Wednesday, March 31, 2010


It’s been a big few days for qualifications onboard KISKA. Huge congratulations go out to:

FN Nolan Rager (TAD to us from STEADFAST) earned his inport crewman qualification…not bad for having been on board for less than a month.

FN Larry Burns earned his underway Engineer of the Watch qualification this evening. He fought hard for it and finally passed his board.

And…drum roll, please…BM1 Eli North is KISKA’s newest qualified underway Officer of the Deck! This is not an easy qualification to earn. The u/w OOD is responsible for what goes on during his watch onboard the ship: making sure we get where we’re going without hitting anything, executing whatever operations are planned like boardings, search and rescue, flight operations, drills, casualty control…whatever. You have to have a lot of knowledge about a lot of things to be qualified as an OOD.

BM1 has been breaking-in under a qualified OOD for the past few months, learning the ropes. As he demonstrated at his board, he’s at the point now that he really needs to stand his own watch to continue his learning curve. It gets to a point with standing watch as a break-in that you really can’t learn any more without standing the watch by yourself. You know that there’s always a qualified person there on the bridge to back you up; it’s an “easy out.” Once you’re up on the bridge by yourself, somehow the level of responsibility is ratcheted up significantly, and things take on a different level of importance. I learned more during my first half-dozen qualified watches than I did during the previous month of standing watch as a break-in. That’s just the way it works.

So, during an arduous three-hour qual board this morning and this afternoon, BM1 proved to me, the XO and MKC that he was ready to stand watch on his own. He did a great job demonstrating his knowledge of the ship and more importantly, his ability to make good judgments, even if he didn’t necessarily have every bit of information he needed to make a 100% good decision.

BM1 North is the first person for whom I’ve signed an initial OOD qual letter. All my other OOD boards as CO have been for re-quals…still very important, but I kinda feel like I’m the “line in the sand” (ugh, did I really say that?!) for making sure he meets the “minimum necessary standard” for a qualification. Because qualification is a process. He’s made his first HUGE step to being a good OOD, but the learning doesn’t stop here. I learn something new about standing watch all the time. Sometimes it’s a subtlety about rules of the road, or another little engineering tidbit. But just because you’re qualified doesn’t mean the learning stops.

Usually at the conclusion of a qual board, the boardee is asked to leave the space so the boarders can talk about his performance. After a discussion about how the boardee did, the board comes to a consensus of whether or not he passed. And then the boardee is called back into the room.

I don’t have a standard speech yet. Regardless of whether the member passed the board, one of my previous COs used to ask, “Why do you think you failed your board?” I always thought that was pretty harshly unfair and mean. During my own initial OOD qualification on BOUTWELL, my XO, CDR Mike Kazek, had placed pictures of his little girls in front of my chair, so when I came back into the room and sat down, I was looking at the photos. He told me, “Those girls, and the children, family and friends of every other person on this ship are your responsibility while you’re on watch. You must take it seriously.” That made quite an impression on me (while nearly making me cry right in front of the board!), and I do take standing watch seriously.

Next for BM1 comes the traditional pipe over the 1MC for his first watch, “Now, all hands review their WQSB (Watch, Quarter, Station Bill) responsibilities for Abandon Ship and locate life jackets as BM1 North prepares to take his first qualified OOD watch.” Tee hee.

Oh yeah…and this also means that XO and I aren’t port and starboard anymore—yippeeee! The possibility of seven hours of sleep at a time, instead of barely five…sounds glorious!


Liomoana said...

Congratulations to those who were qualified. They did themselves proud.

Good for you and XO being able to get a bit more sleep, too.

Azulao said...

One of your previous COs asked "Why did you fail your boards?" when someone PASSED? Like, for a bad joke or something? Jackass. "I'm sorry, Ms. ABD, you failed your defense...psych!"

Congratulations to your fellas -- and to you for your mentoring.