Saturday, June 27, 2009

Visuals from Drydock

Rather than sit here and whine about how icky drydock is, I decided to post some pictures, 'cause as you know, a picture is worth a thousand words.

This first one is where they've removed a supporting block to do metal work underneath it. They can't remove more than one of these at a time, or we'd risk structural damage to the ship from, well, almost like cracking the spine of a book.

The one on the right is the focs'le...with a lovely view of the Waianae coast. I particularly like the two toilets sitting on the gun grate :)

Oh, and this is the sound locker between aft berthing and the engine room...there's supposed to be a deck there.

A lot of these pictures are places where the hull has been cut away to remove bad metal, and you can see through what should be the skin of the ship to the outside...a very uncomfortable feeling. Usually when there's holes in the ship, it means you're taking on water. Not such a good thing.

This one in particular is back in aft berthing, where eight guys live and sleep underway. It's a little cockeyed; the bulkhead on the bottom left of the picture is the aft bulkhead in the space.

The next photo is the deck drain in the Chief's head (bathroom). The yard guys needlegunned around the drain to take away bad metal and rust, and ooops, well, let's just say, the water will drain more easily, but it won't be going to the gray water tank.

Next is the exterior view from the stern. Lots of stuff sitting around the ship.

And then there's the rest of the Chief's head...with a new "air conditioning vent" installed.

Here's some action photos: metal being cut out and bad metal being grinded (ground?) away.

Crap...that's not from the shipyards. I got my toes painted nice and pretty yesterday.

And then we've got the sewage tank, with all it's right repairs. I think they've got one or two more things to do in other spaces that interfere with putting the plating back on this spot.

I don't remember if they're coming or going with the plating here. And there's our scrap metal heep. Chief told me there's another, larger one that's chock full. We are gonna recycle it, and get some money for the ship's morale program.

So that's a tour of the shipyards. Aren't you glad you came for a visit?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Command Philosophy

As a Commanding Officer, I'm required to have a Command Philosophy. I'm not a very introspective person by nature, so this was a good, but challenging exercise in putting my perspective into words.

I've used it for a year so far, and didn't change it much for this command experience. One of the best compliments I received from a shipmate (thanks, J Hart!) was that he appreciated that I stuck to it and related a lot of what went on back to it.

Here it is...
My philosophy
…is that life is a journey, not a destination. I joined the Coast Guard to perform great and worthy, heroic and patriotic duties, for the sea stories I get to tell my family and friends, and to experience things that not many other people get to do. I plan to get the most out of even the little things, like sunrises and sunsets, a job well done and good food at the end of a long day (or night).
…is that a job worth doing is worth doing to the best of my ability. At the end of my tour, I intend to look back and be able to honestly tell myself that I faced every task and challenge to the best of my ability. This is the only way the sacrifices I have made will have been worthwhile.

Guidance and expectations
• Professionalism and the mission: Each of us volunteered for this assignment. We are here for one reason – the mission…to get it done as thoroughly and efficiently as possible. In completing the mission, we must remember that we serve our great nation as part of the finest sea-going service in the world. Your actions reflect back on our ship, our service and our country. Your individual ability to be a professional directly contributes to the ship’s ability to successfully accomplish the mission. I expect that you will always contribute in a positive manner, on and off duty.
• Safety and training: We work in an inherently hazardous environment. Constant training is fundamental to knowing the proper initial actions in any emergent situation. We will train the way we fight, with enthusiasm and dedication to the safety of our ship, our shipmates and ourselves. And always, always, speak up if you see a shipmate or the ship headed for “shoal water.”
• Respect and communication: Mutual respect for each other, as individuals and as professionals, is critical in our close and chaotic environment. We all have different experiences that allow us our own unique perspectives; none is wrong and each is valid. Respect each other enough to listen to one another. Effective communication consists of both speaking and listening, which is often harder than it sounds. Take the time to listen to what your shipmate has to say to you, rather than hearing what you think they should be telling you. You may find that most conflicts are resolved with less heartache when people simply listen to each other.

My commitment to you, my shipmates
• To do my best to keep you safe, through constant training and decision-making based on thorough and informed risk analysis
• To recognize and honor our collective mission accomplishments and your professionalism, technical expertise and personal achievements
• To communicate as openly as possible with you, while balancing mission restrictions and privacy interests
• To be fair and respect each shipmate as an individual with a unique perspective
• To openly accept feedback, positive or negative, in the spirit with which it was offered, incorporating workable suggestions into standard practices

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'm Back

It's been a while. I'm not in the desert anymore, but in Paradise instead. And I'm gonna change the format of the blog. It's not anonymous anymore, which will bring its own challenges, but will allow me to post about other aspects of my job.

So on 16 May 2009, I took command of USCGC KISKA (WPB 1336) at a lovely ceremony at the Coast Guard base on Sand Island in Honolulu, HI.
The ship is homeported in Hilo, HI, but is long-term temporarily on Oahu for drydock. Most CG drydocks are about two months...those two months were up about three weeks ago, and we've got about another two months to go. The ship had a lot of "delayed maintenance," so at least when I get it back afloat, it'll be in really good shape.

Now let me just say, I know that drydocks and extended maintenance periods are extremely necessary...things. Ships *need* the attention and care that they are afforded in drydocks. A lot of good work is done to keep them working, in this particular case, 10 years and more past their expected life cycle.

But I *hate* drydocks. This is my fifth drydock on the four ships on which I've been stationed. The ship gets torn all to pieces, holes cut in the hull, dirt and grime work themselves into places that are impossible to clean (stupid sand blasting grit gets EVERYWHERE), and nothing works quite smoothly when putting stuff all back together. While this drydock is not much fun, because there's nothing much fun about a five-month drydock, at least 1) I'm back in the beautiful United States, especially paradaisical Hawaii, and 2) I'm not living onboard, which I had to do for three weeks on one of my previous ships during an unscheduled drydock. So, there are definitely some things to be grateful for.

However, there are also trials and tribulations. And here's where the non-anonymous part of this newly refurbished blog gets tough; how to tell stories without calling out people unprofessionally? Here goes...

We had extensive damage to our sewage tank. Like holes and pitting and old clad welds where previous holes and pits had been patched. Well, we're supposed to be fixing things the right way with this drydock, so I expected the whole mess of bad metal to be cropped out and replaced. Unfortunately, we had started to run out of money for the project, so the subject matter experts started to look at alternative fixes. What they came up with was full of technical jargon and specifics (which I *almost* followed), and then they ended their recommendations with, "Coat with three coats of paint, instead of the specified two." Because that extra coat of paint is gonna make ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD.

Thankfully, we were able to ask for more money and get the tank fixed the right way, but really, an extra coat of paint????

And another thing about know that quote, "Ports rust ships and sailors"? Well, it's true. Sailors get edgy and bored when they're inport for too long. I recently took one of my good young men to mast for saying something stupid to one of my other sailors as a joke. Unfortunately, it wasn't even close to appropriate as a joke, so I had to make sure his inappropriate comment didn't infect the good order and discipline of the ship. I dismissed the charges, but gave the young man "extra military instruction" or EMI, which is designed usually as extra work to correct a particular deficiency. And while Captain's masts are usually very somber and serious affairs, I had to stop myself from laughing out loud when I assigned this particular bit of EMI. He has to tell me an (appropriate) joke a day for two weeks.

Today's joke: What do you call a chicken coop with four doors?

Wait for it...

A chicken sedan!

Get it...chicken coupe?

I laughed.

So, that's it. I'm back.