20 March 2006

Fun and Hi-jinks while Haze Gray chapter 1

There I was getting ready to experience my first underway as a member of the mythical "Fleet". I had already been in the Navy for about 9 months total from boot camp to completion of NAMTRAGRU. All I had heard from the various chiefs and senior PO's at all these billets was how the "Fleet" was different then training commands I was passing on through. Here it is late June in Norfolk, I am a brand new airman apprentice assigned to USS Oldship. I was proud to be part of her, be on her, and hopefully make history with her. Her name is one well associated with history of the Navy going back to the days of wooden ships and iron men. She made a name for own self as part of the ongoing challenges to the Soviet bloc through out the world. What were we getting underway for? I could of cared less, in reality this was going to be my first and last for about 9months. We were going out to sea to offload all the bombs, rockets, missiles, etc that they had in preparation to hit the yards for a post-deployment overhaul. It was only going to be a two week tour cruise up and down the Virginia Capes operating area. God how I was going to hate reading for the next 4yrs the short hand for that area, VACAPES, later on in my tour. Like I said today I didn't give a care. We also had a special detail on board, portions of the Naval Reserve CV augmentation unit from New York on board doing their 2 weeks of active duty for drill. Talking with them, most of these folks were in during Regan Era of the Cold war and big Navy. However, they decided after Desert Storm to walk away from the active side for whatever reason; yet they still like the Navy to stick around.
The fun and excitement of being underway for my first time last, oh about 36hours. Upon which I realized that when the pier and land disappear over the horizon and you end up haze gray you are up to your own resources to find something to do and not be in someones way. I spent part of that time learning my way around the ship, being thrust into various ship-wide training evolutions "Send Southern to the Mass Cass he is the new guy!", finally being assigned collateral duties.
One of those collateral duties was being a member of a repair locker. Now when a ship is haze grey and under way the only people that can be called on to fight a fire is the ships crew. They are all trained in basic DC (firefighting, shoring, water removal, first aid, etc) and then some lucky folks are assigned to join a repair locker which operates just like a neighbor firehouse. The repair locker is responsible for a specific area to fight damage that is caused to the ship. They are the first responders. On a carrier there are 7 major lockers spread through out the ship and some of those lockers are subdivided in to letter codes designated where they are assigned: Fox-forward, Bravo-Midships, Alpha-Aft. I was attached to 1-Fox and we were responsible for everything from the divisional doors on the Hangar bay forward to the anchor windlass and up to the 02 level.
Now as I mentioned we also had some reservists on board, most of them were pretty cool. One though was a total jerk and some other not nice words. She had been in the Navy for 12yrs active duty and 8yrs reserves as an avionics repair tech for the AWG-9 radar system which was held in the
F-14 Tomcat. She had never been to sea, some of that wasn't her fault when she came in the Navy wasn't letting women at sea in combat ships and after she switched to reserves she found a way to do most of her time over at Oceana. This time though, the unit instead of rolling to Oceana came to USS Oldship to give the reservists some sea time. She hated every minute of it. Every day all of us in the shop heard complaints about either the food, noise, racks, bored, or how seasick she was. I stayed out of her way though cause in my eyes she was a "salty" 2nd class PO.
We were arranged by our bosses over in production control to work a 12 on and 12 off scheduled and only one shift since we weren't getting anyone form the attached air wing or training wings to fly on board. That is we worked from 0700 in the morning to 1900 at night. When we got off shift we could do whatever we wanted, the most popular thing to do was sit around and play spades or hearts and watch one of the three movie channels on the TV. For reasons only known to God himself and the joker that was in charge of programming one of the movie channels the total two weeks we were out the movie "Titanic" was being shown at various times alternating through the three channels. Since those in charge of programming were lazy they never changed programming during a day you were able to pick it again around the same time just 12 hours later (ie if the movie started at 0800 you could catch it again at 2000 starting again).
So I was assigned to a repair locker and found out the first GQ went down on underway+3 just basically a refresher for the experienced guys and to start training the new folks (like me) into filling spots of guys that were leaving. It was an experience! Sweating in a fire-fighting ensemble with an oxygen breathing apparatus on my chest for two hours. I was a messenger between the Hose teams and the on-scene leader. Lots of running and jumping, a butt ton of weight loss.

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