Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Life in the "Fat Ship" Navy - Part II

Part I is here.. Part III is here.. Part IV is here.. Part V is here.. A nod from the Captain lets me know, as he points at the stations a few decks below, that he is granting permission to tension the rigs, as he begins speaking to the CO of NIMITZ on a handset. I tell the Conning Officer to pass the word on tensioning to the Bridge watch team. The JOOD lifts the handset to his mouth, holding it jauntily with the ear piece pointing down, he keys the push to talk switch and parrots my direction. Hearing the acknowledgement of the tensioning on the amplified speaker on the bridge wing bulwark, I then turn to the bridge-to-station sound powered phone talker standing near the CO’s chair on the bridge wing. He is a Yeoman 3rd class. I simply say to him: "Permission granted to tension stations 4 and 10." He repeats my words. His job is to just be a mouthpiece and not a thinker. He passes requests and directions verbatim. It’s certainly not because he is unintelligent, for he is an excellent sailor, but in this assignment for UNREP Detail, it is the responsibility of the officers and rig captains to control and manage all that occurs. The YN3 is therefore protected from any responsibility for anything that goes wrong, provided he does not "edit" the communications flowing from three decks below to the command station of the Bridge and back. The Captain greets the CO of NIMITZ, as the two are now able to talk on a sound powered telephone circuit line that is part of the phone and distance line. The phone and distance line is stretched between the ships, with canvas markers spaced every 20 feet. There is a specific color sequence for the distance flags hanging down, as well as each of them having the measurement labeled on them. GRYBWG is the sequence. Green, red, yellow, blue, white and green indicate 0, 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100 feet respectively, then the pattern of colors repeats. At night, chemlights are rigged for visibility, but in days gone by, single celled flashlights were attached to the markers. On the foc’sle, the phone and distance line is hand tended by line handlers, never being attached to one of the deck edge cleats. They heave in or pay out the line to keep the first green marker over the lifeline. The first discussion the two CO’s have is an important safety briefing. My Captain reads the pre-planned actions in the event that an emergency breakaway needs to be done. "We de-tension the span wires, then you trip the pelican hooks…" is heard. The CV CO acknowledges the reading of the checklist. Then the two get to making sure we are providing everything they need while alongside. Customer service is an inherent skill developed by our ship’s company. Our job is to keep them steaming. Carrying 6 million gallons of Diesel Fuel, Marine (DFM), also designated as F-76 in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supply system, 2 million gallons of JP-5 jet fuel (F-44 in NATO terms), 600 tons of ordnance, a mountain of spare parts, and equipped with two cargo refrigerators and a cargo chill box, there’s plenty of chow and "FFV" (fresh fruits and vegetables) the fleet relies on us to deliver. The Supply Department is headed by a middle grade "Chop," which is short for "Pork Chop," a routine nickname for any supply officer, but particularly for us, the Supply Officer himself. His assistant is the “Lamb Chop,” and then the guy who handles the disbursing, Ship’s Store, barber shop and laundry is just the "DISBO," short for Disbursing Officer. These three officers keep the internal and external customers loaded out, fed and in clean clothes, and also have the tremendous responsibility of the accountability for millions of dollars of inventory items. The Chop and Lamb Chop are fully involved on the weather decks with the deck crews handling lines and running the winches. Dressed out in their bulky orange kapoks life jackets and hard hats, they wander the decks, checking the pallets for the proper spray painted striping they use to keep the deliveries separated. Consulting their papers on their clipboards, they communicate with each other and the storekeepers with walkie-talkies. I step into the bridge, reach around the bulkhead near the CO’s inside chair, then punch the button in on the 21MC “bitch box” for the Helo Control Tower. "Roll out 06." In the helo tower, one of the HC-6 helo detachment pilots is perched on a high stool in the small glassed in tower. He won’t be flying today. With 6 pilots assigned for the two CH-46D logistics helos, one gets a break, one gets the tower and four of them get to fly from the deck of a moving vessel. (to be continued) Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the open post!

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