Wednesday, June 30, 2010
It was 16 days long. We left on 13 Jun, and got back yesterday. Before we left, MKC Wong and XO, both of whom had recently reported from larger cutters, had said that they didn't really know what to expect, but seemed skeptical that it would be as exhausting as BM1 North and I suggested it might be. Even though there are still hectic changes to the schedule and things change all the time, two weeks underway on a larger cutter is pretty easy to get through. Not so much on a WPB. MKC and I talked about it yesterday, and came up with the fact that there's really no where to get away from anyone on the 110. You're all kinda stuck together, even when we pull in to port. Needless to say, we were all pretty beat when we moored up.
We ran a Search and Rescue (SAR) case for a day and a half. A snorkeler had gone missing from the west side of Maui. We didn't find her. It was our third PIW (person in the water) case since early December where we didn't find anything. With that in mind, I called Jeri Couthen, the local Work-Life Specialist, for a quick CISM (pronounced sism, Critical Incident Stress Management) brief for the crew. CISM is used mostly in more grisly cases, where people are dealing with body parts or lots of blood, or mass casualties. But I know I felt rough around the edges from putting so much effort into those three cases and not being able to produce any results. And Jeri was happy to come to the ship with LCDR Carl Barnes, the District 14 Chaplain, to talk to the crew. It was pretty quick, just about 15 minutes to let us know that it's normal to feel not so good in a case like this. And to reinforce the importance of what we had done, the time and effort we spent, to the family. I don't know what the crew thought about it. Nobody mentioned it again (except 1/C Gookin who didn't know what CISM was, and was interested in finding out more).
We did 52 boardings in three days!!! In support of Operation Dry Water, we conducted law enforcement operations for 14.5 hours off Waikiki, the Waianae side of Oahu, and in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu. The goal of the operation was to target boaters that were boating while intoxicated, but amazingly and wonderfully, we didn't have any BUIs and only documented three (!!) violations of safety requirements. A couple of the folks in Kaneohe said that the CG Auxiliary had been out in the Bay recently and had conducted a bunch of courtesy inspections. Great job, CG Auxiliary and Happy Birthday (about a week late)!
We also did a high-interest vessel security boarding. We hadn't done one of these yet, and thankfully a few people on the crew had plenty of experience to show the ones who hadn't done one what to do. It was a good boarding, thorough and great training for the boarding team.
Our auto pilot stayed broken through the entire patrol, despite hours of troubleshooting efforts by our new electrician, EM1 Poyer Samuelu (Sammy) and the EMs at NESU. We got a new control box yesterday when we pulled into Hilo, and the engineers already installed it, but we won't get to operationally test it until we get underway the next time. Let me just say that not having an auto pilot didn't get any easier as the patrol went on. Really, it just got more annoying.
We circumnavigated Oahu twice. Besides the time mentioned in the last post, we did it again when we anchored in Kaneohe Bay on Saturday. Kinda cool. Anchoring in K-Bay was great! The mud and sand bottom held the anchor solidly and we didn't hardly move at all with the trade winds coming from the east. I would definitely anchor there again, though we did have a couple of hiccups. First was grey water and sewage management. And that wasn't so much a hiccup, instead maybe a management challenge. Our grey water can go into the sewage tank, which means the sewage tank fills up really quickly. We were under strict water conservation measures for the duration of our time in the Bay so that we didn't fill up our sewage tank, which would have necessitated getting underway and going outside of three miles from shore to empty the tanks. We had a couple of swim calls to encourage water conservation :)
The second hiccup, which definitely was a hiccup, was where we anchored. It was right on the race course of the local yacht club's weekly races. Whoops! Just before the races were supposed to start, one of the officials came along side to ask us to move, just 200-300 yards off their course. Unfortunately, our boarding teams were already away from the ship, so we had barely half the crew onboard...not nearly enough to get the ship underway to move, so I had to tell him we couldn't. So I spent the day breathing deeply to try to control my blood pressure when sail boats came close aboard, sometimes within 20 feet, and gave us unrelenting dirty looks. In retrospect, watching their courses, I'm not sure where we could have moved that would have been out of the way.
But while we were at anchorage, after our day of marathon boardings (7.5 hours, 33 boardings, 0 violations!), we had a swim call and a barbeque on the fantail. We sent the small boat in to the morale pier at Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH) to pick up some guests. My mom came out, along with FS2 Stickel's mother, father and brother, and FSCM Jason Vanderhaden and his son. We recognized FS2's upcoming advancement to FS1 a couple of days early, so that his family could be there for it. And it was really cool to have FSCM Vanderhaden there to pin on his First Class crows, along with PO Stickel's father. My mom enjoyed the boat ride too and from the pier. And watching the crew at swim call.
We fished some, but didn't catch anything.
Oh, and I'm convinced someone is trying to set the Cadet up for minor failure. 1/C Gookin is staying in the XO's Stateroom while XO is at PCO/PXO school. I told him when he moved in to try not to lock me out of the head, since the CO's and XO's Staterooms share it. I must have said it in front of someone, and they decided that it sounded like a great way to get the Cadet in a little friendly trouble. I was locked out of the head about 10 times this patrol. And the toilet seat was left up a lot. Somehow, I just don't think that 1/C Gookin would be that callous or inconsiderate, especially after having been warned against it. Whoever it is tripped up a little on Monday, though. 1/C Gookin was on the bridge the entire time between my bathroom trips. I went down the first time and left my door unlocked, he was on the bridge. I went down the second time, he was still on the bridge, and the door was locked...with the seat up. Still don't know who it was. It's kinda funny, but kinda annoying too. I didn't feel too bad the morning I had to call 1/C Gookin on the phone an hour before reveille to get him to unlock the door.
I'm sure there's more to mention from this patrol, but I can't think for the life of me what it might be.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Two months and over half-a-million dollars later, we're back underway. And for some reason it feels like we've been stupid busy.
We got underway on Sunday enroute Oahu to onload ammunition. It didn't take long for the gremlins to start showing their twitchy little ears. The first one was some loose wires to the batteries for the main engine starters. It took about 30 minutes extra to figure out why we couldn't get the NR2 MDE started. But the ninjaneers prevailed, and we were on our way.
The next gremlin is one who I don't think I can blame on dockside. Before we pulled into Hilo prior to dockside, we had a casualty on our steering system, and we had to drive all the way from Oahu to Hilo on non-follow-up. Not a big deal, but kinda a pain in the bee-hind. EMC Peltier tinkered with it for a while, found a solenoid that needed replacing, and we thought we were good. Not so much...we got underway from Hilo only to find that the autopilot wasn't working. Again, not a big deal, but really annoying. Kinda like running out of brown paper towels underway, having the napkins put in the holders upside down or trying to read the newspaper outside on a windy day with a cup of coffee in your hand (with nowhere to set the coffee down). Our break-in OODs are getting *lots* of hands-on driving time. NESU sent one of their guys to get underway with us on Tuesday to troubleshoot, and they've got some theories, but they really can't work on it until we're back at the pier and able to tear the system apart.
So those were Sunday's gremlins.
Monday was an insanely busy day. We pulled into Pearl Harbor first thing in the morning to pick-up ammo, got through that quickly, and then shifted over to BSU Honolulu to pick up more ammo. Normally when we pull into BSU, each department has two or three things that they have to get done, various people to talk to or projects to work on. This time, after having not been here at all for two months, each department had a solid six or seven things to do. A sampling:
Ammo onload (Deck)
Safe repairs (Operations)
PCS reporting/departing stuff (XO)
Medical and dental appointments (Engineers and me)
Stores to load (Operations)
Printer to install (Operations)
Computer problems to work on (Everyone it seems like)
Range (XO, Engineering, Deck)
Dockside follow up (Engineering)
And we said Aloha to BM1 O'Brien who is headed off to Station Michigan City for his next tour with his wonderful wife DeAnn, who had been our Ombudsman for the past year. Safe trip and good luck, you guys.
My head was spinning by the end of the day. Especially since I wasn't used to sleeping underway, the mattresses are hard as rocks, and we had passing arrangements to make with about three different tugs during the transit overnight. I was a little tired at the end of the day.
Tuesday we were back underway in the morning. We were scheduled to do some fisheries work with Air Station Barber's Point up on the north side of Oahu. It was a delightful transit up the west side (despite having to actually steer the whole way), and we got on scene just when we were supposed to. We'd been patrolling for about 40 minutes, looking for boats to board, when we overheard Sector Honolulu talking on VHF-FM channel 16 to a vessel in distress. We could only hear one side of the conversation (Sector's), so we didn't get all the details right off. But we were able to copy a position, plotted it and found ourselves only 50 miles away from a vessel that was disabled and adrift.
We broke off from the patrol with Air Station, and headed out to the vessel. By the time we got on scene two and a half hours later, the vessel had a friend enroute to take him in tow back to Kaneohe Bay, but Sector wanted us to do a boarding on him anyway. We sent a Boarding/R&A (Rescue & Assistance) Team over, and they were able to get the boat restarted at least for a few minutes. He had clogged fuel filters, so he was by-passing the filters, and ended up clogging out his engine anyway. By the time we got done with the boarding, his friend was there, ready to take him in tow back home. We finished up, and kept heading east, south east. Without any intention at the start of the day, we ended up circumnavigating Oahu. I hadn't done that for a while.
Oh, and during all that, we had the NESU EM onboard troubleshooting the autopilot and at the same time we found out that we had a leak in the steering system. It was dripping hydraulic fluid from a fitting veerrrrry slowly, but enough that the alarm for low oil level kept going off. It was a little confusing there for a few minutes (at least for me) while we were trying to separate the two casualties and appropriate actions for each. We made arrangements to send the small boat in to Haleiwa to make a run for tranny fluid (I was "using resources" and asked my mom who lives close by to meet us at the boat dock to run errands with the guys...Thanks again, Mom!). But of course, we got diverted for SAR, and we had to adjust our logistics plans (Mom ended up picking up the tranny fluid and taking it down to meet the small boat at BSU late that evening. Double, triple thanks again, Mom!!)
The steering gear leak was from a fitting that had been put back on not quite right after some work on the cooler by the contractor during dockside. That is quite definitively a dockside gremlin. We'll fix it right the next time we pull into port...don't want to tear into it and risk busting it good without replacement parts easy at hand.
We spent Tuesday night on the Honolulu mooring ball. There was a nice south swell, so we rocked All. Night. Long. I guess I got some sleep.
Wednesday dawned clear and quiet. We stayed on the mooring ball until mid-morning. Rocking back and forth, knocking everything off the chart table again and again. About 9:30 am, we set the mooring ball detail to get underway to set small boat detail to send in the small boat to BSU Honolulu to pick up our newly arrived BM1 Ian Thompson (Welcome Aboard, BM1!), but couldn't get the NR2 MDE started this time. It turned out to be a loose card. Got that fixed within about 20 minutes, set the small boat detail and got the pax xfer completed.
We left the boat at the hip for lunch, and then did some much needed small boat crewman training. Four break-ins got some time making approaches and hooking up to the sea painter, including 1/C Curt Gookin who is onboard KISKA for six weeks this summer. It was a beautiful afternoon, with a nice breeze off the Waianae side of Oahu.
Once the small boat was put away, we kicked off a man-overboard (MOB) drill. It was BM2 Brian Goracke's first time driving for a MOB, and he did a good job setting us right where we needed to be to cross heaving lines over Oscar. And he picked up both life rings that were thrown over quickly and skillfully.
After the MOB drill, we had to cruise back to Honolulu for an escort outbound Honolulu Harbor. So there was a navigation brief on the way, both for Honolulu Harbor inbound and outbound, but also for inbound Pearl Harbor for later in the evening. The escort was quickly accomplished, and we headed back out to the west side of the island for a downswell ride for a chicken enchilada dinner (definite crew favorite, and one of FS2 Ed Stickel's specialties) and so we could get out of the congestion of harbor traffic for the evening's flight ops.
We had two helicopters that we were scheduled to work with. One was doing rescue swimmer operations, where we just need to be close by as a safety for them while they put their swimmer in the water. And the other was making approaches to the water prior to conducting hoists with us. We planned for three basket hoists, and got the fantail cleared of all extraneous gear; moved trash cans and fuel cans, dropped the flagstaff and life lines, secured everything loose in the small boat, and did a FOD (flying objects and debris) walk down. The helo finished up their approaches to the water and conducted their safety brief with us, telling us what and how many evolutions to expect. They also reviewed use of the grounding rod before anyone touched the basket to discharge the static electricity, and not tying anything dropped from the helo off to the ship. They were on their first approach, making a dry run to show their flight mech what the process looked like, when we got a propulsion alarm on the NR2 MDE on the bridge.
Yikes! We were at Restricted Maneuvering Doctrine (RMD) for flight ops, which means the engineer cannot turn off any equipment without notifying the bridge first. The EOW quickly called up and let us know that he had a small lube oil leak on the NR2 reduction gear, and was requesting MKC's presence in the engine room. We waived the helo off until we could figure out what was going on. They rose into a higher flight pattern and we declutched NR2 MDE and stood by. The engine room called up that we shouldn't use NR2 MDE anymore, and requested to secure it.
Turns out there was a supply line that was supposed to be protected by a metal cover to prevent damage to the line, but the cover had been misaligned so the supply line kept getting bumped. Eventually it got bumped enough to allow the lube oil to seep out. But we didn't know that yet, and didn't figure it out until later in the evening. We just happened to catch the leak while at flight ops. Better right before the hoists than in the middle of hoists.
So the ninjaneers shut down NR2 MDE, and we did dead-in-the-water (DIW) hoists with the helo instead of underway hoists. It wasn't exactly what we had planned, but at least they still got some training value from the evening. And so did we.
After flight ops was finished, we put everything back and secured in place, and we headed towards Pearl Harbor to moor at the X9S mooring ball for the night. X9S is the Cadillac of mooring balls, nice and protected in the back corner of Pearl Harbor. Everyone sleeps like a champ, waking up nice and refreshed. So I was excited about getting there for the night.
As we transited in, we noticed a marker buoy about 30 yards off the starboard side, marked with chem lights. It hadn't been there the last time we came into Pearl Harbor, and we started looking around for other markers. We found a few more, and noted their position.
We started our initial approach to the mooring ball, and found that the two shackles atop the ball were resting on each other, so that we couldn't get the happy hooker (yes, that really is what it's called) around both shackles to hook the buoy. We backed off a little to figure out our next step. Right about then we got another propulsion alarm on NR2 MDE. The engine room called up and said they had a low lube oil level alarm on the NR2 red gear, and wanted to secure NR2 MDE so they didn't risk blowing up the red gear. Not the best timing, again.
We secured the NR2 MDE. I took the conn and had XO take the deck. I'm sure XO would have done a fine job of mooring up to the ball on one MDE, but it was late, we'd had a busy day, and I just wanted to get there. Luckily, there was no wind or current, and I eased the cutter up to the ball, SN Ryan Andres jumped onto the ball to separate the shackles and assist with getting the mooring line through the shackle, and then jumped back on the bow of the ship. It took about three minutes.
The night of rest was all it was cracked up to be. The bridge watch called me a few minutes after 6 am to tell me there was a USNS ship working the marker buoys we had seen the night before, with divers in the water. Good to know we hadn't imagined them.
We got up this morning, did some gunner PQS and ran a machinery space fire drill. Then we got underway from the mooring ball and headed out of Pearl Harbor. 1/C Gookin got his first chance to drive the ship in restricted waters and asked all the right questions as he got the ship underway from the mooring ball.
He had also been the brave soul to mention to me that the Lakers/Celtics Game 7 was this afternoon at 3 pm, and could we possibly pull in for it? I gave him an incredulous look at the time, but realized that it was actually a very good idea. We've worked hard over the last few days, rolling with all kinds of punches, and a couple hours of watching the Celtics get whaled on by the Lakers would do us all some good.
Friday, June 11, 2010
1. This post is for Guardians/Coasties...sorry, my family and friends.
2. I'm gonna sound like an advertisement...sorry everyone else.
Today we had the D14 Career Development Advisor, BMC Bearden, come out to visit us. He gave a presentation on four topics: Goal Setting, Advancement, Education and Finances. It was a fantastic round-up of all the many, many, many resources available to active duty, reservists and families. One of the tidbits during his Education section was about online study materials available.
He mentioned the Coast Guard Learning Portal, and about accessing SkillSoft through the Portal. SkillSoft is a bunch of online courses where you can work towards certifications in different topics, mostly IT stuff. But SkillSoft also links you to...Books24x7.
This was the first time I had heard about Books24x7. Oh. My. GOODNESS!! It's like a library and amazon.com or Borders or Barnes & Noble all combined. I just spent the last (yikes!) hour perusing their titles. They've got thousands of titles available on line, entire books that you can read, FOR FREE!! The Commandant's Reading List is on there. There's stuff on health and well-being, buying a home, leadership, government...I even found a good book for refreshing my knowledge of statistics as I prepare for grad school.
It's even set up for use on mobile devices.
Ok, ok, I know it's kinda geeky, but I'm really excited about reading lots of cool books about leadership and management without having to even go to the library. Did I mention for FREE?
Thanks Coast Guard Institute!
To get there: log into the Coast Guard Learning Portal (uses your @uscg.mil email address...it's where we have to do lots of that GMT training including the annual computer security training), click on the SkillSoft link at the middle bottom of the page. Once on the SkillSoft page, the Books24x7 link is on the top menu bar, far right.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
But now we've got to get ready to get back underway again. We haven't done a drill in two months. So yesterday, we did a "fast cruise" to get back into the swing of things. A fast cruise is when the ship takes off all shore ties, comes up on generators, and generally simulates being underway while still tied to the pier. It's a slightly safer and simpler (though not quite so realistic) way to do drills than to actually get underway.
The Damage Control Training Team (DCTT) got together first thing to go through the drill briefs so we all knew what was going on. I've got a brand-new DCTT with MKC Henry Wong (on left) and LTJG Josh Gaidos (new XO) having relieved last week.
We did an okay job of working together for the first time, though I think we learned a couple of valuable lessons from the initial drill that we put into practice with the second one: make sure to brief to the crew what simulations are allowed, and make sure we're all on the same radio frequency. Ya' know, the little things. Oh, and we probably should have kicked off with the less complicated of the two drills we had planned to work out our own kinks before we moved on to a more complex scenario.
Once we briefed up ourselves, we got the crew together on the messdeck to go through a safety brief, remind everyone what props we'd be using, and discuss general drill philosophy. From left to right: ET2 Chris Konyha, FA Brian Callahan, MK3 Allen Edwards, BM1 Scott O'Brien, BM2 Brian Goracke, FN Josh Del Cerro, FN Larry Burns, MK3 Tony Collado, and SN Mike McKinstry.
As always, there was time for some fun. Tee hee.
We started out with a Machinery Space fuel oil leak breaking out into a fire (= Machinery Space Fire Doctrine = MSFD). Yeah, that's why I say we should have done a simpler drill first. The MSFD is definitely one of the most important scenarios we train for because of the catastrophic nature of the consequences, but it's also one of the most complicated, with the most niggling of details and the most moving parts. Starting with something simpler would have allowed us to learn or remember how to work together again first, before jumping in at the deep end. We did ok, though. DCTT used a Training Time Out to stop the drill to allow for some redirective training (we should have used a few more) when things looked like they were getting off track.
This is the initial report coming up to the bridge from the Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOW). BM2 Goracke is putting on his sound powered phones (SPP) to have dedicated comms with the EOW, while BM1 O'Brien is talking to the EOW on the handheld SPP taking the initial report of damage and plotting the information on the DC plot. Communications, communications, communications are soooo very, very important in damage control. You gotta get the right information disseminated to the entire crew quickly, accurately and thoroughly.
Because, while it seems fairly calm on the bridge, lots of stuff is going on out on deck. Yesterday was BM1 North's first time as On-Scene Leader (OSL). He was the guy in charge on the fantail (facing the camera with the red shirt (flash gear) in his hands). He's got to: take muster, rig a fire hose with aqueous foam forming film (AFFF) to get it into the engine room, get zebra set, secure ventilation, get flash gear on everybody, dress out the fire teams, get the pumps going... Well, actually, he doesn't have to do all that himself, but he's got to make sure it's all getting done.
Here are the fire teams getting dressed out on the focsle. It's a lot of gear that has to be put on just right so that the teams are protected from getting burned or steamed.
Here's FN Burns and FA Callahan dressed out in their fire-fighting ensembles (FFEs), with a little help from MK3 Collado in the background.
And here's the pump team getting the P-6 pump going. GM2 Stenzel (standing) helps out MK3 Collado with providing cooling water to the soft patch.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to get sufficient AFFF into the engine room quickly enough, so the fuel oil leak broke out into a fire ("this is a drill, this is a drill," piped over and over again because there was a cruise ship moored over at the state pier, and I didn't want to freak out any of the passengers about a fire on a Coast Guard ship).
And then the two shots of installed halon (an inert gas that disrupts the chemical reaction that makes fires burn) weren't effective. So we had to attack the fire with the fire teams. Fire Team #1 commences an indirect attack through the soft-patch hatch into the engine room, while Fire Team #2 is standing by in aft berthing, ready to access the space and conduct a direct attack.
Despite a few fits and starts, we got the fire out and secured from drill. We stowed all gear and held a debrief with the crew so we could discuss what we did well and what we could do better.
Then we kicked off a flooding drill, where we simulated striking a submerged object and busted a hole through the hull into forward aux. That drill went really well, much more smoothly than the MSFD.
We're getting back into the swing of things. FS2 Stickel even made lunch onboard for the crew yesterday. It's so nice that the ship is getting back to normal.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
For your sake, I hope not. But I took a phone call today that left a bad taste in my mouth.
Now let me say right off, I get pissed off pretty easily. I consider myself a moderately rational person, but usually when I get ripped about something, it's because I don't think it's fair. Or someone is not using their brain. Or not listening.
Sometimes it's funny. Like the time when I was OPS...we were patrolling in super-secret mode, and I was told by our TACON that they had been tracking us for the previous two weeks as a suspicious contact. I'm pretty sure my head spun around like a top, my eyes bugged out, steam came out of my ears, and the crown of my cranium blew off - cartoon-style.
Today, it's just kinda sad. Depressing.
The phone call was about a project that we're working on with another unit. Both units have fairly equal levels of responsibility for the outcome, so we have to work together. We made initial notifications about problems with the project late last week. First contributing factor to the misunderstanding: a long holiday weekend. My opinion is that weekends and holidays don't really apply in my world. If there's work to be done, get it done regardless of what day the calendar says it is. The alternate opinion is that other offices that needed to be contacted were closed, so there was really no way to move forward over the weekend.
Plans were made to revisit a desired course of action today. I guess I misunderstood the immediacy of the situation, and figured that things would start in motion first thing this morning. I sent an email mid-morning asking questions that prompted a phone call from a peripheral, but important player, asking some of the same questions I had. This peripheral player volunteered to call our partner unit to get some clarification. Our partner unit player called me back mid-afternoon and told me to be patient. My opinion is that the project is something that requires high-priority attention. The alternate opinion is that our partner unit has lots of other irons in the fire, this one is of moderate urgency and we really don't *have* to take action for another couple of days.
Now, the partner unit player didn't really do hirself any favors when s/he intimated that my watchstanders were less than diligent in their watchstanding and not answering the phone when s/he called earlier. Funny thing is, I've called the ship's quarterdeck before, not gotten an answer, been annoyed, hung up and called right back and someone answered. Damn gremlins in the phone system. My opinion is that yes, it's frustrating when someone doesn't answer their phone, especially when it's supposed to be manned 24x7, but a) there are alternate contact numbers available and b) there is good reason to call a unit back especially if you don't get the chance to leave a message the first time. The alternate opinion is that they have lots of other irons in the fire and it is a waste of their time when they can't get through to someone immediately.
A long-term solution to the problem was discussed. There were questions about when it could be enacted. Another member of the partner unit is responsible for pursuing the long-term solution. I don't have details on the status. I recommended, rather abruptly in retrospect, that the caller talk to the other individual for information on the status of the long-term solution. My opinion is that information that one section of a unit possesses should be available to all other sections of that unit, especially when the sections are less than 10 feet away from each other. The alternate opinion is...umm, I really don't know what the alternate opinion is on this one. Maybe s/he just hadn't thought to talk to the other individual yet.
Normally when I have a contentious conversation with someone, I am able to chivvy the conversation back to better ground before the end of it. Not so today. I'm not sure what went wrong, but I kinda wish I could redo the interchange. Swallow my pride a little, be patient enough to understand the big-picture time line, not get frustrated so easily. In other words, play nicer with others.
I'll try harder tomorrow.