me back about five dollars. So I picked them up together and threw them in the box of stuff that I packed for out here. That is how I spend most of my time deeply involved in reading. This used book store I go to is always a delight because you never know what you will find. It is in what use to be a Woolworth’s department store in a town called Bellingham. It has narrow aisles and the shelves are overflowing with books. I have gone in there and found books written in the 40′s and fifties that were exciting adventure stories written for boys, or found personal history stories from people that survived WW2, down to some pretty old school electrical theory math books (written in 1937 and 1944) that were useful for rate training. Heck I even found a book written in 1938 by some professor from U of Chicago about the history of rocketry and theory of rocket development that had a forward written by Charles Goddard. That one would of set me back about 50 dollars. I would really recommend to your readers to find a good used book store like that. You never know what you could find just poking around in the shelves.

Well that is about it for here right now. If I get a chance I will try and get a some more pictures taken of events around the ship. If I remember it I will try and get a shot of the chow line and the triangle fish and square turkey that we get from time to time.

Sincerely,

Charles

What Charles failed to mention as a monotony-buster is mail, good old fashioned stuff-it-in-an-envelope or box snail mail.  Should any of our readers desire to drop a note (or better yet, a small package of coffee or cookies would be appreciated, we’re sure…), he may be reached at:

AT1 Charles Berlemann
VAQ-135 Unit 25409
FPO, AP 96601-6419

Methinks maybe a little later in deployment there might be a need for refreshing the library too ;) – SJS

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