Friday, April 9, 2010

Bits and Pieces

All those qualifications from the last post aren't the only things that happened during the last patrol. Here's a run-down from the rest of the week-ish.

We got underway on Sunday afternoon, enroute Station Maui in Maalaea. We picked up some MSST Honolulu folks on Monday morning so that we could go out and shoot big guns. It's tough with the weather conditions, range restrictions and small boat capabilities for the MSST to get their gunners qualified, so the last two gunshoots we've done, we've had them onboard as well. We set their gun up on one side, and our guns up on the other and switch sides facing the target. Seems to work pretty well.

Anyway, the weather wasn't too bad on Monday and we got some new .50 cal gunners qualified. And we shot off a bunch of 25 mm rounds. Anybody who knows WPB 110s and the 25mm gun knows that it's quite an accomplishment. GMC Dwyer from Sector Honolulu went with us also to make sure the guns all worked, since our GM was still recovering from a medical issue. It went fabulously. We got the last of nearly 200 25 mm rounds down range with 24 seconds to spare before the range closed. So that was a successful day, and we pulled into Honolulu at the end of it, delivering the MSST crew safely back home.

Tuesday was all the qualification boards. A great day!

Though it was a little hectic with all the different iterations of plans we went through. First we were going to get underway in the afternoon to get some fishing vessel boardings in. But then the fishing boats were delayed, so we were going to get underway in the middle of the night. But then a very smart BM3 Brian Goracke checked the weather and saw that it was blowing 25 kts on the leeward side of the island, with 11 foot seas predicted, and I decided that, even if we did get on-scene with the fishing boat, chances were good that we wouldn't be able to launch our small boat to deliver the boarding team, so we just stayed in port and finished all our qualification boards. Turned out to be a good use of time anyway.

Wednesday we had some tasking from Sector Honolulu. We went a ways offshore, and escorted a vessel into port. Now, the weather hadn't backed down any from the night before and it was still blowing a righteous breeze, solid 25 kts, gusting to 35 and 40 kts. Seas were two feet within 1000 yards of the sea buoy, and about six to eight feet three miles offshore. I thought to myself, standing on the open bridge, with 47 kts of relative wind whipping around me, bouncing through eight foot seas at 15 kts, salt spray coming over the bow and dousing us, that's its hard not to feel like a rockstar in my job sometimes. I certainly had rockstar hair by the time the escort was over (well, we'll call it rockstar hair...it was really more like wild woman of Borneo. And let me tell ya', it's not easy to get a comb through hair that's been blown about in nearly 50 kts of wind for three hours, especially with that nice coating of salt spray on top...that stuff's better than *any* hairspray).

We finished up with the escort. He only turned in front of me once without advising me of his course change first. When we very politely, of course, reminded him to give us a heads up about course changes before making them, he said, "I didn't have to do that the last time." Well, last time, he must have been escorted by someone who doesn't mind having someone turn directly in front of them, cutting them off at less than 1000 yards. I do, though. We got along pretty good after the reminder though, and the rest of the escort was fairly uneventful.

After the escort, we went to X9S, a mooring ball in the east loch of Pearl Harbor. It is the Best Mooring Ball EVER!! It's actually designed as a hurricane refuge for ships, and it's wonderfully protected, no swell and not much current, so the ship doesn't ride up on it and threaten to bump it in the middle of the night like most other mooring balls I know. The crew gets really excited when we go to X9S, because we all sleep like champs there.

We did some small boat ops for personnel and supply transfers to and from Rainbow Marina (yes, Steve, it did include a pick-up from Boston's Pizza...delicious!). There was a small craft advisory that day...in Pearl Harbor! These two photos kinda shows the white caps a little. Definitely breezy out. In the top photo, FN Brian Callahan is in the small boat, getting ready to hook the strap up to the crane, while ET2 Chris Konyha stands watching from on deck.

XO and BM1 Eli North (Newly-Qualified-U/w-OOD North) are safety observers from the open bridge cat walk, in communication with ET2 Konyha (Boat Deck Supervisor = BDS) on deck. They're keep an eye out on the "big picture" and generally enjoying the sunshine.

Still getting the boat ready to lower in this photo. From left to right, facing foward, is: SN Aaron Pasoquen, handling the black line; MK3 Allen Edwards, running the crane; and MK2 Moises Arevalo, being a pal. The boat crew is in the background, in their rain gear. I guess they didn't want to get wet with that small craft advisory.

So once everybody is in place, and all the lines are set, the crane picks up the small boat, swings it overhead and sets it down over the side, at the hip. It takes a lot of coordination, slacking and heaving around on three different lines, booming up the crane and winding out the wire rope, and then doing all that at once. Sitting at the mooring ball, nice and steady, it's not so bad; underway, it can get a little...interesting.

I love this next photo. They all look exactly like the totally competent bad-asses they are, focused and ready for action. From left to right, forward to aft is: MK3 Edwards (in the red hard hat), SN Pasoquen (blue hard hat), FN Callahan (blue hard hat), MK2 Arevalo (red hard hat), and BM3 Goracke (orange rain gear and boat crew helmet).

This next photo is of the boat getting secured at the hip. Once it's over the side, lines are shifted so that it can be lowered into the water. I think it's FN Callahan and SN Pasoquen in the photo...kinda hard to tell with the hard hats.

And then finally, the boat is lowered into the water, released from the wire rope, ladder dropped over the side, and boat crew sent onboard. The coxswain (cox'n) goes in first, to get the strap out of the way, lower the outboard, start the engine, and conduct a radio check. In the boat in this photo is SN Mike McKinstry at the bow facing aft, BM2 Neal Bueno in the driver's seat, ready for a radio check, and BM3 Goracke standing by to release the aft tending line. FN Callahan is up on the deck, tending the forward line, ready to release it when the boat is ready to take off.

During all this time, someone is still on the bridge, standing the mooring ball watch, making sure the ship is still attached to the mooring ball and that the mooring ball itself isn't dragging along the bottom. SN Ryan Andres is shooting a bearing to a visual land mark here and will use that bearing, along with a couple of radar ranges to fix the position of the ship. It's a team effort.

The process works pretty much the same, in reverse, when the small boat comes back.

We spent Wednesday night at the mooring ball. Thursday morning we got underway for some navigation drills, as we transited out of Pearl Harbor to "walk the dog." The drills were hugely successful, not because we did brilliantly at them, but because we pretty much failed some of them. However, failing them showed us where we needed to fix (ugh, sorry, horrible and completely unintended pun) some things and the nav team came up with some good suggestions of how to change their processes to improve their performance. We ran the same drills on the way back in with marked improvement...we still had a ways to go, however (note: you can still use the gyro ring on the alidade during an SCCS (electronic charting system) casualty; you use the relative bearing ring during a gyro casualty...small, subtle points of refinement). That evening we did some another damage control drill, and called it a night.

Underway, outbound from Pearl Harbor again Friday morning. The nav drills during our outbound transit this time were stupendously done, incorporating all the lessons from the previous few runs. The nav team has come a long, long way since that first tense transit out of Barber's Point for sea trials back in September. I'm proud of them.

We headed over off Diamond Head to conduct a training pyrotechnics shoot. I hope the folks at that big gathering of people at the lighthouse enjoyed the fireworks. Congratulations to anyone that might have been retiring after more than 20 years of dedicated service that day!

Then we had another escort and ended up on the Waianae side of the island. We did some RBS (recreational boating safety) boardings and then hung out in the relative calm of Waianae for the night. This picture tries to show the rainbow-ball above the hill.

More escorts on Saturday morning, then a commercial fishing vessel boarding, and then a couple more RBS boardings until the weather started turning choppy and snotty again. And then we moored in Honolulu.

Whew.

We stayed inport for a few days. I visited my mom up in Waialua on the North Shore (thanks for running me all over creation on errands, and sorry again about the ceviche). It was back to work on Monday though, with an ammunition offload in preparation for our upcoming dockside. It went very smoothly. It's always nice to have a working weekday at BSU Honolulu; we get So Much Done. Another unit will hear we're inport, and come over to take care of some business with us. We got a tempest inspection, reformatted computers replaced, most weigh-ins done, our stolen outboard replaced by the contractor, and we shot some people through small arms at the range. I requalified on the Sig. This is not an insignificant statement. I went through the three gun course at Blackwater two years ago as part of predeployment training (PDT) before going to Bahrain, and enjoyed a period of relatively easy requals. But those muscle memories have atrophied, and I had to shoot through the course twice on a previous day and then twice this day to score high enough to qualify. Disheartening. Apparently, I can't stay totally proficient only shooting a weapon every six months. Huh.

Tuesday morning we were underway again, back into Pearl Harbor for the rest of our ammunition offload. As we were approaching our first turn in the channel, another gremlin popped his head out of hiding and pulled the plug on our steering. There was a split moment of pause before all the training kicked in, and the Conning Officer, BM1 O'Brien, came to all stop and started his troubleshooting. This was my first actual steering casualty in restricted waters, and I was expecting it to be a little more tense. Everybody was very calm; we switched down from the open bridge with no luck; FN Burns, who was manning aft steering, quickly reported the system was intact (we didn't have hydraulic fluid spewing everywhere=good thing); we switched to non-follow-up and steering was restored. So we steered the rest of the way to the pier on non-follow-up. We don't practice this enough, but I think we all got our share of it this time. EMC Jamie Peltier troubleshot the system while we were at the ammo pier, but I didn't give him enough time to get through all his steps before I was ready to get back underway. We still had steering...it just wasn't very convenient.

After finishing the offload in Pearl Harbor, we started our transit home. Now this little steering gremlin may be in the same Genus as our last, shaft vibration gremlin, but is nowhere near as nefarious and dirty. The vibration gremlin was a piss-in-your-Cheerios gremlin. The steering gremlin is like your older sister parroting back everything you say for five minutes ("Don't touch me." "Don't touch me." "Stop that." "Stop that." "No, you stop that. " "No, you stop that."). Annoying, but not putridly so. We had to steer all the way home with non-follow-up. No autopilot. We're so spoiled.

But, the OODs all maintained a good attitude about it (much easier with only three-hour watches...I LOVE three-hour watches; they go by in a flash!), and we got home safely. We drove through the harbor from inside the main bridge, and switched up to the open bridge before heading through the cut. We stationed someone down below on the helm and hollered down helm commands. XO did a fantastic job mooring the ship with a umm, unique helm set-up.

So we're back in Hilo-town now. Gearing up for the Merrie Monarch parade on Saturday. Photos of that to follow.

4 comments:

Victoria said...

Or, you know, like your LITTLE sister following you around at a 3-inch distance! LOL!

Sounds like a great few days.

Just a Girl said...

Well, I Never!

Ok, maybe I did. But you poked me first.

Gary said...

To: the CO of the CGC Kiska:

First, please forgive the formality -- I wanted to send this to a "person/name," but after reading a number of posts, I had to go with the title. (And I don't know if the comments are moderated).

I love the flavor of the blog, and I wanted to tell you about a project that will probably be interesting to you and "the totally competent bad-asses" on you crew.

I am a screenwriter who has written a feature film about Coast Guard heroes fighting the war on terror. It's an "action" film, the kind of movie that John Wayne used to make -- nowadays its Russell Crowe, Bruce Willis, or Nick Cage. (A retired Captain and an active duty aviation Petty Officer consulted on the project, and they both love the script).

I am trying to enhance the possibility of it being made by developing a blog-based viral campaign for it. To get a better idea of the story, check out:

http://www.texican8.com.

If you are willing (or if someone on the Kiska likes that type of movie), please download and read the script, and if you like it (and I think you will), tell me how I can spread the word on your Cutter and your base.

Please know, in advance, that I truly appreciate your help and your input.

With my thanks,

Gary Davis

Just a Girl said...

Gary,

I'll be happy to leave your comment stand...you should get a little more CG visibility from it, though I'm sure you got some good hits from ryanerickson.com and CGBlog.org too. However, I doubt you want my comments about the screenplay written on your site...so I'll leave them here instead.

I'm sure the screenplay will bring in lots of bucks for the studio, raise recruiting visits and in general be good publicity for the Coast Guard. And don't get me wrong; I enjoy a good "totally competent bad-[ass]" movie... ConAir, The Fifth Element, Proof of Life, all great movies.

But I guess I'm kinda a purist when it comes to what I do, especially since I think what we do is cool enough without being sensationalized. I got to page 28 before I got annoyed enough to start noting discrepancies. Too many Hollywood-izations of our culture.

A LT standing Duty Officer (what *is* that anyway?) during Special Sea Detail? Plenty of ENSs and LTJGs onboard to take the Deck.
The CO announcing that an ENS has the conn as he (the CO) leaves the bridge? The Conning Officer should be announcing it so that everyone knows *he's* the one who's got it.
The CO going out to the flight deck to tell the crew something that should have been passed at the pre-brief? The one time I even tried something close to that (as OPS, granted...I wasn't the CO), the LSO got so pissed at me, I thought his head was gonna explode.
Don't get me started on the innuendo between the CO and the pilot.
1MC (pipes through the entire ship) vs. 21MC (comms between pilothouse, Combat Information Center (CIC) and Main Control (Engine Room)... And that's only through page 28.
How does Norvell work with the deck crews rigging the towline to the Neptune (on the fantail) while simultaneously helping to secure the zodiac (mid-ships)? And why, oh why, is an ENS doing that work? All cutters I've ever been on have had deckies to make sure the decks are secure.
An enlisted guy calling a Senior Chief "sir." Come on...that's just silly.
Six fire-fights with insurgents and smugglers from the Defender Patrol Boats in Iraq?...I don't think the crews that first went over there had that many...never mind a couple years after Katrina and Ike. Sensationalizing demeans what we actually do.
And where's the XO during all this mess, especially if the CO goes off to be a hero?

Most unbelievable of all...there's no GAR anywhere.

Good luck with your venture. I'll probably go see it if it's made. But I'll be cringing all the way through at the ludicrousness of it.