Latest Entries »

Fair Winds and Following Seas

Today’s post shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it’s time to formalize it.

Seachop is officially on hiatus for the foreseeable future. I started this blog as a resource for prospective supply corps officers, to help them understand life as a typical supply JO, namely during that first tour. I like to think I’ve accomplished that goal.

Well, I am no longer a first tour JO. Orders stamped, two bells, LTJG departing. I’m not leaving the Navy; I’m still standing the watch, but I have transferred to a shore command, where there is no such thing as a typical tour. I might come back to Seachop in the future; if I go back to sea as a SUPPO, I’ll once again be in a position to mentor JOs, but for now it’s time for me to move on.

For those who are just discovering Seachop and are considering a career in the Navy or the Supply Corps. please dig through the archives. I think you’ll find a lot of valuable information (but keep in mind my knowledge of OCS is leftover from 2010–those who live by the gouge die by the gouge).

To the folks who knew me in real life and read Seachop to keep tabs on me, you haven’t heard the last of me. Stand by to stand by.

To the officer candidates, ENSs, and LTJGs I’ve talked to over the last (almost) three years, keep up the good work. I’ve already met some of you out in the fleet, and I hope our paths cross again.

Fair winds and following seas!

Where Have You Been?

What a question. What a loaded question. What an awful, horrible, loaded question.

One word: INSURV. Many more words: let’s mob the ship with inspectors and find every last missing bolt and speck of dirt. I’ve been getting home too late at night to even cook, much less post. It’s been rough, and it ain’t over yet.

Keep on keepin’ on, hooyah.

Remember a few weeks (months? Oops) ago when I made such a stink about how damage control is a team effort? I thought I’d gotten the point across, but apparently I didn’t.

We’re finally out of the yards and back to business as usual (or, as usual as life can be under the circumstances). Part of this means In-port Emergency Team drills. IET. Big deal. If it hits the fan in the middle of the night, the duty section is all that stands between you and complete destruction. For IETs drills (or heaven forbid, actual casualties) it doesn’t matter if you’re actually on the watchbill. You show up, and you contribute.

That’s problem #1; everyone assumes someone else will show up to take care of it. The last drill I did had collapsed duty sections, so I should have had twice the usual number of people to work with. I had roughly half of a full locker, and no one who actually showed up was on the list. Suffice to say, I was unhappy.

Problem #2: My locker went rogue.

Recipe for disaster.

It happened during a duty section drill. CHENG is our CDO; he takes these things rather seriously. It was after the normal work day, so there was no excuse for people not to show up. Did they? Of course not. IET functions with just a locker leader instead of locker leader + officer; I was prepared for that. I wasn’t prepared to not have a plotter. Or a phone talker. Or much of anyone else, for that matter.

I certainly wasn’t prepared for my fire party to dress out and leave without a word. I couldn’t even get a muster. I found someone dressing out in SCBA but not firefighting coveralls; that’s a problem. The lesser of two evils is to put him on a boundary. Still not the best scenario, but it’s better than sending him straight into the fire. Next thing I know, I get the word the fire party has appropriated my boundaryman, put him on the hose, even though in real life that would kill him. So now I’m short a boundaryman. I send out another; I never hear back from her. Meanwhile, I have no idea how many people are on the fire party, because the scene leader decided to neither check in at the locker nor take a freaking radio with him. Also, they never bothered to tell me when they went on air; I need that information.

Confession time. I didn’t quite yell at a LCDR, but I spoke rather sharply. CHENG stopped by the locker and started asking me questions about personnel. Maybe I shouted, “I have no idea, because my freaking team leader left without a word, didn’t tell me who he was taking with him, didn’t take a radio, and apparently stole my boundaryman, and I have no people to send out for boundaries because apparently this duty section doesn’t think an alpha fire in berthing is a big deal!” So much for keeping cool under pressure, but I was feeling rather powerless.

Long story short, we lost the berthing. I was ready for a chewing out. I was in charge, and I couldn’t maintain control of the locker. I couldn’t even get a freaking muster.

After the gear was restowed, we mustered the duty section on the messdecks. Lo and behold, we found a whole slew of people who were basic DC but decided the drill didn’t apply to them. Chewing out #1. To my surprise, the second chewing out wasn’t directed at me; it was directed at everyone except for me. “You can’t get fixated on the watchbill,” said CHENG, “but you can’t just start swapping people out on a whim. You on the fire party, that is not your job. That is the locker leader’s job. Let her do her job. She knows how to manage that locker, but she can’t do it if you won’t support her. You can’t just do your own thing. Your locker leader couldn’t give you the help you needed because you didn’t let her manage things; you start doing your own thing again, and you’re going to get yourselves killed.”

So can we review the lesson one more time?

Damage control is a team effort. Ugh, I thought we’d established that by now.

Butterbars/Seeing Silver

This one? Technically old news. Sorry. These things happen.

You know why the gold bars are called butterbars, right? It’s because they melt under pressure.

Ensigns: I kid. On the other hand, I’m pretty much required to give you a hard time. Specifically, the closer you are to being the Bull, the more obnoxious crap I have to throw at you. JORGs of the world, I’ll leave you alone, at least until you catch up to speed.

Have we talked Bulls and JORGs? Bull: Senior ENS. Ringleader. Designer of pranks. Instigator of My Little Pony wrapping paper attacks on the XO’s stateroom. Oh yes. That one was epic. I almost fell over from laughing too hard when I saw it. The best part? The XO wasn’t mad. Seriously, score 1 (very shiny) point for JOPA.

JORG: First of all, it’s not spelled Jorge. Or George. Though it is pronounced George. The JORG is the Junior Officer Requiring Guidance. The junior ENS in the wardroom. The one who calls attention for the CO when we have meetings in Officers’ Country.

I have never been the Bull or the JORG. It was once suggested upon my arrival that I was, which I declared absurd. I had, after all, been an ENS for almost a year at that point. I never claimed to be particularly useful, but there were ENSs on that ship who had been indoctrinated by my indocs. Darn straight I’m not the JORG. As for the Bull? We have a SWO who commissioned the same day I did. I had my share of obnoxious moments, but I was never actually the senior ENS.

Oh yeah, have I mentioned I’m not an ENS? I’ve upgraded. I’m now DISBO 2.0 (or Ensign Upper Half if we still want to be snarky). Actually, our entire wardroom is growing up. We went for a long stretch where we had a whole slew of ENSs just sitting around waiting to promote, then the SWO and I kicked things off. We’ve had a promotion every few weeks for the last four months. Pretty soon the 2011 NROTC folks will move up in the world, and then we’ll go almost a whole year before anyone else puts on the silver. Yikes.

Unrelated to my wardroom, I know a guy who was the Bull and the JORG at the same time. While he was a department head. Gotta love sub guys.

LTJG Seachop out. Bam.

Put the Wet Stuff on the Hot Stuff

I once again found myself at the Farrier Fire Fighting School. I’m up to thrice over a year plus a little. They’ve now tried to set me on fire twice, drown me once, and gas me once. I still have some anecdotes from my last trip through a few months back, when I took the locker leader course (key highlights: the Buttercup and the confidence chamber).

I’ve noticed a running theme the more I’m involved in DC. Damage control is a team effort.

Can we emphasize that a little? Everyone stand up and let’s say it together. Damage control is a team effort.

These days I’m pretty SWOtivated for a supply JO in that I really don’t mind (and sometimes actually enjoy) all this damage control stuff I’ve been doing lately, so why is it I always seem to come home from Farrier classes, well, irritated? *cough SWOtivated chop cough* I get the whole “team effort” concept. I know other people get it, because I’ve witnessed the majority of people, y’know, working as a team.

But there’s one (usually more) in every group…

Today’s adventure was general shipboard firefighting. Pretty straightforward. Review how fires burn, what kinds of fires we deal with, which agent to use when, equipment, PPE. After about two hours of classroom work, we donned our gear and headed out to the fire field. This was my first time inside the fire structure; my last round of firefighting at Farrier was the mock flight deck. We had four stations: burning cables (C), galley grease fire (B), berthing fire (A), and burning ordnance (was this supposed to be D? It was really just a large interior space with fire on the deck, sprayed with water. That’s not what I would do for your average D. I’d just chuck it over the side).

This is a story about the ordnance fire.

This was really just a practice in basic hose handling. The team lined up on the hose, and once the fire started the fire party shuffled up along the hose relieving the nozzleman so everyone spent some time up at the front. When relieved, the nozzleman would change the water pattern from a narrow-angle V to a wide-angle V, providing more protection from heat for the fire party and relieving some of the pressure on the nozzleman. The new nozzleman would change back to a narrow V to continue fighting the fire. To change the angle, the nozzleman holds the nozzle pistol grip in one hand and reaches forward with the other to rotate the end of the nozzle. The nozzle is held out away from the body (I like to brace my elbow against my hip) to keep the nozzle from pushing the nozzleman around.

I’m only 5’2″; a wild firefighting hose could do me some serious damage, but if it’s under positive control? Easy day. I’m certainly capable of maintaining control over a hose and a brass nozzle. I don’t just mean I can stand there and keep the hose from going wild; I can relieve a nozzleman, move the nozzle in a pattern, change the spray angle, and pass off the nozzle while in a full firefighting ensemble. Even more, I clearly demonstrated today that I can do all of the above using my non-dominant hand to maintain positive control.

But the above only holds true when the hose is handled properly by the rest of the team.

The #1 hoseman’s job is to support the nozzleman. S/he braces one boot against the nozzleman’s back foot, presses the forward forearm against the nozzleman’s back, and supports the hose (push it forward to relieve pressure against the nozzle, respond when the nozzleman requests more hose). If the #1 hoseman is doing his/her job, s/he will tire out. If the #1 hoseman is just chilling, something is wrong.

Which brings me to my story.

We were doing our second walkthrough of the structure, this time with live flames. We had already done the entire exercise once with charged hoses, and I had no issues whatsoever. When I took the nozzle, I immediately noticed something was wrong. I almost lost the nozzle just trying to change the spray angle, and once I managed that I couldn’t lift the nozzle towards the fire. Every muscle was straining to move it, but it just didn’t work.

My hose team had pulled the hose backwards while I was first setting my grip, pulling the nozzle towards my hip and twisting my arm so the weight of the nozzle was born entirely in my fingers, rather than allowing me to line up my wrist, elbow, and hip for maximum support. Speaking of support, where the #$%^ was my #1 hoseman?

First things first. “More hose!” I shouted.

The hose inched back even further, wrenching the nozzle and my wrist again. The instructor saw the spray pattern suddenly jerk and immediately came over, fearing I was about to lose the nozzle (as did I). Instead he found me bent over with effort, trying to support a nozzle that just didn’t want to play nicely. “I need more hose!” I shouted at him. I heard him start railing against my team. Not only had they taken all of my extra hose, but they had also let the hose fall slack and start to curve in some places. This was a non-collapseable fire hose; when it starts to curve and twist, the nozzle wants to go with it. At last he got the hose team straightened out, and I suddenly felt some (but not all) the pressure ease, enough that I was able to get the nozzle out in front of me with proper form and start spraying a figure-8 at the base of the blaze. I was still straining; something was still wrong.

At last the instructors told my #1 hoseman to relieve me. I slid my hand forward to change the spray pattern–

–and nothing.

I couldn’t turn the end of the nozzle. My left arm was so beat up from supporting the flailing nozzle that my right hand turning the end of the nozzle was actually overpowering my left, trying to turn the entire nozzle instead of just the rotating piece at the end. Still, I should have been able to do it, except my #1 hoseman still wasn’t giving my any kind of physical support.

I performed the same actions both times through the structure: take control of the nozzle, change the spray pattern, fight the fire, change the spray pattern again, pass off the nozzle. So why was it so easy the first time and so hard the second?

Because damage control is a team effort.

My first time through the structure, my #1 hoseman was actively working with me, and my fire party kept the hose supported. They took over all the heavy lifting, so all I had to do was work the nozzle. The second time through, I had nothing from my fire party. I was alone with both the hose and the nozzle. The full water pressure was working against me, and I didn’t even have enough hose available in front of me to manage it. By the end (when the fire party was solved but the #1 hoseman wasn’t) I was too banged around to be effective. Had the second exercise been an actual casualty, I would not have been able to sustain the fight for more than a moment or two; it’s infuriating because I’m capable of bring much more than that to the table. The trouble is that, in hose handling, if the fire party doesn’t actively do their job they are actually working against the nozzleman. It would wear down anyone.

I’ve since determined the same thing happened when I did aviation firefighting over a year ago. We ran through the entire hose team twice; one time on the nozzle was easy, but the other was hard. The difference was that physical support from the rest of the team.

When it comes to damage control, I’m good (and ever so humble). I have the knowledge, and I can demonstrate the skills.

But to work effectively, I need everyone else to step up to the plate. I don’t necessarily need rock stars; I’ll settle for basic competence if I must. Once that team effort is compromised, I’m compromised. I can’t fight a main space fire from my locker; as locker leader, my job is to maintain the bigger picture, know who needs to go where to do what, and provide direction. For me to do that effectively, I have to trust the rest of my team to be able to function. If they can’t function (if my hose team can’t give me support), my job is at best degraded. At worst, I can’t function. (I had a drill towards the end of deployment that perfectly demonstrates how today’s issue with my hose team can happen anywhere and completely cripple a locker, but that deserves it’s own post. It’s quite the tale.)

So…..

Let’s review, shall we? Together, on three. One….two……three………

Damage control is a team effort.

Rota

A local JO first known to me as “Marmoset” was kind enough to point out that I’ve been lazy of late. I countered that life in the yards is hardly exciting enough for the internet. That’s about when I remembered that I had (and still have) approximately 1,314* pictures from deployment chilling on my hard drive. And by “approximately” I mean “exactly.” The majority are just snapshots of JOs doing what JOs do best (posing in front of famous landmarks, making stupid faces, or lounging in the JO jungle playing GTA not noticing that someone is documenting it in order to make fun of them later), but I have a few gems tucked away. A picture is worth a thousand words, but I’ll do you one better and even add commentary. Here we go.

Is this Pictionary with impressionist painters?

Is this Pictionary with impressionist painters?

“Oh Disbo,” (I imagine you saying) “what is this nonsense? Perhaps you should invest in a better camera?” Probably, but that’s point. That, ladies and gentlemen, was my first view of Spain following a 10ish day TRANSLANT a little over a year ago, the first week of the longest 8 months of my life. You’ll have to excuse my failure to properly capture the enormity of that moment as happiness that I was seeing dry land again (albeit with a lot of water in the foreground). Let’s see if I can’t find you a better shot.

P1000134

There we go! That’s much better. A quaint little fishing boat with Rota in the background. You can see the houses and everything. I would have preferred a sunnier day for my first seafaring adventure, but hey. Land. I wasn’t about to complain. A chance to stretch my legs literally and linguistically (in theory I used to speak Spanish. It was a little rusty by the time I got to Rota). You work all day, then you wander around eating tapas and drinking sangria all night. Have I already told stories about shore patrol? I can’t remember. I was on shore patrol in Rota. For the record, the middle of the night in January in coastal Spain can get a tad chilly. Let’s have a look at the town.

Oooo that's pretty.

Oooo that’s pretty.

As is that!

As is that!

That sign says exactly what you think it says.

That sign says exactly what you think it says.

And then you have Sam’s American Store. And what exactly, pray tell, so they sell at Sam’s American Store? Fruit loops, cake mix, potato chips, and Christmas candy. Yep. Amurica. Welcome to Rota.

*Please note that I won’t be showing a picture a day for the next 3.6 years. I’ll be a little choosey for the sake of brevity, which is (so it has been said) the soul of wit. That’s it, too much caffeine late at night.

Sarin

It’s been in the news lately, so let’s talk about sarin.

Sarin, or GB, is a very nasty nerve agent. I can’t speak for anyone else, but it’s one of the first chemical weapons I’d ever heard of; well before I even thought about joining the Navy, sarin was the first thing that came to mind whenever people talked about chemical weapons or gas attacks. I’m not going to talk about Syria since I’m not any kind of expert on the situation, but it’s been all over the news and a quick Google search will give you a rundown. No, today we’re talking the nitty gritty of what sarin is and what it does. Just so happens this hit the news while I was in a DC school with a huge emphasis on CBR.

Sarin was discovered in 1938 in a German lab during an attempt to create a stronger pesticide. Of the four G-series nerve agents synthesized in Germany between 1936 and 1949, sarin is the most toxic. It’s potential as a weapon was recognized very early on, though production didn’t take off in time for it to be a real option during WWII. The US and USSR began producing GB in the 1950s. UN Resolution 687 classifies sarin as a weapon of mass destruction, and its production and stockpiling was outlawed in 1993. Sarin is odorless and colorless.

Like other nerve agents, sarin blocks the enzyme cholinesterase. Nerve impulses pass through synapses using the enzyme acetylcholine; cholinesterase is necessary to break down the acetylcholine in the synapses to interrupt nerve impulses and allow muscles and organs to relax. Without cholinesterase, the entire body will clench and be unable to relax. Death is caused by respiratory failure. Though time of death will depend on level of exposure, it can occur within minutes.

Sarin exposure is treated with atropine and pralidoxime (2PAM), but they must be administered quickly. The military also uses an autoinjector of CANA, which is really just diazepam, for buddy aid if the atropine and pralidoxime fail; though diazepam is an anticonvulsant, it probably won’t succeed where the other two failed. It’s purpose is more to decrease suffering after someone receives a lethal dose of a nerve agent.

If you like goats, you should probably stop here. The following video is rather graphic. It doesn’t show blood and guts, but it does show a pigeon and a goat exposed to a lethal dose of GB during an artillery test. The muscle tremors and seizures are caused by the blockage of cholinesterase.

Sandy

We’ve all read the news lately (at least I hope we have; you shouldn’t be hearing this for the first time from me). About a week ago, Hurricane Sandy made its approach to the east coast, causing damage from the Carolinas to New England before passing up into Canada as a tropical depression. New jersey and New York were hit particularly hard, and I know some folks are still bailing out the water and waiting for the power to come back on.

If this all has a “been there/done that” feel, it should. You might remember a little over a year ago when the ensignmobile and I were moving from Newport to Norfolk, with my planned route directly along the path of the storm. I ended up taking some crazy detours and still ended up in a downpour. I’d post a link, but due to the joys of leave and airport-blogging from the phone, it just isn’t happening.

If you’ve seen some of the local Norfolk news, the word “sortie” had been tossed around. Part of the fleet did sortie, but it was canceled before all of the ships went out.

Obviously, the question I’m leading you to is, “Did the ChipsAhoy sortie?” Eh, not so much. We actually put the ship in drydock a few weeks ago, so it ain’t going nowhere. I was not on duty over the weekend, but the folks who were on the barge when the storm hit have declared that they earned their sea pay.

As for me, I barricaded myself in my apartment with water jugs and packaged food. I guess that’s kind of a letdown, bringing up the sortie only to say that I don’t really know anything about it because I spent the weekend perusing Netflix Instant except for the brief period when my internet died.

At any rate, if I have any readers who were affected by the storm, I hope you stayed safe, and I hope you have power.

You do what now?

I had reason to see a civilian eye doctor not long ago, and during the course of the appointment I realized just one more way my life was awkward.

First question: Have you had any recent eye injuries?

“Well, I was pepper sprayed about a week and a half ago. Does that count? It was during a training exercise; I wasn’t doing anything bad.”

Second question: Do you know which eye is your dominant eye?

“The right.” (A little too quickly)

Followup: ……..is that your shooting eye?

“…………Yes.”

Second followup: Are you sure it’s your dominant eye?

“I saw what happened when people tried to shoot with their other eye, and it just plain didn’t work. I was able to hit the target, so yes, I’m fairly certain I’m right eye dominant.”

So what? My life is awkward. At least the occasional bizarre encounter serves to make the world around me a little more interesting. But still awkward. (I was also informed by a different technician that the drops he was about to put in my eyes were the worst thing that would happen to me all week, but they really weren’t that bad. I mentioned that they couldn’t possibly be worse than the OC. He didn’t really know what to say to that.)

As an epilogue to the recent pepperspray adventure, we took a trip to the range. Gots to keep those quals current, y’know. I’ve shot before, though not on a regular basis. Still, two days at the simulator quickly got me back on track, and away I went.

The M9? Easy day. Sure, from far away I (rather consistently) tend to aim a smidge low, but the shots are still effective. Low light was an adventure. You really can’t hold a pistol and a flashlight at the same time, at least not without practice (and we had none). The practical course was crazy fun; they gave us three different targets at various distances with obstacles. We had to respond to commands as to which target to shoot while maintaining cover. I also had to figure out how to shoot a pistol while prone on the fly (without getting smacked in the face on the recoil).

Then there’s the M16. The infamous rifle. It’s been about 2.5 years since I’ve fired a rifle, and last time there was certainly no attempt to be tactical. Have I mentioned before that I’m 5’2″ on a good day, 5’3″ if I’m lying? A side effect is that my shoulders are really not built for rifles. Generally, the more upright I am, the more messed up my stance. When I’m standing, I’m nearly at a 90-degree angle to my target, and even then I don’t have enough space. I can either get up close and personal with the sights or give the butt stock proper support with my shoulder. Can’t do both. To spice it up even more, you can hold a rifle maybe 10 seconds before things start to fall apart. It has nothing to do with being tired; the rifle just tends to move as your body compensates. I’m slow to sight in on the rifle (short and inexperienced; it happens), so at best I have 2 or 3 seconds to take the shot between my sighting in and the rifle starting to wobble. Kneeling was something of an improvement, though on the uncomfortable side. Then there was prone.

My shoulders are still a little wonky prone; at the simulator I was twisted almost completely sideways, but for some reason I was able to get comfortable on the range without going so far. I wish I could have kept the target after I was done; the GM took one look and said, “Wow, ma’am; you killed the prone.” All of my shots were either in or touching the bullseye. Go Disbo.

An interesting aside about the kick on the M16: it’s not very much. The internet is failing me for numbers. Still, it was enough that after shooting in the prone position (about 20 rounds if you include sighting in), my elbows were a little scraped, even through my NWU sleeves and the mats we had on the floor.

For the record, I passed both weapons. With the low light and practical for the M9, I’m now fully qualified; unfortunately, we ran out of time for the M16 low light, so I’ll have to go back with the next group.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 52 other followers