24 February 2007

COPS! Filmed on location on board USS Oldboat

So it always seems to come that in the life of an enlisted sailor they will be assigned to temporary duty away their primary job. This is also known as being TAD'd. So it came to be that while I was stationed on board USS Oldboat, was tasked to take up duty with the Master-At-Arms on board. I had just been promoted to a 3rd class and the CPO that I worked for told me that it would of been a great chance to learn how to me a leader was by going to the security shack.
So I show up to the security shack and proceed to get indoctrinated into the ways of being the police force on a modern US aircraft carrier. I start with learning and having to quote verbatim the US Military Lawyers version of reasonable cause and use of deadly force. I can still quote them now every so often, when I hear the right combinations of words. Anyhow, one of the funnier moments in all of this week long training we got about what we can do and can't do as a security team member. We were finally being issued the official uniform, which was (drum-roll please).....Battle Dress Utilities as they are expressed in official terminology. The woodland cammies that everyone that fights ashore wearing. Mind you I am on a large ship that is painted primarily in shades of black, grey, and white. So here I am dressed in a uniform that is composed of green, black, brown. I am not completely smart and the US Navy through testing considers me smart, but a uniform that was designed to help you blend into the woodland areas of Central Europe, South America, just about any place that has a rich green forest. Not a frigging ship out at sea. The whole thing reminded me of those t-shirts that one can buy at places like Spencer's Gifts or Target that is a camouflaged and says "You can't see me".
So after getting that uniform which would help me to blend into the ship. We are then told to start patrol the ship and do the "protect and serve" bit. Twelve hour shifts while in port and we would work 3 days on with 2 off and then alternate the other way 2 days on with 3 off. The even better part about this scheduling was that about once a month if you worked nights then you would shift to days. So with our scheduling set, the rest of the training could proceed. See those assigned to the security shack can't carry arms unless we have attended something like 40 hours worth of training on the weapons we are going to use. Some of this training is via sleeping aids called US Navy training films. If some of you fine readers haven't seen these then imagine some of those dry film strips or educational films from High school or middle school. The ones that don't really tell you much more then what you had learned from the instructors lectures. After surviving the training, we are taken to the range to show "weapons familiarization" and to get a "familiarization firing" in. Basically one needs to show that they can shoot the weapon with out hurting themselves or others and then that they are able to put at least some of the bullets on a paper target a couple of yards away. After all of that is done one is given their weapons card, or as we called it the 007 card.
After all of that training which amounted to about a month, I am finally walking around the ship with 9mm gun strapped to my hip with no ammunition loaded in it, a baton on the other and scattered around the rest of my utility belt a pair of handcuffs and 45 rounds of 9mm ammunition. To give you a time reference, I joined the security shack about 3 months before the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. Before the Cole, the powers to be felt that Sailors couldn't be trusted with loaded firearms they were too afraid of people shooting themselves in the foot or shooting others. On top of that a couple of well known incidents at the time in the Hampton Roads area was a couple pier sentries were robbed of their weapons by unknown assailants just prior to my arrival. The sentries couldn't use their weapons in self-defense due to the rules of deadly force drawn up by some JAG lawyer on 2nd Fleet's staff. Would of had them making phone calls to request the use of their weapons, file forms in triplicate, and other typical lawyerese.
I digress, so I am supposed to walk around with a partner and make sure that our section of the ships stays safe and secure. Some of the sections were easier to walk. Such as the after 60 frames of the ship and all the decks from the 2nd deck up to the 0-3 level. Basically amounted to walking around a football field 3 times and then checking in with the dispatcher. The worst one was the center of the ship. We were supposed to check medical and their controlled meds cabinets (where all the good drugs were) and then all the way up to the bridge on the oh god level. Making this loop would be very similar to climbing up and down a 9 or 10 story building constantly for my shift. I will tell you this, I lost a bunch of weight when assigned this section but it was tiring after a while.
On top of the patrols we were assigned to stand watches on the brows of the ship with a 12-gauge shotgun (again unloaded) and defend these easy access points from hostile forces. These were typical 4 hour watches of just standing there trying to stay warm and decided if you really want to be a party of the Navy anymore.

Now that you all have a good idea of all that goes on to just become a security member. Let the show begin.
We have to deal with restricted personnel and most of these are people that run away from the Navy to deal with problems at home with then ran away from in the first place. See a cycle here? So we had a guy come back to us after being in an unauthorized absence (U/A) for about 90 days. After he came back on board we had to read him his rights and to get a breathalyzer on him and a urine sample. That way we can prove that when he gave his statement about being U/A he was stone cold sober. This joker didn't want to give either a breathalyzer nor give give a urine sample. So we told him to sit down and as soon as he was ready to abided by our rules we would let him go. Not even a minute after doing so, I turned by back to get something else ready when this guy bolted. Now we have a security alert, we don't know where he went nor what he might want to do. Make the announcements across the ships general announcing system. Closed the brows and actually closed the pier as well. No one could leave no one could come back on board. About 10 minutes later we find him in the ships smoke pit. A struggle which lead to the use of a baton on him to submit to being handcuffs and one of our guys getting a bruise. Back down in the security shack, again laid out that this loser could go on his happy way as long as he just gave us a breathalyzer and a urine sample, then sign some forms. A process that would take the most of his life about 10minutes. Again this joker decides to run with our handcuffs still on him. This time he decides to jump off the side of the ship and try and swim to the pier, only problem was that he jumped from where the aircraft elevator comes to the hanger deck. On USS Oldboat with the elevators up on the flight deck level there are stations up to keep people from falling over the side. Then a little further out there are some hooks which are to hook into the elevator and provide a strong point for the elevator to stay stable. Unfortunately for this U/A guy he jumped and got his hand cuffs caught on the fall with one of these hooks. This in turn pulled both his arms out of his sockets, very painful. Some one else walking along the hangar deck saw him jump and was about to call the man overboard when he heard the screaming. A short rescue session later and this guy was in custody, yet again this time handcuffed to the litter we used to carry him down to Medical. Where a corpsman popped both shoulders back in and then proceeded to draw both blood and with a warrant approved by the ship's JAG some urine to be tested. Long story short this guy was remanded to the Norfolk Naval Brig for the remainder of his career and to receive a bad conduct discharge. All of this was awarded at a special court martial.

Fast forward a few months and it is now post USS Cole and everyone is trying to figure out how in the world to protect the fleet while in port from terrorist attacks. So USS Oldboat is going to deploy soon, so some smart khaki in 2nd Fleet decides to use her to re-write the rulebook. For about 2 weeks straight we are going through security exercises left and right. Everything from riots on the pier, attempts to plant explosives on the ship, to IED attacks against the pier or friendly dining facilities (in Norfolk there is a McDonald's right across from the pier and they blew it up one night), to attempted kidnapping of senior officers. All sorts of fun and excitement. Last day of the exercise and the training team throws it all at us, and EOD team is going to plant explosives on the side of the ship while a suicide bomber will try and board the ship and blow up the hangar bay all the same while a small boat attack may occur. I was assigned as the brow sentry that morning, what wasn't told to me was that the brow sentries couldn't play. So in the early morning dawn I see some joker in civvies walk up to our pier sentries and pull a red man gun out and proceed to execute them and then make a full run down the pier. At the time I was calling away a security alert, another sentry on the side of the ship saw a diver and called away divers in the water. That started, the brows closed, everyone was supposed to freeze in place. I told the OOD to close the armored water tight hatch on my brow on both sides and then hide amongst the structure as I loaded my Mossburg model 500 shotgun. As this guy came up I took the butt of my shotgun and thrust it hard and fast into his stomach which caused him to stop, gasp for breath. I then stood over him kicked the gun away and cycled the pump. Standing over this man with a shotgun about an 6 inches from his face I pulled my best Dirty Harry and asked "Do you want open or closed casket?". He surrendered, I called away for a security team to come by and pick him up. A few hours later after I got off watch and was told to report to ready room 10 for a special debrief from the security training team. I show up, pissed off to hell because this is cutting into my sleep time and as I open the door there is the security division officer, the XO of the boat, and this guy that I butt stroked. Except this time he is in a pair of blues with Lieutenant Commander stripes on his shoulder boards. Oh god, I think Southern is going to jail for assaulting an officer. This LCDR is all hyped up and wants my head, going on about how I was supposed to know not to play. This guy was just all sorts of pissed off and still hunched over from the beat down. The XO who was a Captain told him to calm down and let me speak. So I told him that at quarters at the beginning of my shift 2000 the previous night all that was explained was that there was going to be one final security drill with only divers or a small boat attack coming at us. Not some mad man trying to come on the ship with a gun and or bombs strapped to him. I acted as I was supposed to which was put down the threat in justification with the deadly force ladder. Since he had not pointed the gun at me I couldn't just shoot him, so I dropped him and arrested. At this point my division officer spoke up and said that we were told by your people, as she pointed at this LCDR, was the drills were over and a debrief was supposed to go on today. My people acted with in accordance of ships, 2nd Fleet, Norfolk, and Navy policy. You were the one to screw up. The XO then asked me if I knew what was going on today. I just mentioned how I was supposed to stand this watch at the end of my shift and we had been told the exercises were over the day before. I then mentioned how it seemed silly at least to me to verbally challenge the guy when I had seen he had a gun, when it was better to close the hatch and then try to subdue him while he was attempting to gain access. From there I was dismissed and stumbled back to my rack for some well needed sleep. I was then woken up about half through my sleep by a Chief as told to report to the security shack. I threw on a pair of coveralls and went down to the shack. There was this same LCDR, my division officer, and the division CPO. I then got an apology from this LCDR during the earlier debrief and I was told I acted with in policy.

A month after cruise started I rotated out of the security shack and went back to my real job of fixing airplanes. I learned a few things while down there. I did what I was supposed to do, but I didn't enjoy being in the security shack for a minute.

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