Sunday, April 24, 2016

I Stumbled, Then I Blinked

My blogging resolve flagged for a day or two at the end of last patrol. I didn't meet my goals. I think I got distracted with Key West and the transit home. Not gonna beat myself up about it, just acknowledge it, and try to do better next time.

And then I blinked, and our less than 60-day inport is almost over. I knew that was going to happen. We tried to pack about 90 pounds of potatoes into a 55 pound sack...figuratively speaking. Here are some highlights that I can remember without my calendar in front of me:

We started a six-week fitness series called DILIFit! the week after we got back. Every Tuesday (except for one, which was on Monday because of an inspection) at noon, we invited the public to come work out with the crew during our regular weekly workout time. We had no idea how much participation to expect, but a couple locals joined us at each session. We also had lots of media interest: http://www.wwaytv3.com/2016/03/22/diligence-crew-hosts-workout/
http://portcitydaily.com/2016/03/16/diligence-crew-community-bands-together-for-first-waterfront-exercise/
http://www.wect.com/story/31465521/get-fit-with-the-crew-from-the-coast-guard-cutter-diligence
The Port City loves them some DILIGENCE.

At the end of March, we hosted members from Afloat Training Group (ATG) Mayport onboard for our Command Assessment of Readiness and Training (CART). We spent months preparing for CART, to the point that I was glad when it finally arrived because it meant it was almost over, and we could stop obsessing about it. During the three days of CART, ATG goes over about eleven checklists that the command (DILIGENCE) is supposed to have assessed themselves against before ATG's arrival. We also do a bunch of drills so ATG can evaluate our onboard Training Teams' abilities to train the crew, including integrating into an Integrated Training Team (ITT) to conduct more elaborate drills. The eleven checklists total over 1800 line items. We had 17 discrepancies, five that were training restrictive (we're not safe to train until these discrepancies are corrected) and 12 minor discrepancies. I'd say a discrepancy rate of 0.1% is equivalent to knocking it out of the park -- though our TLO (Training Liaison Officer) did say that was the *second* lowest discrepancy rate they had seen; another ship only had two minor discrepancies. Most days I'd rather be happy than be the best :) Our onboard Training Teams did very well also. All but one were assessed as Ready to Train. We're sailing with members from ATG on our shakedown cruise to get the remaining Training Team some assistance from ATG's LTT (Limited Training Team). All this CART stuff is in preparation for TSTA (Tailored Ship's Training Availability, pronounced "tis-ta"). That starts for us here in another week-ish, and is 15 workdays during which we have to do all our mandated drills as listed on some list -- I can't remember the name right now -- but it's about 90 drills for our seven onboard Training Teams, including ITT. FORCECOM loves them some acronyms.

TSTA will be busy, but it's a great opportunity for the crew to focus on nothing but training. I'm grateful a few of our new folks are transferring in during TSTA so they'll get the benefit of all the training before transfer season really goes into full swing and we lose all our fully qualified members.

Ok, so after CART, we headed full bore into the 69th Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival the very next week. We hosted the official party of about 44 people onboard the ship for a VIP reception as the opening event, just prior to the Queen's Crowning on Wednesday. The city started shutting down roads around downtown on Tuesday for some of the events, which made it tricky for the crew to get to the ship. Wilmington Downtown, Inc. was **awesome** and came through with 50 parking passes for crewmembers so we could pass through the road barriers to get to the ship more easily -- which was a *huge* help come Saturday, when about 10 blocks surrounding the ship were all closed off for the parade. We were the 137th float in the parade, with the crew walking (not marching!) in front of our GV-towed Cutter Boat-Large (CB-L). We invited family members to walk with us, and all the kids rode in the CB-L, along with ENS Emma Lutton, our Student Engineer, who wasn't in uniform, but was instead fulfilling her duties as Miss Southern States, a title she won at the beginning of the year! And we also were open for tours to the public for Friday, Saturday and Sunday for six hours each day. We had over 1,600 people onboard during the course of the three days, with display tables set up on the pier with crew reps talking about maritime law enforcement, damage control, navigation and rescue and assistance. I worked the line, talking to people waiting for their tour, on Sunday afternoon. I gave them a little information about the ship, her missions, crew, and history, and answered whatever questions they came up with. It was fun...but I was exhausted at the end of the day, especially since Sunday turned out to be our busiest day -- giving tours for 710 people! CGRC (Coast Guard Recruiting Command) loves them some Azalea Festival.

Starting Monday after Azalea Festival, we had a contractor onboard to conduct a Watertight Closure Assessment. It's a program that EO pushed really hard to get back after it fell out of favor at the Product Line (our maintenance oversight) a few years ago because it helps EO with making sure the ship stays watertight -- just a little important so WE DON'T SINK!!! The contractors took apart, inspected, renewed and put back together all 71 watertight enclosures (including doors, hatches and scuttles) onboard the ship, documented their findings and trained our DCPOs (Damage Control Petty Officers, the members from each division that are responsible for maintaining damage control equipment in their spaces for their respective divisions, pronounced "dee-see pee oh"). They chipped away degraded metal, renewed welds, gaskets and dogs (the fittings that tighten down to keep water out), and generally kept themselves and our DCPOs busy from 0730 to 1500 each day. They also provided the ship and the Product Line with a very detailed summary of their findings, what they fixed, and what they were unable to fix that either needs to be done by ship's force or included in the next maintenance availability (i.e., drydock or dockside). EO loves him some DC readiness.

That Friday, we hosted a local business appreciation open house. We asked crew members to invite their favorite local (small) businesses by passing out copies of the CO's invitation, to come down for a tour and a little time with the crew to show our appreciation of their efforts to make Wilmington such a great homeport. Again, we had no idea of how many people to expect, but we had about 15 crewmembers stay after the workday to mingle. We only had about eight local folks show up. I think, though, that this really is a case of the thought is what counts because while people may not have been able to leave their businesses on a pretty Friday afternoon for a Coast Guard boondoggle, at least they know we recognize their efforts to make the area so welcoming. DILIGENCE loves them some Port City.

And don't forget, we're still doing DILIFit! every Tuesday.

At this point, I tapped out for a couple of days off while I had some friends in town, though I did go in that Monday for the last Department Head meeting of the inport, and on Tuesday for our required annual Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness training. I also spent some time in a tattoo shop that week...bzzz bzz bzzzzzz...my arm is still healing. Love me some new ink.

While all this other stuff was going on, the rest of the ship's work was happening in the background. Enlisted and officer evaluations, budget angst (never enough money) and 2nd Quarter FY16 closeout, property inspections, maintenance, training, ramping up for transfer season (scheduling inbound and outbound dates, award prep, making sure we have enough racks), patrol planning and preps (our patrol plan changed no less than five times during the course of the middle two weeks of this inport -- OPS was about ready to throw his draft CONOP (concept of operations) overboard). We did regular tours, special tours for JROTC, homeschool and pre-school groups, and hosted a few special guests onboard for lunch.

After writing all this, I kind of feel like this inport was the half-mile long steep-ass hill at Mile 11 in the Battleship Half Marathon I ran back in November. I was so close to the finish line (less than three months left onboard DILI) and I wouldn't let myself quit, but the grade of that incline (pace of the inport) was a *bitch* of energy expenditure, right when I didn't necessarily have it left to spare. Collectively, we (DILI's crew) put together an exceptional effort this inport. We tackled every event with thorough preparation, positive enthusiasm and lots of energy, and the results enhanced the ship's and crew's reputation -- and that's definitely something we can be proud of!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Quarters at Sea

We didn't have quarters out on the flight deck much this patrol, because
there wasn't much room on the flight deck with our migrant tent up. But
tonight, we had quarters on the flight deck at sunset to welcome our newest
temporary Cuttermen into the fold. We took the opportunity to get a group 
picture of most everyone -- we still had eight people on watch on the bridge, 
in the engine room, and in CIC. Damn fine looking group!
Luckily, sunset was gorgeous. Lots of flaming red and dark clouds.
We still have a few important things to get done before all lines are made up and doubled up in homeport, the brow is over and the trash is off the ship. But every mile and every minute takes us closer to home.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Serendipity

I love serendipity in the Coast Guard! It's probably just that it's a very
small service, and within the cutterman community, smaller still, but some
days it just puts a smile on my face. 

We got out of a brief this morning, and walked back to the ship. Reflex
reaction when I'm away from my phone for more than three minutes is to check
it. A phone call and a text from one of my most fave people -- FMR. The text
was, "Yo! You're in ***! I just pulled in on FRC**!" 

Craziest of schedule coincidences  And now it's out to dinner that's sure
to be filled with sea stories and laughter...

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Apostrophe Rant

I edit a lot of bureaucratic minutiae. Cutter Organization Manual sections,
memos for the record, memos for another unit, memos to individuals, page 7s,
business letters, emails, press releases, endorsements, evaluation comments,
messages...and probably a few other things. I'm not the best editor in the
world, but my mother was an English teacher while I was a young kid, and
somehow some of her grammar knowledge must have sunk in through osmosis to
me. 

Like apostrophes. They're such little bits of type, barely there at all. Not
much ink is used for an apostrophe, nor do they take up many pixels on a
computer screen. But they can annoy the crap out of me so very badly. 

Here's the deal -- apostrophes are generally used for two main purposes: 
-- An apostrophe is used to show possession. For example, "My mother's
background as an English teacher contributed to my borderline neurosis about
using apostrophes correctly."
-- An apostrophe is used to show where a contraction exists, or to show
how/where two words are connected into one, shorter word. For example, "Many
people don't (do not) know how to use apostrophes appropriately."

They are not used to denote a plural form of acronyms or other nouns, or
noun-like words. I know there may be exceptions, but in my world, I root out
those exceptions in track changes, and leave them in my red-lettered dust,
or strike through them with a vengeance with my XO's green ink pen.

OS's is the possessive for of Operations Specialist -- whatever comes right
after OS's belongs to the OS. It is NOT a plural form of OS. The plural form
of OS is OSs. Yes, autocorrect tries to make the first, capitol S lower case
as soon as you space away from it. But take the split second to go back and
correct the autocorrect. It's attention to detail, and it can make or break
you.

I know that as soon as I post this rant every single JO I've ever worked
with will take great delight in pointing out all my typos and grammar
mistakes...but if I can get through to just one person about the proper use
of the apostrophe, my work here is done. Just like when I actually put "Nap
time" on the POD (for the first time...the second time was just me showing
off). 

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Monday, February 29, 2016

Best Laid Plans

The best laid plans of mice and XOs are disrupted with disturbing frequency.
We had a perfectly good plan for tomorrow. It got a lot done, moving us
closer to our specific goals for the patrol. But then circumstances beyond
our control changed, and now we have a new plan. It's not quite as nice as
the old plan, but it's a good plan, a safe plan, a plan that helps the
overall goal of the patrol.

There's another saying I'm reminded of tonight: "Wanna know how to make God
laugh? Make a plan."

You'd think after all the upheaval of plans I have experienced from being on
Coast Guard boats for so long, I'd have long ago given up on planning.
Somehow that's not what happens though. It makes me cling even harder to the
next plan. I always have to have a plan, even if it's totally tentative with
a bunch of different options. I feel a little untethered without a plan,
like anything can happen and usually the bad stuff will. Planning is a
containment spell for the gremlins and demons that can come from the cracks
and crevices in one's attention and wreak havoc on one's life.

Ok, maybe that's a little too far, but you get the idea. It's a habit that
will be very hard to break whenever I find myself not needing to plan so
much.

Well, on a positive note, we don't have to get up quite so early tomorrow
morning. And I was still awake when things changed and it was relatively
easy to get out a new POD (Plan of the Day) for tomorrow.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Boat Ride!

I had forgotten how much fun small boat rides are! We met up with an FRC
this morning to pick up some migrants they interdicted last night. Their OPS
came over to DILI to brief us on some of their medical conditions, so I took
the opportunity for a quick ride over to their boat to say hi. I've
exchanged a few emails with their XO, and figured putting a face to a name
is always a good idea. 

A small boat moves differently than the cutter, which is really a statement
that is brutally obvious. Of course it moves differently. But when I was in
the small boat, my body moved differently too. I spent a decent amount of
time in the small boat when I was XO on WASHINGTON, back from 2002 to 2004,
but not much time in one since then. My body remembered that it needed to
just accept the movement, and not try to fight it, even more so than it does
on the cutter when it's rough. We didn't build up too much speed, and it was
definitely good conditions -- otherwise, I know boat rides can be not so
much fun. More like a series of car crashes about every 30 seconds if a boat
is speeding through six to eight foot seas, on a go-fast chase, say.

The waves were a little choppy, maybe about a foot of chop and a two foot
swell...relatively calm compared to some of the crap we've seen this patrol.
I got a good amount of spray on me, but thankfully no full dousing. It's
always a little dicey getting onto and off of the small boat, but the
coxswain did a nice job of keeping us steady alongside. Then it's just a
matter of timing the swell to step off the ladder on a trough, and step onto
the ladder at the crest of a swell. I managed with better than my usual
(lack of) grace.

My boat ride lasted maybe 7 minutes total there and back, but I had a big
grin on my face for the rest of the day. 

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Idea of Mentoring

I'm still not used to the idea of being a mentor. Sure, I participate in an
online mentoring program that matches mentees with mentors, and I've got the
leadership pro dev series that we do onboard underway. But, it always takes
me a little by surprise, particularly when I'm talking to young
women/officers, that they will look up to me and value the lessons I've
learned from my experiences.

Then again, it also takes me a little by surprise to remember I have nearly
nine and a half years of sea time, have served on six ships, been CO of two,
and am about to put on CDR! Somehow in my mind, I just started this gig a
couple years ago, and am still learning what I'm supposed to be doing.

I forget that there just aren't that many senior women cuttermen. The ones
we have are great! and I'm definitely grateful to have them as my own role
models, but right now (and I know I risk getting these numbers wrong), I
think there are maybe six female LCDRs or senior serving as CO, XO or
Department Head on major/white hull cutters (I'm not including WLB-225s
here, simply because I don't know much about that community...shame on me)
-- out of a fleet of 37ish (?? -- I can't keep up with the WMSLs coming
on-line and the WHECs getting decom'ed...I'll need to start knowing that
soon enough!) WMSLs, WHECs, WMEC-270s and -210s. If my math is right (and I
make no promises), that's less than seven percent of senior cuttermen jobs
are currently held by women. And I'm one of them. Shit, that's sobering. 

This is not a post to bemoan the fact that there are so few women afloat --
that's a whole 'nother post. This is simply a recognition that I am in an
exceedingly select group, and I am still learning the importance and gravity
of that role. I had an encounter today that very strongly reinforced this
particular lesson, so this idea of mentoring is on my mind.

The "mentoring" I give is mostly storytelling, with a few nuggets or themes
of things that have worked for me or ways of looking at things that make
things make better sense. And most of the time, I just listen and tell them
that being on the vertical part of a learning curve always sucks and that
they're not alone...and that's usually exactly what they need to hear. 

I'll say it again -- what we do is hard. Not everyone can do what we do. But
(for now) I think it's worth it, especially if you can do it well.

One of these days, I'm going to start to compile those lessons learned and
sea stories into something. If nothing else than to just get them out of my
head.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**