Sunday, July 25, 2010

Change of Command

Yesterday was KISKA's Change of Command. I'll write more and post photos over the next few days. But for now, here are my remarks from the ceremony.

CAPT Compagnoni, CAPT Brown, fellow COs and OICs, Navy League members, community partners, compatriot Guardians and Auxiliarists, and most especially friends and family, welcome and thank you so much for attending today’s ceremony.

I’ll give the crew all the credit for the hard work that went into the achievements described in the award I just received. I couldn’t have done anything without their hard work, dedication, perseverance and understanding. It’s the foibles that I think I can take the credit for…here’s the real story behind the last year:

We had over forty CASREPs, including two Cat 4 CASREPs that kept the ship on the pier for a couple of weeks and one CASREP that has been open my entire time onboard, in one way or another.

We had ten mishaps, including two that were borderline Class Bravo mishaps. Guns, I hope you will forgive me for that trip to Kauai. And the Hilo Medical Center got enough business from KISKA that I’m surprised they didn’t create a KISKA attending wing.

We caught three fish; one mahi mahi and two aku. We don’t talk (much) about the one that got away last patrol…SN McKinstry…

We had an $880 thousand drydock planned that turned into a $2.56 million drydock; and a $450 thousand dockside that grew to $540 thousand. If you like numbers, that’s a growth of nearly 50% in total maintenance costs.

But those *are* just the numbers, and don’t tell the whole story. They don’t tell about the misery of four drydock extensions, the frustration of pestiferous gremlins, especially hard-to-pinpoint shaft vibration gremlins that can ruin your day…or week…or COMDT visit, or the glorious feeling of an 8-hour, 25 knot transit from Honolulu to Hilo after drydock on flat calm seas, wide open on both mains, and an Alenuihaha channel that welcomed us home instead of making us earn our passage like we’ve had to do every transit since.

And I apparently didn’t truly know the meaning of “bittersweet” until the last two weeks. But I’m finding out that it is tears streaming down my face over what I’m leaving, while a grin splits my face over where I’m going…and how I’m getting there. I’m very excited about heading off to grad school for 18 months of studious endeavors, but it also means that I have to leave Hilo and KISKA. The last 14 months, two weeks and three days (not that I’m counting) are one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to see come to an end. I wanted to be assigned to KISKA since 2001, as soon as I found out there was a patrol boat on the Big Island. Hilo is one of my favorite places on the entire planet, and I finally got to live here. It was an amazing tour.

What’s not to love? The operating area is stunningly gorgeous, though not always physically comfortable. Transiting through the Maui triangle during whale season, dodging curious humpback babies and having them breach fully out of the water 100 yards (or less) away is a stunning sight. Rainbows and Mauna Kea at sunrise, lava flows at sunset, and the poignant history of a transit through Pearl Harbor.

But then there was also the transit out to a SAR case about 50 nm off the Kona side. Seas were 12 to 15 feet and winds were gusting up to 40 knots. I think everybody got sick on that one.

The next great thing about this tour was working for Sector Honolulu. CAPT Compagnoni and CDR Cocanour, thank you so much for your inspirational leadership and outstanding understanding and guidance through some rough times onboard the ship. Who knew that KISKA’s drydock last year would turn into the five and a half month marathon with all its frustrating twists and complications? Three stunningly wearisome weeks to get the shafts aligned…if I didn’t like drydocks before (which I didn’t) I think last summer would have terminally soured my enthusiasm for them. But you were so sympathetic to what we were going through, while working your own exasperating situation with the other patrol boats’ maintenance requirements, as well as supporting the feedback we had for Surface Forces Logistic Command. That compassionate leadership helped to ease our struggle, knowing we had the backing of our command. And that support helped us to get our dockside in our homeport which was a huge bonus for us.

I know everyone says this at every change of command, but the absolute best part of this tour was the people I got to work with. There is no way to thank all the individuals that helped make this a successful tour for me. It was a team effort all the way.

But I would like to single out a few groups. If I forget someone or a group of someones, I apologize…it’s been a hectic few days.

Our support functions: I know it wasn’t always easy working with us. Outer island, in the hinterlands of the Big Island, not frequently in Honolulu, and far away from the conveniences found there. Working with NESU, ESU, BSU, CEU, PSSU, HSWL FO, SFLC all made this year worthwhile, to be able to partner with true professionals.

The Hilo community, including Neal and Marilyn Herbert, Dee and Dan Coates, and the Hilo Navy League, and our partners in Civil Defense, the Fire Department and throughout the local area. I enjoyed my interactions with each of you and hope you’ll continue working with KISKA in the future.

Friends and family: Linda and Adam, Steve and Jan, thank you for making the trek out here to join my party. For the crews’ families that are here: thank you for letting me sail with your husbands, sons, brothers and fathers; I know that you are what keeps these guys going when things get rough.

Mom, thank you for the middle of the night transmission fluid deliveries, the short-notice and random mail drops and the general enthusiasm for what I do. And for your love that gave you the inspiration to surprise me with Amy and Ally’s visit.

Amy, Anne (in abstentia) and Vicki, though not necessarily in that order, and each in very different ways, you guys kept my head on straight, provided valuable advice and sympathetic ears to numerous vent sessions. And V, in case you didn’t know, you are why I blog. The blog you kept inspired me to start my own when I went to Bahrain, and I’ve learned so much and gained so much from writing my own. I’ve thought once or twice about stopping, wondering if I really have anything contributory to say, but the thought of having to explain my pathetic reasons for quitting to you has kept me going through just one more blog post.

Now about this blog thing…I never intended for it to get this out of hand and be so well-received. But I am so grateful for all the positive feedback that I’ve gotten from it and even though it might not be quite so interesting once I leave KISKA, I mean how could it be? I’m going to try to keep up with it and continue to write about my Coast Guard experiences. Though, Rev, I hope one day, you will be able to live down the picture from the ropes course.

On to the hardest part of all of this, saying farewell to KISKA’s crew. I don’t think you guys will miss my impeccable timing for walking onto the messdeck right at the most embarrassing moment possible, or my whining about being port and starboard on watch for eight months, or badgering you during PT runs to keep breathing; but know that I will miss you, each and every one. You made this year more than I could have hoped for with your collective and individual senses of humor, your overwhelming dedication to mission excellence, your professionalism and your enthusiasm.

XO, thank you for your hard work over the last six weeks. I know you’ve been drinking from the fire hose, but you’ve chugged it with the best of them. Good luck with the rest of your tour onboard.

Chief Wong and EM1 Sammy, you and your ninjaneers have your work cut out for you. Hunting gremlins onboard KISKA will keep you busy, but I know you guys are the ones for the job.

Mr Gookin, I know you were only onboard for a short time, but your hard work really paid off in the quality of this ceremony. Thank you very much for taking care of the details for me and XO.

BM2 Bueno, thanks for all the Insanity workouts. ET2 Konyha, you’ve still got someone to talk NAG stories with. GM2 Stenzel, be careful with the aloe juice, and thanks for the inspiration for the cross-country motorcycle ride. What a great idea! FN Burns, good luck at A school. SN McKinstry and SN Andres, you guys will be great rescue swimmers…and at least that way SN McKinstry can get away from throwing heaving lines into HF antennas or flagstaffs.

And I know that these two guys aren’t here anymore, but I cannot not mention LT Frank Reed and MKC Greg Tarker. They were my XO and MKC respectively for most of my time onboard KISKA. I got emails from both of them yesterday, wishing me well today; the support and friendship they offered truly made this tour special. And they laughed at my jokes.

And Craig, I wish you the best of luck in your tour. I can say without hesitation or any bias at all, that you’re taking over the best boat in the Coast Guard. But you already know that. As I said to you earlier this week, one of the only good things about having to relinquish command of KISKA is who I’m being relieved by. You understand the beauty of the Big Island, the charm of Hilo and the special power of a 110 and her crew. You *want* to be here and that makes all the difference. Enjoy your time onboard; it goes by far too quickly.

I’ve got to wrap this up, but I’m a little reluctant to do so, because I know what is coming up next. I won’t be CO of KISKA much beyond this next sentence, and I want to drag it out as long as possible. But I think I’ve talked long enough, and it’s someone else’s turn now. KISKA crew, aloha.

And then I forgot to read my orders. CAPT Compagnoni had to remind me to head back up to the podium...whoops! My sister just said she thought that was a rather Freudian slip.


Sassenach said...

Congratulations on such a successful tour. Command is a wonderful and unique experience of a lifetime and you'll be surprised in future situations at how much you'll lean on the things you learned during this assignment. Thanks for taking us sandpeeps along for the ride.

Please do keep up with the blog (do as I say, not as I do ;) )-- you've got an interesting perspective on things.

Azulao said...

If you quit your blog you will have an effing LOT of explaining to do and not just to your sister!

I look forward to hearing what happens to the University of Maryland as a result of your arrival... Hahahahahahaha.

tko24 said...

Congratulations, on a successful tour. Please don't quit your blog? You have a new "family" of followers. We would miss you too much! Good luck to you, and especially to the University of Maryland.:)

Debbie said...

I wish you all the best as you embark on this new phase in your life. I enjoyed your KISKA blogs profusely - looking every day to see if there was a new entry! You say you enjoyed your crew - well, I know for a fact that they enjoyed and appreciated having you as their captain. KISKA will never be the same without you! Aloha and GOOD LUCK to you!!

Anonymous said...

I would have to disagree with your assertion that everyone got sea sick during the November SAR case. I think it was just Greg and I that DIDN'T sea sick.

Rock Star #2

Just a Girl said...

Hey Little Rock Star! I *know* you and Greg didn't get sick, but it totally ruined the lines of the story to point out that exception. Please forgive my artistic license. Besides, we all know about the stash of seasick meds Greg tried to hide from us.