Sunday, June 26, 2016

Fare Thee Well, Boundless Deep

Unless craziness ensues, I have sailed my last on the mighty warship DILIGENCE.

We ended our patrol in the Florida Straits with six interdictions and 600 people onboard who were attempting to illegally immigrate to the United States. I had to give up on my goal of blogging every day underway. I felt like I was writing the same post over and over again -- all about how the AMIO (alien migrant interdiction operations) mission is hard. More on that in a moment.

On the way home, we got our asses kicked for about 18 hours by a strong system that was blowing from the northeast at 30 knots sustained winds and seven to nine foot seas (though the bridge watch swears they saw at least one 14-footer). We slid out of the Gulf Stream to see if that would settle the seas at all. It might have. Barely. I never "pulled the trigger" (i.e., gave in to the need to puke), but my belly ached like someone had punched me repeatedly. 

The weather finally settled, and we got the flight deck tent taken down and put away, a freshwater wash down done and AMIO supplies stowed in MAA stores (the most forward space on the ship, which can become an anti-gravity chamber when we're pitching in the seas). At our sunset Quarters, we recognized a number of people who were departing the ship when we got home, pinned Cutterman pins on our newest Cuttermen, and then followed the whole shebang with a cigar social on the fantail. I nearly missed my last sunset from sea trying to figure out how to pay for a van to take dependents down to Southport to catch a ride out to us the next day. I raced from the fantail, up to the flight deck and then the stack deck and the bridge deck and finally to the open bridge to see if I could catch the sun as it sunk below the horizon. Then I made my way back to the fantail to enjoy the Golden Hour.

Our river transit was smooth, if very windy. I took over the Conn a couple legs before we went under the power lines that cross the river. Slowed down to launch our cutter boat so they could trailer the boat and then be line handlers on the pier for us. Passed a light tanker just south of the State pier ("I'm light, he said; I'm pretty small, he said" as he took up most of the channel, and made us glad there wasn't another vessel moored at the State pier). The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge came up to welcome us home. We got a standing ovation some of the Riverfront restaurants' crowd. And I made a glorious starboard side to approach on the pier, had all lines over, and main diesel engines and the helm station secured within about 15 minutes (even with waiting for the line handlers to get back from trailering the cutter boat), And ended up *exactly* where I wanted, no shifting of lines needed. Mike drop.

Then there was a blur of families, entering port requirements and finally Quarters on the pier where we recognized more of the folks who were leaving when we got back from patrol. 

Another one in the books.

BT

About halfway through this patrol, I made a concerted effort to stop referring to the people on our flight deck as "migrants." They are *people.* Sure, a group of people who have a special circumstance in common (i.e., illegally migrating to the US from Cuba by way of handmade, not very sea-worthy vessels). But calling them migrants felt dehumanizing, for both them and me. 

And the night that four of them jumped overboard to try to swim the five miles to shore tested all our patience for their dedication to their dreams. We picked up two of them relatively quickly, but the other two evaded our boat crews for over an hour, until one of them got too tired to swim any more (duh -- FIVE MILES!!) and the other was brought reluctantly onboard the small boat and then restrained so he couldn't jump over again. At that point, it's a Safety of Life at Sea issue, and not so much an immigration issue. People DIE without the appropriate safety gear on the open ocean. Even if they jump overboard themselves. 

All this is said from my comfortable seat of privilege and First World problems. And that's why I couldn't come up with anything new to say for the last couple of weeks of the patrol. I had already said it, wasn't adding anything new, didn't have any good solutions for making things better for our guests or for our crew, and was on the verge of an excoriating rant on the futility of being on the pointy end of the spear tasked with enforcing failed public policies. Screaming into the gale.

And now the hardest bit. This is my last post. I hope I have brought enjoyment and insight into our underway world to my readers over the last seven years. Maybe a couple chuckles and fond remembrances of shared experiences. 

It's been a wild ride, and I truly appreciate every time someone clicked on one of my posts. You, my readers, never failed to bring a smile to my face when you reached out to tell me you spent your precious time with my thoughts and perspectives. And I have never stopped being surprised and delighted at the breadth of my readership.

It's time for me to move on. I hope to keep writing in a different (yet to be determined) forum. The last few months, I have felt constrained by the need to be mostly positive on this blog. The burden of positive leadership weighed heavily on my keyboard, limiting how fully I could paint the picture of my experiences. I will always strive to keep a positive outlook and not focus on all the things that are wrong, but most all times, life is more nuanced than I think is fair to share in this forum. The people who work for me rely on me to provide solutions and keep them in the tools to get their job done. Not whine and complain that those tools are hard to find and oh, by the way, might not be effective for getting us to the end goal anyway. 

If I had better tools to suggest, I would be writing a different post right now. I'm hoping that in freeing myself from (my admittedly self-imposed) constraints, I can move my thinking and writing in a different, more productive direction. 

Thank you all, again, for your support, comments, remembrances and thoughtfulness. I will cherish you always.

I shall never rid the salt water from my veins.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Outrunning a Storm

We had just met up with an FRC to transfer a couple dozen people they interdicted earlier in the day. The water was glass, silkily reflecting the colors from their stripe like a funhouse mirror. A green bar of storms blanked out the radar to the south. As we made the last few boat runs between ships, a glowing bolt of lightning carved a brilliant line through the clouds. A few moments later, a clash of thunder nearly startled me out of my skin as it crackled and sizzled around us.

We got both boats cradled and secured for sea, and sped up away to our next destination. A breeze freshened the water in front of the line of storms, rippling the glassy waters to opacity. Rain drops hitting the water defined the next line behind the breeze, and it marched boldly towards the ship. Standing on the bridge wing, I could hear the rain pounding down, fresh water protesting the obliteration of its purity into the salty seas. For a moment, it looked as if our stern would be caught in its drenching territory. We managed to pull away with about 50 feet to spare.

Now I'm staring out my window, marveling at the rainbow shades of grey and silver that carry the water surrounding our ship out to the far horizon that blends nearly seamlessly to the clouds and into the sky above.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Little Dog Named Diligencia

Last patrol, we had a group onboard that had a little black dog with them. The little dog was mostly black, with a few white spots. She was probably about 25 pounds -- one of those big dogs in a small body, not a yappy little thing at all. She was very well behaved, even though she struggled to eat the beans and rice either because the seas didn't sit well on her stomach or because well, when you're a dog, beans and rice are tough to eat from a Styrofoam bowl that doesn't stay in place on the non-skid deck. 

She didn't belong to anyone specific from the group. I'm really not sure how she ended up with them in the first place. A few of the group played with her, roughhousing a little too much for many of our crew's comfort. But she got repatriated along with her group after having stayed with us for about nine days because the weather was too rough for a faster repat.

A few days ago, one of the individuals we have onboard now approached our translator and asked if he remembered him. He reminded our translator of the little dog (who was pretty unforgettable), and said he had adopted the dog when they got back home. He had even named her -- Diligencia, because that's where he found her. His mom is taking care of her, as he tries again to make his way to the United States. 

I'm not sure why this story touches me so much. Maybe because it's a good reminder that every one of these people *have* stories. They are not individuals whose existences are limited to our interactions with them; they have pasts and they have futures that occur separate and regardless of our brief encounter with them. Or maybe it's because in naming his dog Diligencia, he acknowledged that our paths crossed, and in a way he wishes to remember. It's a blending of the stories, his and ours, that expands out as more people meet the little dog named Diligencia.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**



Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Humbled

My feet hit the deck before I fully realized a pipe was being made. It was 0243 by my watch. We found the chug spotted by the MPA a full 12 hours before. 

Over the course of the next four hours, our team performed as trained, safely and professionally. There were a few tired squabbles as peoples' patience wore thin momentarily -- vaguely sharpened voices over the crackling radio, exacerbated by a couple metal decks' worth of interference. There were also shipmates helping shipmates, people offering a hand wherever they could. Lots of teamwork, buckets full of patience and overwhelming tolerance as we all worked together to get a difficult job done before the ass-crack of dawn.

And by 0645, I was sitting down to a veggie scramble with cheese, bacon and an English muffin. Watch sections were back in place and the ship's routine went ahead, with no hint of the turbulence caused by the early morning evolutions. 

The hard work done, the dedication shown, the effort put forth by this crew humbles me on a daily basis. OPS has finally just gone to bed after about an hour's worth of sleep over the past 40 hours. Boat crew and LE team members didn't blink an eye when we piped a debrief at 1930 to talk about lessons learned from the morning's excitement; instead, they came chock full of good suggestions, ways to make us all better at what we're already damn good at. During his impromptu check in with me on the bridge just before lunch, brand newly reported SN DA asked me about qualification deadlines. Not asking for an extension -- just raising the issue because, since he reported aboard two weeks ago, he's gone from standing migrant watch, to using his language skills as an interpreter, to breaking in helm and look out on the bridge, and he hasn't been able to get to any of the DCWQS training offered each day -- so willing to do what needs to be done at the moment and yet still concerned about meeting his future obligations.

There are, undoubtedly, 82 other examples from each of the folks onboard this ship, of daily selfless acts, both large and small, offered freely from a deep commitment to the larger goal..and frequently, with enough humor to keep it all in perspective. And this is what gets us through long days and exhausting weeks.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Monday, May 30, 2016

Busy is Good

No pretty pictures for today's post. I know we took some, but they haven't yet made their way onto the public drive for me to scroll through. Today was quiet for most of the ship for most of the day. CIC was busy tracking maritime patrol aircraft (MPA (not to be confused with the other MPA -- Main Propulsion Assistant)) flights. Once the flights got up in the air, then CIC got busy tracking sightings of potential migrant vessels. 

We did get in a leadership pro dev session on Coast Guard appropriations structure, which *I* think is fascinating and highly useful stuff. I didn't have anyone throwing things at me, and there were some insightful questions asked, so I call it a highly successful session for how dreadful the topic was (to the non-budget geek). 

So basically, I don't really have anything to write about tonight. Some moments I feel like we're barreling to the end of my tour, and I'm frantic to make sure I have everything in order. Other moments, I feel like we're moving through the molasses of time, and it's all I can do to stretch my patience through until our next port call. I'm sure reality is somewhere there in the middle. 

The on again, off again nature of how this patrol is going is contributing to the feeling. At Evening Reports each evening, I look to OPS to tell us what to expect the next day. Some days, we just write TBD for everything because trying to map it all out is an exercise in frustration because guaranteed! something is gonna change. 

But we're busy, and busy is good. 

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Thousand Words

I'm not sure what struck me about this picture; maybe that there are so many stories to tell from it. I think we had just finished up transferring migrants, and were setting up for a photo op with a few ships all in formation. Someone's cutter boat was in the water to take the pictures, and got a few candid shots along the way. 
The beauty of a ship at sea It's a classic bridge shot, from the lookout staring intently through the big eyes on the fly bridge (just forward of the black mast), to the CO resting his forearms on the teak rail, looking out to the horizon. OPS, EO and I are all in a gaggle close up to the bridge bulkhead, talking about heaven knows what. BMC RB has the Deck and the Conn, and is watching to make sure everything was going according to plan. I can't quite tell who is further aft, just behind the .50 cal. The CB-L (Cutter Boat-Large -- we're so creative with names) is resting peacefully in her cradle. The TSTA Es are all bright and shiny. And there's a little hometown pride shown with the outline of North Carolina on the gumby suit box just aft of the spar-colored davit arm for the CB-L. And as you start to look closer, the ship's bell stands out with its brass color an anomaly among all the white, black, blue and international orange (at the bottom of the mast, aft). The wind is blowing gently about 10 knots off the starboard side. It must have been kinda hot for the CO leaning out into the sunshine like that on the lee side of the bridge. The radar arms are caught in an unusual moment of stillness; usually they rotate endlessly. Everything has its purpose, and (most) everything is in its place. Oh, the beauty of a ship at sea... LCDR Charlotte Mundy Executive Officer USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616) **UNDERWAY**

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sunrise and Sunset

I was up for sunrise this morning, and I'm about to head out onto the foc'sle to watch sunset. I didn't actually see the sun pop over the horizon this morning -- our boat launching course put it on the opposite side of the ship, but I did spend about 30 minutes watching the sun light the clouds across the sky, coloring the higher ones a dazzling pink, but leaving the lower ones dark and grey somehow. 

I couldn't resist checking on it at least once, though. When I did, the sun was already about two inches above the water, shining brightly through a cloud as it rained. A few minutes later, a rainbow materialized out in front of us. 

Just checked -- still have about five minutes before I'll start to miss good stuff for this evening's sunset. Right now all there is to see are green specks in front of my eyes from glancing at the blazing ball of fire.

Since this may be my last patrol (ever), one of my personal goals is to watch at least sunrise or sunset every day, and hopefully both. So far so good. The early morning migrant transfers make catching sunrise doable, and I've had to be careful about how I schedule Evening Reports to make sure sunset fits into the plan of the day. No two are ever alike, and some are so subtle as to be...unremarkable, but the very idea of including a totally non-work related ritual that I can only experience at sea appeals to me. 

My five minutes is up. Off to sunset.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A "Quiet" Day

I say "quiet" in quotation marks because we still had migrant transfers with
two other cutters, moving a total of 51 people, rendezvoused with a station
small boat for a personnel transfer, and made a logistics run with our own
cutter boat. We're still sheltering over 100 additional people onboard the
ship. And every watch station is on a one-in-four rotation, with three hour
watches. There were still a number of changes to the plan of the day, and I
know OPS is juggling so many cases he feels like he could *teach* clown
school. 

But it felt a little more steady state. The overall plan seems to be holding
for now; we're just managing the details. I say "we...," I mean "OPS." He's
doing an amazing job of keeping track of everything, rattling off case and
individual numbers like he's reading from his notes. He said he almost lost
the bubble at one point, but was able to take about 45 minutes yesterday to
wrestle it all back under control.

We'll see what happens when the weather settles down later this week. I
suspect the pace will pick up again. 

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Randomness of Birthrights

I'd really like to write about what we did today...while at the same time, I
think I need some time to process it mentally before it's ready for public
consumption. We had a very busy day. Before it had even started, the plan
had already gone through about three iterations, with early boat ops
combined with logistics runs that then got changed to just a personnel drop
off then moving quickly into receiving migrants from an FRC and another boat
run to complete the personnel transfer (both inbound and outbound) and
setting up the tent on the foc'sle because the flight deck was filling up
and then receiving more migrants from another FRC and having the logistics
run work out well just differently than what we had planned and then another
transfer of migrants off to another FRC for repatriation tomorrow and one
more boat run tonight to take people ashore. 

Those are the broad strokes, anyway. I thought lots today about how the life
I live comes down in so many ways to the arbitrariness of my birthplace. The
most significant difference between me and the people trying to come into
the US illegally by the maritime route is simply that I was born in the US
and they were not. It has little to do with hard work, intelligence, or
tenacity. Because, while those are definitely traits within me that have
gotten me to the success I enjoy, without my original stroke of luck to be
born a US citizen, I would not have had the same opportunities to turn those
traits into standing on the deck of a Coast Guard ship, telling other
hardworking, intelligent, tenacious people they had to find another way to
success this day. Imagining myself without that birthright, it's easy to see
me in their shoes. 

Now, at the end of this very busy day, that helps me with two things: being
so very grateful for the fluke of my existence, the happenstance of
privilege, the benefits of opportunity I did nothing more to earn that be
born in a free country; and finding that much more compassion for each
individual as they come onboard. It's easy to get frustrated with the
constant press and the stress of having so many people to look after,
figuring out all the logistics of keeping them safe while keeping ourselves
safe, that every reminder and illustration of our common humanity gets me
that much further through the day.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Best Awful Day Ever

I'm not even sure what to say about today. It's not over yet, so who knows 
what is yet to come. So far, though, I have been delighted with some great 
experiences even in the face of some really crappy circumstances.

My tooth ache from two patrols came back. Raging back. With angry and fiery 
vengeance. On Friday afternoon. The day before we got underway. I asked Doc 
(HS2 TW) for something stronger than 200 mg of ibuprofen which just wasn't 
cutting through the pounding agony in my face. He gave me 800 mg of ibuprofen 
which I could take one every eight hours. It wore off after five.

In the meantime, we got down to the oparea, met up with four other cutters, 
embarked over 140 migrants and some contraband that went immediately down to 
lock up. Nothing like jumping in with both feet, as CO said over the 1MC when 
we had about half the transfers done.

Finally, Monday morning arrived, and I took the first opportunity I could to 
get set up with dental sick call at the local MTF (military treatment 
facility). I rode in on the Station 45' Response Boat-Medium (RB-M) when they 
came out to drop some partner agency representatives off to us. The ride in 
was glorious; flat calm about an hour after dawn, not too many boats out and 
about, and we tied up right as the base was observing morning colors. The duty 
HS from last night told me exactly what I needed to do this morning, and the 
HS3 at the clinic was ready and waiting for me. Logistics had a GV all ready 
for me to go, and by 0900 I was filling out paperwork at the dentist's office.

The awful part of the experience was the tooth extraction. Never done that 
before. Never want to do that again. 'Nuff said.

On the brighter side, the dentist and all his assistants were thoughtful, kind 
and seemed to truly care about providing good service. The dentist was very 
concerned that he couldn't find a smoking gun for my discomfort, but was much 
more confident once he heard the whole back story about a pending extraction 
that I hadn't gotten done yet. He explained everything thoroughly, and his 
technician was very apologetic for having to jam the big x-ray frame all the 
way back into my mouth to get the roots of the molars in the picture. I was 
even lucky enough that the office had one cancellation and one no show so they 
could do the procedure straightaway and take their time with it.

I was back in Coast Guard territory by 1145, even with a stop at the grocery 
store for soft foods so I had something to eat for the next few days without 
making special requests to the cooks onboard. It took a few moments to figure 
out how I was going to get back to DILIGENCE, but that just gave me time to 
gather up all the parts and packages that had been delivered to us for 
transport back to the ship. It was gonna be Christmas in May when I got back 
to the ship!

Our cutter boat made a run in, dropping off some of those partner agency 
representatives who had quickly finished what they needed to do onboard. BM2 
CJ and MK3 CC loaded the packages all into the boat, and away we went.

What a glorious ride we had out to the ship. It took about 20 minutes at 30+ 
knots, and once we got away from the traffic-ridden harbor area, we *flew* 
over the glassy calm water. I saw a fish boil about 30 yards off the port bow, 
with silver and grey flashes churning all over each other. And the fresh air 
smelled damp and briny with a hint of fishiness. The ship was far off on the 
horizon, barely a spot when I first saw it. It grew larger, with more details 
coming into focus until I could see the individual faces peering at me from 
the flight deck and fantail. We have a new migrant tent for the flight deck 
that, if possible, even improves the lines of a very good looking ship. 
         DILIGENCE framed by DILI 1. Just another day at the office.

So, what could have been a shitty day turned out to be a string of really good 
things one after the other. Love it when that happens!

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Sunday, May 22, 2016

TSTA, Week 3 -- aka The Clean Sweep

We did it! Clean sweep at TSTA! Our last three drills on Monday went off
incredibly well, and by Monday afternoon at 1500, we were moored back up and
only had school house training and our Final Evaluation Problem (FEP) left.
BM3 JR was our MVP for Monday, displaying some mad Investigator techniques,
discovering damage and making sure existing damage didn't spread throughout
the ship. Our final drill score averages for each warfare area were: Command
and Control at 99.33%, Engineering at 100%!!!!, Damage Control at 95.37%,
and Seamanship at 97.56%. All Onboard Training Teams were certified
effective. 

Mike drop.

On Tuesday we sent about eight people to Rescue Swimmer school to play in
the pool for most of the morning, while the rest of us enjoyed either a
relatively easy day of duty or a day of liberty. SN RS was Tuesday's MVP; he
was already qualified as a Rescue Swimmer, having finished his PQS during
the inport and did a great job helping the other members get through their
training.

Wednesday was a workday for the crew, and we sent about 25 people to Basic
Fire Fighting school. They had some class room time, and then donned fire
protective garments (FPGs) and went into the fire house to practice hose
handling techniques. FN NB was Wednesday's MVP for his enthusiasm with the
training.

Thursday dawned clear and warm. The ITT brief started at 0645 and we set the
Fast Cruise environment at 0730 for our FEP. The FEP requires integration of
as many training teams as possible, loss of critical leadership positions
and damage in numerous spaces -- so we had to come up with a pretty
catastrophic event. Our scenario was pretty far-fetched...something about a
minefield laid across the Florida Straits so the drug trafficking
organizations (DTOs) could have a direct route for shipping their product to
the US. DILIGENCE lost steering (as best we could simulate tied to the pier)
and drove into the mine field. We took two mine hits, lots of damage and our
Damage Control Assistant (DCA, who directs damage control efforts in a
General Quarters scenario), Repair Locker Leader, and On Scene Leader all
were injured and not able to perform their duties. CO was standing on the
bridge wing looking over the side of the ship at the second mine strike and
fell overboard. All simulated, of course. 

It was a good drill. Even though it was pretty chaotic, we had fun with it.
The crew was enthusiastic and energetic. The training teams were engaged and
made sure events happened in the right order. Out of the 10 drill cards we
had to grade, I think we passed nine of them. Not that it really had any
bearing on our overall TSTA score -- we already had that in the bag!

Thursday's MVP was SN BS from the group that went to the Wet Trainer to
practice combating flooding damage. While everyone on the crew did a great
job with the FEP, all the folks that really stood out had already earned
their MVP t-shirt. 

We also recognized an overall MVP for TSTA which was DC2 AC for his
sustained energy and positivity throughout CART preps and TSTA. Our overall
Training Team member was LCDR TD, our EO. He took great personal pride in
getting DCTT through CART and TSTA, everyone agreed he earned it 100 times
over.

Despite all the success with TSTA, Thursday was a sad(ish) day. We had a
bunch of people leave to start their transfers to their next duty station.
I'm always excited to see people head off to their next assignment, but sad
to see them go because I *like* our crew. Thursday afternoon was a flurry of
logistics -- Quarters with award presentations, van runs to the airport,
vehicle swaps and loading of our GV to head back to Wilmington. We also had
a bunch of people show up the last two days of TSTA, both TAD and permanent
party folks.

And when we sailed out of the harbor enroute our patrol area, we had a brand
new, clean broom flying proudly from the starboard yardarm. Clean sweep,
indeed!

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
Quarterdeck: 910-815-4528
Cell: 910-367-3328

Sunday, May 15, 2016

TSTA, Week 2

To end the suspense I know you're all in -- last Friday's (6 May) MVP was HS2 TW. He was on duty that day, and when our shipmate collapsed in pain after tripping over first base, he rushed over to help with first aid and follow up medical care. He drove the guy to the onbase medical facility, sat with him and um, pressed for attention when most of the people in the clinic were not hopping to help on a lazy Friday afternoon. It wasn't necessarily TSTA-related, but it was definitely the attitude and actions we like to see from our crew.

After a wonderfully relaxing weekend, some time on beautiful beaches, and maybe a small amount of work on my part (truly, only about 2 hours over the whole weekend), Monday brought more medical and damage control (DC) drills. Monday morning we had a fight on the messdeck; some disagreement among the deckies about being told to clear off the messdeck so the mess cooks could clean. It was a raucous fight and we had crewmembers suffer from a sucking chest wound, a facial fracture, a compound fracture of the leg, a big long cut on the arm, an evisceration, and one guy passed out from all the blood. This was *of course* all simulated for our mass casualty drill, so the first responders had to triage all the different casualties and determine which were most life threatening and needed attending first. After the mass casualty drill, we ran a bunch more stand-alone medical casualties, and finished up all our required medical drills.

Monday afternoon, we were in a fast cruise environment, where we simulate being underway, with watches stood up on the bridge, in CIC and in Main Control, but with lines and shoreties still connected. Honestly, I don't remember exactly what drills we ran on Monday afternoon or all day Tuesday. They're a blur of training team briefs and debriefs, pipes, manned and ready reports, casualty reports, simulated damage all over the ship. Monday's MVP was FS1 DP for his response as the leader in BDS (Battle Dressing Station), responding to the mass casualty and all the individual medical drills. He directed efforts of all the first responders and other members of BDS.

Between Monday afternoon and Tuesday, we knocked out *a lot* of our DC drills, and had an ITT (Integrated Training Team) drill where an engineering casualty (run by ETT, the Engineering Training Team) cascaded into a main space fire (run by DCTT, the Damage Control Training Team). We have to do three-ish ITTs for ATG to show that our OBTTs (Onboard Training Teams) can work together to train for complex scenarios.

Tuesday's MVP was BM3 WF, earned for his energy in responding to casualties. BM3 is our boundaryman for casualties -- he goes to the area around the damage to make sure the boundaries are set and the damage does not spread. For fire, he breaks out a fire hose, charges it and pulls all combustible material away from the bulkhead shared by the space on fire. For flooding, he makes sure water tight closures are secured and bulkheads and overheads are not sagging or hogging, which could indicate potential failure of the watertight boundary. He was out, on scene almost before the pipe describing the damage was complete -- which is a huge help because we have 5 minutes to set the top boundary for a fire (heat rises, so it's important to get this set quickly) and 7 minutes for the horizontal boundaries (side by side to the damage). The time standards are so we get maximum points on the scored drill.

We got underway on Wednesday primarily to conduct our gunnery exercise (GUNEX), but also to do our BECCEs (basic engineering casualty control exercises), which simulate various types of damage to equipment in the engine room to which the watchstanders must respond. We did BECCEs on the way out to the firing range, and on the way back in. We had to redo one, a Class C fire in the switchboard, I think because the training team got a little ahead of themselves, and talked the watchstander into securing power before they really should have. But, by the end of the day, we'd finished up with BECCEs -- our second warfare area finished! With a 100% drill score average!! And our MVP from Wednesday was from the engine room watch team; MK2 GF responded to casualty after casualty in the sweltering engine room, quickly restoring functionality of the propulsion and power plant. This was another hard choice for MVPs, because MK2 wasn't down there by himself. EM2 TB and other engineers were also strong contenders.

The GUNEX almost wasn't. We got shot all the rounds we needed to from the .50 cal machine guns, training on warning shots, disabling fire and destructive fire for two gunners and loaders on each gun. But the 25 mm gun got cantankerous after drilling about 10 rounds down range. Our gunnersmates were pretty frustrated, having worked through electrical problems on the gun for months with out finding a smoking gun (ugh -- just couldn't help myself), other than the gun didn't work. The GM from ATG was able to look at it with a fresh set of eyes, and helped figure out a work around so we could get the remaining rounds shot. We all sighed a huge relief when the GUNEX was done -- this is one area that so many ship have troubles with that ATG gives a six-month waiver to reattempt the GUNEX as a matter of course. Finishing the GUNEX wrapped up our Combat Systems warfare area. I don't remember the drill score average, but I'm pretty sure it was above 95%.

We were underway again on Thursday, overnight into Friday, getting underway a little later in the day because we knew we had a late-ish night planned. We started off with rerunning our loss of gyro drill on the outbound transit, and finally passed it (I suspect running it for practice on the way outbound and inbound on Wednesday helped significantly with that). Then we moved right into towing and astern refueling. The tug that helped us get underway (don't ask -- the port we're in has compulsory pilot and tug requirements because one too many ships has bashed their piers trying to moor unassisted. I understand the necessity, but I still think *we* don't really need it) stayed on scene with us and acted as our "disabled vessel" that needed towing. We had a perfect day for it, with a light breeze from the southeast, no chop and the slightest of swells from the east.

WEPS made two beautiful approaches, both times getting within 75 feet (yes, feet; not yards) at a super slow speed to allow the fantail sufficient time to make a couple of attempts to get the heaving line across. SN JB heaved a spectacular throw, stretching the heaving line out its full length perfectly across the tug in front of the pilot house. And about 45 minutes later, after lengthening the tow to 400 feet, making a 30 degree turn with the tug in tow, shortening the tow and passing back a fueling hose, we broke the tow, and the tug headed back to port. Their comment to OPS on the radio just prior to departing was best approach and heaving line throw they'd seen in 12 years of playing TOWEX.

But the day was barely started for us. We attempted a loss of steering drill after the tow, but missed a few things on it. I agreed with OPS to try to rejigger the schedule to fit it in somewhere.

Next was our precision anchorage. Our bearing takers on either bridge wing shot continuous bearings to our head bearing and drop bearing, and our radar operator gave ranges to the drop range. We ended up about 67 yards off our planned drop point, so we lost 5 points for being more than 50 yards off. But we passed the precision anchorage with 80% -- something that ATG told us only 10% of ships are able to do on the first try.

I'm getting to the point where I feel like I'm bragging overly much about our prowess with all these different evolutions. But screw it! I'm gonna keep bragging. This crew works so well together, even when things aren't going well, with everyone so dedicated to the overall team effort. Do I think we're the best at what we do? Hell, yes! And it's always nice to hear an impartial, unbiased affirmation of that from outside sources.

We stayed anchored until just after dinner and some meeting or another, maybe a DCTT planning meeting. Then we got underway to try the loss of steering again, and wait for sunset to do our shipboard and small boat man overboard (MOB) drills at night. We passed all on the first try...though it did take a little longer than usual to recover all the life rings from the MOB shipboard pick up. It was getting late, and I think the darkness messed with folks' depth perception a little. ATG finished up with their debrief, and we small boated them back in at about 2130. Our small boat was back onboard, cradled and secured for sea by about 2215. Long ass day.

SN JB was Thursday's MVP for that epic heaving line throw that got our tow hooked up on the first try. It really was a thing of beauty.

ATG was back onboard by 0745 the next morning, brought out by our friendly tug. We had a day full of ITTs planned. Our first ITT was a General Quarters (GQ) drill. GQ1 is our highest state of readiness for when we find ourselves in a high threat environment. The make-believe scenario that drove the GQ state was that we were on patrol in JIATF-South's AOR and had been successful with multiple drug busts, and had large quantities of contraband stored onboard. The drug trafficking organization (DTO) wasn't too happy about that, and threatened to take back their drugs by any means necessary. They tried, including getting off an RPG hit and machine gun fire at us before we demolished their vessel. But the RPG hit and machine gun strafe did some damage that our repair lockers responded to. It was a fun drill, and we successfully fought and saved the ship.

Friday afternoon's drill was another main space fire, with other associated casualties from other training teams' warfare areas. DCTT was in evaluation mode, so we could only ask "leading questions" to get watchstanders to do what they were supposed to do, instead of directing them. But we got a 100% on the drill -- again something not many ships can do for a main space fire in eval mode.

EM3 JN was Friday's MVP, again selected from a robust pool of candidates. I don't remember what his specific job is for our various casualty scenarios, but he responded enthusiastically and correctly to whatever was thrown his way.

We moored outboard of another ship Friday afternoon, just before the skies opened up with a thunderous deluge of rain. And with that mooring, we finished all drills required for Navigation and Seamanship. Three warfare areas down. One to go.

We start next week with only three drills to go. I am strenuously optimistic that we'll be able to get through them, and make it look easy. However, in amusing and frustrating contrast to all the amazing feats of teamwork we saw throughout the week, we did have a couple less than stellar moments. Tuesday afternoon, I was sitting at my desk having changed out of my uniform into civilian clothes to work in comfort on the admin stuff I had neglected during a day full of drills.

DINGDINGARINGADINGARING. Now set General Emergency in accordance with the main space fire doctrine. There has been the report of a major fuel oil leak in the engineering vestibule. All hands respond in today's duty section respond from Repair III. Traffic pattern is up and forward on starboard, down and aft on port.

Right around the major fuel oil leak part of the pipe, I was on my way off the ship to muster on the pier with the rest of the folks who were onboard, but not in the duty section. They could call us to help from there if they needed it. Once EO came up to the flight deck, I got the full scoop. The Fuel Oil Water King was transferring fuel to the day tanks in preparation for our upcoming day underway on Wednesday. He didn't align all the valves exactly right, so he kept pumping fuel into a tank that was already full, and when he opening the sounding tube to sound the tank, fuel geysered out of the sounding tube. The duty section responded perfectly, and applied many of the lessons they had just learned during the previous week's inport drills. We got the mess cleaned up within about 90 minutes. Our mishap report is pending.

And, at this point having described all we did this past week, I simply can't muster the energy to bash the guys who brought us Yokohama fenders when we moored outboard that other ship on Wednesday. Their boat's number was BB-3, which quickly became known for the three bumbling bozos onboard. It took them nearly an hour to pass us two fenders, amidst the dropped lines, yards and yards of heaving lines jumbled into knots and general dip-shittedness. Circus music played in the background.

Seriously -- three more drills next week. I think we got this.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

I Stumbled, Then I Blinked

My blogging resolve flagged for a day or two at the end of last patrol. I didn't meet my goals. I think I got distracted with Key West and the transit home. Not gonna beat myself up about it, just acknowledge it, and try to do better next time.

And then I blinked, and our less than 60-day inport is almost over. I knew that was going to happen. We tried to pack about 90 pounds of potatoes into a 55 pound sack...figuratively speaking. Here are some highlights that I can remember without my calendar in front of me:

We started a six-week fitness series called DILIFit! the week after we got back. Every Tuesday (except for one, which was on Monday because of an inspection) at noon, we invited the public to come work out with the crew during our regular weekly workout time. We had no idea how much participation to expect, but a couple locals joined us at each session. We also had lots of media interest: http://www.wwaytv3.com/2016/03/22/diligence-crew-hosts-workout/
http://portcitydaily.com/2016/03/16/diligence-crew-community-bands-together-for-first-waterfront-exercise/
http://www.wect.com/story/31465521/get-fit-with-the-crew-from-the-coast-guard-cutter-diligence
The Port City loves them some DILIGENCE.

At the end of March, we hosted members from Afloat Training Group (ATG) Mayport onboard for our Command Assessment of Readiness and Training (CART). We spent months preparing for CART, to the point that I was glad when it finally arrived because it meant it was almost over, and we could stop obsessing about it. During the three days of CART, ATG goes over about eleven checklists that the command (DILIGENCE) is supposed to have assessed themselves against before ATG's arrival. We also do a bunch of drills so ATG can evaluate our onboard Training Teams' abilities to train the crew, including integrating into an Integrated Training Team (ITT) to conduct more elaborate drills. The eleven checklists total over 1800 line items. We had 17 discrepancies, five that were training restrictive (we're not safe to train until these discrepancies are corrected) and 12 minor discrepancies. I'd say a discrepancy rate of 0.1% is equivalent to knocking it out of the park -- though our TLO (Training Liaison Officer) did say that was the *second* lowest discrepancy rate they had seen; another ship only had two minor discrepancies. Most days I'd rather be happy than be the best :) Our onboard Training Teams did very well also. All but one were assessed as Ready to Train. We're sailing with members from ATG on our shakedown cruise to get the remaining Training Team some assistance from ATG's LTT (Limited Training Team). All this CART stuff is in preparation for TSTA (Tailored Ship's Training Availability, pronounced "tis-ta"). That starts for us here in another week-ish, and is 15 workdays during which we have to do all our mandated drills as listed on some list -- I can't remember the name right now -- but it's about 90 drills for our seven onboard Training Teams, including ITT. FORCECOM loves them some acronyms.

TSTA will be busy, but it's a great opportunity for the crew to focus on nothing but training. I'm grateful a few of our new folks are transferring in during TSTA so they'll get the benefit of all the training before transfer season really goes into full swing and we lose all our fully qualified members.

Ok, so after CART, we headed full bore into the 69th Annual North Carolina Azalea Festival the very next week. We hosted the official party of about 44 people onboard the ship for a VIP reception as the opening event, just prior to the Queen's Crowning on Wednesday. The city started shutting down roads around downtown on Tuesday for some of the events, which made it tricky for the crew to get to the ship. Wilmington Downtown, Inc. was **awesome** and came through with 50 parking passes for crewmembers so we could pass through the road barriers to get to the ship more easily -- which was a *huge* help come Saturday, when about 10 blocks surrounding the ship were all closed off for the parade. We were the 137th float in the parade, with the crew walking (not marching!) in front of our GV-towed Cutter Boat-Large (CB-L). We invited family members to walk with us, and all the kids rode in the CB-L, along with ENS Emma Lutton, our Student Engineer, who wasn't in uniform, but was instead fulfilling her duties as Miss Southern States, a title she won at the beginning of the year! And we also were open for tours to the public for Friday, Saturday and Sunday for six hours each day. We had over 1,600 people onboard during the course of the three days, with display tables set up on the pier with crew reps talking about maritime law enforcement, damage control, navigation and rescue and assistance. I worked the line, talking to people waiting for their tour, on Sunday afternoon. I gave them a little information about the ship, her missions, crew, and history, and answered whatever questions they came up with. It was fun...but I was exhausted at the end of the day, especially since Sunday turned out to be our busiest day -- giving tours for 710 people! CGRC (Coast Guard Recruiting Command) loves them some Azalea Festival.

Starting Monday after Azalea Festival, we had a contractor onboard to conduct a Watertight Closure Assessment. It's a program that EO pushed really hard to get back after it fell out of favor at the Product Line (our maintenance oversight) a few years ago because it helps EO with making sure the ship stays watertight -- just a little important so WE DON'T SINK!!! The contractors took apart, inspected, renewed and put back together all 71 watertight enclosures (including doors, hatches and scuttles) onboard the ship, documented their findings and trained our DCPOs (Damage Control Petty Officers, the members from each division that are responsible for maintaining damage control equipment in their spaces for their respective divisions, pronounced "dee-see pee oh"). They chipped away degraded metal, renewed welds, gaskets and dogs (the fittings that tighten down to keep water out), and generally kept themselves and our DCPOs busy from 0730 to 1500 each day. They also provided the ship and the Product Line with a very detailed summary of their findings, what they fixed, and what they were unable to fix that either needs to be done by ship's force or included in the next maintenance availability (i.e., drydock or dockside). EO loves him some DC readiness.

That Friday, we hosted a local business appreciation open house. We asked crew members to invite their favorite local (small) businesses by passing out copies of the CO's invitation, to come down for a tour and a little time with the crew to show our appreciation of their efforts to make Wilmington such a great homeport. Again, we had no idea of how many people to expect, but we had about 15 crewmembers stay after the workday to mingle. We only had about eight local folks show up. I think, though, that this really is a case of the thought is what counts because while people may not have been able to leave their businesses on a pretty Friday afternoon for a Coast Guard boondoggle, at least they know we recognize their efforts to make the area so welcoming. DILIGENCE loves them some Port City.

And don't forget, we're still doing DILIFit! every Tuesday.

At this point, I tapped out for a couple of days off while I had some friends in town, though I did go in that Monday for the last Department Head meeting of the inport, and on Tuesday for our required annual Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness training. I also spent some time in a tattoo shop that week...bzzz bzz bzzzzzz...my arm is still healing. Love me some new ink.

While all this other stuff was going on, the rest of the ship's work was happening in the background. Enlisted and officer evaluations, budget angst (never enough money) and 2nd Quarter FY16 closeout, property inspections, maintenance, training, ramping up for transfer season (scheduling inbound and outbound dates, award prep, making sure we have enough racks), patrol planning and preps (our patrol plan changed no less than five times during the course of the middle two weeks of this inport -- OPS was about ready to throw his draft CONOP (concept of operations) overboard). We did regular tours, special tours for JROTC, homeschool and pre-school groups, and hosted a few special guests onboard for lunch.

After writing all this, I kind of feel like this inport was the half-mile long steep-ass hill at Mile 11 in the Battleship Half Marathon I ran back in November. I was so close to the finish line (less than three months left onboard DILI) and I wouldn't let myself quit, but the grade of that incline (pace of the inport) was a *bitch* of energy expenditure, right when I didn't necessarily have it left to spare. Collectively, we (DILI's crew) put together an exceptional effort this inport. We tackled every event with thorough preparation, positive enthusiasm and lots of energy, and the results enhanced the ship's and crew's reputation -- and that's definitely something we can be proud of!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Quarters at Sea

We didn't have quarters out on the flight deck much this patrol, because
there wasn't much room on the flight deck with our migrant tent up. But
tonight, we had quarters on the flight deck at sunset to welcome our newest
temporary Cuttermen into the fold. We took the opportunity to get a group 
picture of most everyone -- we still had eight people on watch on the bridge, 
in the engine room, and in CIC. Damn fine looking group!
Luckily, sunset was gorgeous. Lots of flaming red and dark clouds.
We still have a few important things to get done before all lines are made up and doubled up in homeport, the brow is over and the trash is off the ship. But every mile and every minute takes us closer to home.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Serendipity

I love serendipity in the Coast Guard! It's probably just that it's a very
small service, and within the cutterman community, smaller still, but some
days it just puts a smile on my face. 

We got out of a brief this morning, and walked back to the ship. Reflex
reaction when I'm away from my phone for more than three minutes is to check
it. A phone call and a text from one of my most fave people -- FMR. The text
was, "Yo! You're in ***! I just pulled in on FRC**!" 

Craziest of schedule coincidences  And now it's out to dinner that's sure
to be filled with sea stories and laughter...

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Apostrophe Rant

I edit a lot of bureaucratic minutiae. Cutter Organization Manual sections,
memos for the record, memos for another unit, memos to individuals, page 7s,
business letters, emails, press releases, endorsements, evaluation comments,
messages...and probably a few other things. I'm not the best editor in the
world, but my mother was an English teacher while I was a young kid, and
somehow some of her grammar knowledge must have sunk in through osmosis to
me. 

Like apostrophes. They're such little bits of type, barely there at all. Not
much ink is used for an apostrophe, nor do they take up many pixels on a
computer screen. But they can annoy the crap out of me so very badly. 

Here's the deal -- apostrophes are generally used for two main purposes: 
-- An apostrophe is used to show possession. For example, "My mother's
background as an English teacher contributed to my borderline neurosis about
using apostrophes correctly."
-- An apostrophe is used to show where a contraction exists, or to show
how/where two words are connected into one, shorter word. For example, "Many
people don't (do not) know how to use apostrophes appropriately."

They are not used to denote a plural form of acronyms or other nouns, or
noun-like words. I know there may be exceptions, but in my world, I root out
those exceptions in track changes, and leave them in my red-lettered dust,
or strike through them with a vengeance with my XO's green ink pen.

OS's is the possessive for of Operations Specialist -- whatever comes right
after OS's belongs to the OS. It is NOT a plural form of OS. The plural form
of OS is OSs. Yes, autocorrect tries to make the first, capitol S lower case
as soon as you space away from it. But take the split second to go back and
correct the autocorrect. It's attention to detail, and it can make or break
you.

I know that as soon as I post this rant every single JO I've ever worked
with will take great delight in pointing out all my typos and grammar
mistakes...but if I can get through to just one person about the proper use
of the apostrophe, my work here is done. Just like when I actually put "Nap
time" on the POD (for the first time...the second time was just me showing
off). 

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Monday, February 29, 2016

Best Laid Plans

The best laid plans of mice and XOs are disrupted with disturbing frequency.
We had a perfectly good plan for tomorrow. It got a lot done, moving us
closer to our specific goals for the patrol. But then circumstances beyond
our control changed, and now we have a new plan. It's not quite as nice as
the old plan, but it's a good plan, a safe plan, a plan that helps the
overall goal of the patrol.

There's another saying I'm reminded of tonight: "Wanna know how to make God
laugh? Make a plan."

You'd think after all the upheaval of plans I have experienced from being on
Coast Guard boats for so long, I'd have long ago given up on planning.
Somehow that's not what happens though. It makes me cling even harder to the
next plan. I always have to have a plan, even if it's totally tentative with
a bunch of different options. I feel a little untethered without a plan,
like anything can happen and usually the bad stuff will. Planning is a
containment spell for the gremlins and demons that can come from the cracks
and crevices in one's attention and wreak havoc on one's life.

Ok, maybe that's a little too far, but you get the idea. It's a habit that
will be very hard to break whenever I find myself not needing to plan so
much.

Well, on a positive note, we don't have to get up quite so early tomorrow
morning. And I was still awake when things changed and it was relatively
easy to get out a new POD (Plan of the Day) for tomorrow.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Boat Ride!

I had forgotten how much fun small boat rides are! We met up with an FRC
this morning to pick up some migrants they interdicted last night. Their OPS
came over to DILI to brief us on some of their medical conditions, so I took
the opportunity for a quick ride over to their boat to say hi. I've
exchanged a few emails with their XO, and figured putting a face to a name
is always a good idea. 

A small boat moves differently than the cutter, which is really a statement
that is brutally obvious. Of course it moves differently. But when I was in
the small boat, my body moved differently too. I spent a decent amount of
time in the small boat when I was XO on WASHINGTON, back from 2002 to 2004,
but not much time in one since then. My body remembered that it needed to
just accept the movement, and not try to fight it, even more so than it does
on the cutter when it's rough. We didn't build up too much speed, and it was
definitely good conditions -- otherwise, I know boat rides can be not so
much fun. More like a series of car crashes about every 30 seconds if a boat
is speeding through six to eight foot seas, on a go-fast chase, say.

The waves were a little choppy, maybe about a foot of chop and a two foot
swell...relatively calm compared to some of the crap we've seen this patrol.
I got a good amount of spray on me, but thankfully no full dousing. It's
always a little dicey getting onto and off of the small boat, but the
coxswain did a nice job of keeping us steady alongside. Then it's just a
matter of timing the swell to step off the ladder on a trough, and step onto
the ladder at the crest of a swell. I managed with better than my usual
(lack of) grace.

My boat ride lasted maybe 7 minutes total there and back, but I had a big
grin on my face for the rest of the day. 

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Idea of Mentoring

I'm still not used to the idea of being a mentor. Sure, I participate in an
online mentoring program that matches mentees with mentors, and I've got the
leadership pro dev series that we do onboard underway. But, it always takes
me a little by surprise, particularly when I'm talking to young
women/officers, that they will look up to me and value the lessons I've
learned from my experiences.

Then again, it also takes me a little by surprise to remember I have nearly
nine and a half years of sea time, have served on six ships, been CO of two,
and am about to put on CDR! Somehow in my mind, I just started this gig a
couple years ago, and am still learning what I'm supposed to be doing.

I forget that there just aren't that many senior women cuttermen. The ones
we have are great! and I'm definitely grateful to have them as my own role
models, but right now (and I know I risk getting these numbers wrong), I
think there are maybe six female LCDRs or senior serving as CO, XO or
Department Head on major/white hull cutters (I'm not including WLB-225s
here, simply because I don't know much about that community...shame on me)
-- out of a fleet of 37ish (?? -- I can't keep up with the WMSLs coming
on-line and the WHECs getting decom'ed...I'll need to start knowing that
soon enough!) WMSLs, WHECs, WMEC-270s and -210s. If my math is right (and I
make no promises), that's less than seven percent of senior cuttermen jobs
are currently held by women. And I'm one of them. Shit, that's sobering. 

This is not a post to bemoan the fact that there are so few women afloat --
that's a whole 'nother post. This is simply a recognition that I am in an
exceedingly select group, and I am still learning the importance and gravity
of that role. I had an encounter today that very strongly reinforced this
particular lesson, so this idea of mentoring is on my mind.

The "mentoring" I give is mostly storytelling, with a few nuggets or themes
of things that have worked for me or ways of looking at things that make
things make better sense. And most of the time, I just listen and tell them
that being on the vertical part of a learning curve always sucks and that
they're not alone...and that's usually exactly what they need to hear. 

I'll say it again -- what we do is hard. Not everyone can do what we do. But
(for now) I think it's worth it, especially if you can do it well.

One of these days, I'm going to start to compile those lessons learned and
sea stories into something. If nothing else than to just get them out of my
head.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Moonlight

It is seductively gorgeous outside tonight. There's a full moon, with a few
scattered clouds in the sky. The seas are calm. A light breeze is dusting
across our decks. 

I went outside to see if I could get a cell signal to make a phone call (I
couldn't -- or at least not enough of one for the call to go through), and
could almost read by the light of the moon. One of these nights, I'm going
to work up the courage to sleep out on deck on a night like tonight. I'm not
sure why I haven't yet -- maybe the thought of sleeping on the 25 mm gun
mount grated deck is putting me off. That stuff hurts to even sit on for
more than five minutes. And after another busy day like today, with tomorrow
looking to be more of the same, I value the quality of my sleep.

But the moonlight is definitely tempting...

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Some Luck

Sometimes there's just nothing interesting to write about. Today was busy,
but at the end of it, I'm not sure what we did. I know we had a General
Quarters drill, where we practiced manning up for a combat situation, i.e.,
bad guys shooting back at us. It was pretty fun, actually. The geopolitical
scenario may have been a little far-fetched, but we trained on how to react
to a bunch of different casualties, including ones from battle damage like
machine gun fire ("RAT-A-TAT-TAT, RAT-A-TAT-TAT" over the 1MC) or an rocket
propelled grenade (RPG) hit ("KA-POW" over the 1MC -- I really need to
redownload my sound effects app). There was a bit of franticness on the
bridge when the first hit took out our helmsman, but the sound-powered phone
talker stepped in to steer the ship for a minute or two until the lookout
could come down from the fly bridge. Around the rest of the ship, Repair
Lockers combated flooding in the JP-5 pump room back aft and a fire that
started in OPS/SUPPORT berthing and spread forward into OPS/DECK head and
aft into YN1's office. Our gun crews destroyed and sank two of the bad guys'
vessels, and the last one ran away after they realized they were severely
out-gunned by us...all prompted by Training Team members of course.

There were the Training Team briefs and debriefs before and after the drill.
We're practicing for Command Assessment of Readiness for Training (CART) and
Tailored Ships Training Availability (TSTA, pronounced tiss-tah) which are
barreling down on us next month for CART, and May for TSTA. We've been doing
a pretty good job of working through all the CART checklists (over 1500 line
items in all, I think), and are making sure our Training Teams work
separately and can integrate together. I should write a post on the training
cycle -- but not tonight. That might be a multi-day project. 

We also sent a couple guys over to an FRC operating near us for a little
professional exchange...except they didn't send us anyone in return, so it's
not really an exchange. Hope they're having fun over there tonight. 

And all the usual evening round of meetings. Fish call was piped at about
1630; fish on was called over the radio just before sunset -- with tales of
the 5-1/2 foot marlin that got away bemoaned soon after. There was a baggie
full of fresh caught mahi on the fish cleaning table when I went back to the
fantail to check out sunset though...so at least the fishermen had some
luck.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Monday, February 22, 2016

Beautiful Day

It was the definition of a beautiful day today. Bright blue sky, with a
scattering a clouds dancing their way across the sky; a light breeze that
kept the sun from burning too hot. The water was crystalline, so many colors
of blue and green and turquoise. 

1LT did a fantastic job of getting us underway from the pier, with the wind
directly down the pier and a slight ebb current once we got out into the
turning basin. He drove the ship almost exactly according to the plan he
talked about at the navigation brief, with one slight variation to counter
the ebb that shifted the stern a little more forcefully than we expected.
There were a ton of Sunday afternoon boaters enjoying the weather, and WEPS
contacted a couple of them to make sure we weren't going to collide with
anyone on the way out. There was a little uncertainty when 1LT misunderstood
that we were pretty far right of track, and we really should take that green
buoy down the starboard side, but he quickly adjusted, and away we went. We
caught an extra knot of speed from the falling ebb current until we were
well away from shore. 

And on the way to meet up with another ship, a rainbow glowed off the port
side, short and fat in the clouds. 

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Conversations

We have some interesting conversations on the ship. Last night, walking back
to the ship relatively early (before 2200) from an event put on by the
Chiefs' Mess, I commented to OPS how tough it was being an introvert in the
Coast Guard. He agreed. But neither one of us felt the slightest bit awkward
at going back to our respective rooms, shutting the door, and enjoying some
quiet time all by our onesies. I recognize that, as an introvert, I am
extremely lucky and privileged to have my own room on the ship. The guys who
live in shared berthing areas definitely don't have that luxury. They can
close their rack curtain and that's about it. 

And then this evening, walking back early from dinner out, OPS, MPA and I
talked about the elasticity of time underway. OPS said he had no sense of
time during the last stretch we were underway. He knew all of what we did,
but he could not put it in chronological order if he tried. Time is weird
underway. We'll have days and days that are slow, that drag like a flat
tire, and then the very next moment will fly by with a nitro injection.
We're over three-quarters of the way through this patrol -- sometimes I
think we just got underway, and sometimes it feels like we've been underway
for an eternity, and other times it feels just about right. I try to write
stuff down in my day planner as it happens, so I remember later how things
happened, somewhat for help in writing my OER input, and sometimes just so I
can recall the order of events. Things get jumbled otherwise. 

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Friday, February 19, 2016

Mundanities

I wish I had something profound for today. Even something moderately
interesting. Once again, I find myself wanting to tell the story about
today, but being constrained by OPSEC concerns. It's not an unusual day, but
I don't think giving details about what we've done today is a good idea. 

So mundanities -- the bits of mundane-ness that make up our days. The
weather is blowing pretty good today, about 20 to 25 knots. Made our
operations today that much more challenging with the wind. With some good
skill and communications by the watchstanders, we safely accomplished what
we set out to do. 

Computers are still being a pain. It's so torturous to want to get work done
and be completely stymied by an internet connection that loads a new page
every 60 seconds. I want to be more productive, but a huge portion of my
work is online, so I'm forced to be completely be unproductive if I want to
get anything done at all. Does that even make sense?!?

Oh, and we had a pelican visit us on the fo'clse this morning. The QMOW
called me to let me know it was there, because he and the OOD thought I'd
like to know. That made me smile. So I went up to the bridge to take a look.
Yup, sitting proudly right there on the starboard vent to the laundry room,
was a big, beautiful pelican, feet splayed for stability, with his enormous
beak tucked against his chest. He hung out for a few minutes until folks
came out onto the fo'csle to get ready for our next evolution. Then he flew
placidly away, and took a great big dump about 200 yards off the bow. At
least he was polite enough to wait until he was off our deck.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Good, The Frustrating, The Profound


Lots of good stuff today. Lots of frustrating stuff today. That's the way
the days go, underway. 

Let's see, how did the day start, again? Oh right...sunrise yoga. I put my
mat down as far forward as I could on the flight deck, on the starboard side
to get as much lee as I could from the wind. As I stretched back into my
third reverse warrior, I caught a glimpse of a glowing red sky peaking
between the cutter boat and its cradle. "Red sky in the morning, sailors
take warning" passed through my thoughts. Thankfully, it turned out to be a
gorgeous day.

I came in from yoga and tried logging on to my computer for my morning
ritual of checking emails before breakfast. Nope, wasn't going to happen.
Something was messed up with our server; IT2 JM was already talking to
TISCOM about it. But without a computer to work on, I wasted a large part of
my morning feeling like there was stuff I should be doing, but then
remembering that I couldn't. 

After lunch we met up with an FRC and took a group of migrants from them.
They had picked the people up yesterday. One of the group was a little girl
with her mother and father. Now, we've been doing this mission for nearly
six weeks at this point, but we hadn't seen any kids yet. It was hard. She's
a lovely little girl, holding tight to her dad's hand, maybe seven or eight
years old. She got a high-five from one of our crew on the fantail helping
them get settled on the flight deck. I wonder what she'll remember from this
experience. She's old enough to remember what happens, but maybe not old
enough to understand the why behind it all. Transferred from ship to ship,
hopefully she remembers men and women in dark blue who thoughtfully cared
for her well-being, looked after her for a few days and treated her like the
adorable little girl she is.

All afternoon long, and into the evening, it was a beautiful day. We haven't
had too many flat calm days this patrol. I'm determined to appreciate them
when we get them. Flat calm seas are a delight for personnel transfers. We
did, I don't know, maybe five of them today. Boat to the rail, boat in the
water, boat away, boat alongside, boat at the rail, boat in the cradle. I
heard a lot of that today. All done safely and smoothly thanks to the
exceptional professionalism of our coxswains, boat crewman, line handlers,
davit operators, boat deck supervisors, and boarding team members. 

As we were launching the boat for the umpteenth time today, I realized that
one of the things that I really like about this mission is the profound
sense of Coast Guard camaraderie we get to revel in while we're here. We saw
and worked with a station boat, an FRC and their small boat, and a WMEC 270
today. How cool is that? And we've had more days where we see other CG units
than days that we haven't this patrol. I think it's a very real reminder
that we're part of something much bigger than ourselves when we see and work
directly with other units. Heck, I don't know why it's such a thrill -- but
it is!

And after all that today, the sunset. The picture doesn't hardly do it
justice. So many colors filled the sky, with electric gold singeing the
clouds, rays of light beaming through the gaps, and blues and greys and
pinks and peaches and violets and silvers all mixed in, changing
imperceptibly every second so it was never the same before and after a blink
of the eyes. And just before full dark, a faint pink glow reflected the last
of the sun's rays, a blush of color in the night sky.

The good, the frustrating, the profound...just another day underway. 

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**





Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cell Phone Tower

We've been relatively close to shore for a good portion of this patrol.
Which is unlike a lot of our other patrols, where we're off in the middle of
the ocean, a couple hundred miles from the closest rock sticking out of the
water. And those rocks are usually foreign rocks where we couldn't use our
cell phones anyway.

Each time we get underway, we restrict cell phone use by the crew. Again,
normally, it's not an issue, because we're so far offshore we don't get a
signal. But when we are close to shore, we still restrict cell phone use
because of all the temptations cell phones offer. During the workday, we
have other things that need to get done from which we cannot be distracted.
Cell phones can offer bad guys insights into where we're operating. They can
be a distraction, especially dangerous at watchstations -- which totally
isn't allowed.

But they can also be a great way to keep in touch with family and friends at
home. We gave the crew very strict guidelines about what they can and cannot
say when they make calls, so we don't run afoul of OPSEC rules, and so far
everyone is doing a great job of following those rules. And since we have
the ability, we've been opening the cell phone tower for use most evenings
after the workday so people can call home. We pipe, "Now, the cell phone
tower is open for all hands not currently on watch." And out come the cell
phones. I walked through the berthing areas soon after the cell phone tower
was piped open, and there was not a single soul in two of them. Everyone was
out on deck, aiming their phone at the sky to get a signal.

The really funny part was a couple of days ago when someone asked if they
needed to turn the cell phone tower on before making a call, thinking that
there was actually a piece of equipment onboard that either amplified the
signal from shore, or jammed signals coming off the ship. Got a good chuckle
out of that.

Friends and family, don't get too upset with me if I'm not making phone
calls from underway. I check my phone when I can when the tower is open, but
then usually get distracted by the next thing I need to get done. Besides,
if you heard from me every day, coming home wouldn't be quite so special.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Sunday, February 14, 2016

For The Birds

I got up early(-ish) this morning and spent 45 minutes walking the exterior
decks of the ship to get a little exercise. When I started, I stayed on the
01-deck, which is the boat deck, fo'csle and flight deck. Round and round I
went, until FN NB and FA KL came out to do boat checks on the CB-L. At that
point I went forward on the starboard side fo'csle, aft on the port side and
down the ladder to the portside main deck, back to the fantail, forward up
the starboard main deck, and up the ladder to the fo'csle again.

My powers of observation were not that great. It took me about two laps to
process that there was an enormous amount of bird shit on the very forward
part of the fo'csle, just under the jack staff. Some jack-hat sea gull had
likely perched for a few hours on the jackstaff, and had an entirely merry
time of relieving himself in the same spot. Or maybe it took two birds. I
meant to say something to 1LT to make sure the Deckies scrubbed it off
before it became completely enameled to the deck. 

But it got me to thinking about other bird encounters, or bird-related
encounters. I couldn't stop from giggling when I remembered a fresh water
wash down episode from two patrols ago. I think we had just finished up a
wash down, and I was up on the bridge. Some of the guys were talking about a
bird that had been hanging out for a few days, finding perches where he (or
she???) could. It happens sometime, especially when we're a couple days away
from any type of land, where birds will get exhausted and catch a ride with
us for a few days of rest before heading back on their journey
to...wherever. They're pretty fun to watch, and the only downside is their
unwillingness to not shit everywhere, including sometimes, hilariously, on a
person out on deck. This time, though, BM1 CP was on watch up on the bridge,
and a small object hanging over the side of the bridge wing awning caught
his eye. He cussed a little about someone leaving a damn rag up there, and
went to grab it as something else dragged his immediate attention away from
the "rag." The "rag" was really the poor bird's tail, and the bird squawked
and flapped its wings indignantly at having its tail so rudely pulled. BM1
jumped like he had grabbed a live wire and he may have even squawked back at
the bird a little. The thought crossed my mind that it was the bird just as
his hand closed around feathers, or I would have said something to
him...maybe. It was pretty damn funny.

Other bird encounters are not so amusing. Like the time when I was OPS on
HAMILTON when our helo's blades struck a bird as it was landing, and bend
the blades. The bird was atomized, and the blades were bent. We spent four
days in a hellishly hot Acajutla, El Salvador with no liberty beyond the
phones on the end of the pier while we waited for new blades to be shipped,
and then installed and then tested. It was a long ass four days of surging
up against the tractor trailer tire fenders they had on the pier. Or the
time before that, when I was on my first ship, working with another 378' in
the local area, and they had a bird strike on their helo blades while I was
looking through the binoculars at them. All I saw was a PUFF of feathers,
and then their engines shut down and their rotors stop. Bird strikes are
bad.

I also have a bird dilemma. I currently have four swallow tattoos on my left
torso. Two I got in Panama City, Panama; one I got in Bahrain; and one I got
in Hilo, Hawaii. Swallows are a traditional sailors' tattoo, each bird
indicating 5,000 miles sailed. I could have more swallows, but I like the
idea of getting one more somewhere in the Caribbean to round out where I've
sailed. My dilemma is do I get one at our next port call in a not entirely
exotic port of call that is still in the US, or do I chance it for next
patrol, when we're supposed to get at least one foreign port call in a truly
tropical place? Bird in the hand, or two in the bush? There's a chance that,
if I don't get the tattoo on this patrol, any port calls we make next patrol
may be all GTMO stops, and that would truly defeat my tattoo goals. Like I
said, it's a dilemma. I know I'll probably wait, but it makes me nervous,
and stirs up my superstitions about expectations.

Here's to no more bird shit on the fo'clse.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lazy Day

I've needed a lazy day for a while and today I finally got one. Slept late,
moseyed out for a mid-day yoga class (oh -- we're on a port call -- finally)
after a decadent decaf latte, ate a plate of delicious carnitas tacos and
moseyed back to the ship for a nap. I read through some message traffic and
checked our airport terminal to see if we had any new orders on it (no). And
then met some friends out for a lovely sushi dinner. After dinner, on my
stroll back to the ship, I made some phone calls so I had company for my
walk. 

Gotta have a lazy day every now and again.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Budget Nerdiness

We're close enough to get a cell signal tonight, so I turned my phone on for
a few minutes. A Facebook notification popped up saying one of my very
bestest of friends posted a picture of the FY2017 Budget Coordinator getting
ready to head to Capitol Hill for the first round of FY2017 President's
Budget roll-out briefings. One of the comments on the picture had a link to
the budget:
www.uscg.mil/budget/docs/USCG_FY2017_Congressional_Jusitifcation.pdf.

I'm trying to download 1.6MB with underway connectivity. It may load by the
start of FY2017. 

It's going to take me a while to digest it because the format has changed
from what I'm used to. I see some interesting nuggets that I want to read
about more carefully. The nerdy thing is that I'm probably going to stay up
way too late, after a very long day, to at least glance through it for the
highlights.

Once a budget nerd, always a budget nerd.

Congrats, CG-82, on another successful Pres Bud submission! With all the
changes to how it's formatted, I know you guys put in some crazy long hours
to get this together. Good luck on the Hill!!

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

**Music!!**

After yesterday's very whiny post, I'll try to be more positive today. Which
is much, much easier because I have **music!!** again. 

About a week ago, I sent my sister an email: 
"Hi sis,

I have a huge favor/gift request if you want to swing it and/or have the
time to do it. 

I used to have an ipod shuffle, a little bitty thing that had a bunch of
music
on it, that I listened to in my stateroom. We took a massive roll a couple
of weeks ago that launched nearly everything off my desk. Including my
shuffle.
I have no idea which nook or cranny it fell into, but after hours of tearing
my room apart, I am forced into the conclusion that the shuffle has been
sacrificed to Neptune through the mighty maw of DILIGENCE. 

I'm *craving* music. Background stuff that complements the white noise of
the ventilation and drowns out the chatter in my head as I work.
Singer-songwriter, outlaw country, rockabilly, sea shanties, even some
classical would be wonderful.

If you can, would you mind putting some tunes on an i-something (that's the
type of speaker assembly that's in my room) and sending it to me at our next
port call? If you want to ask family for help with it, that would be lovely
too. 

ONLY IF YOU HAVE TIME!!!!!

This is totally a "nice to have" :)"

She sent me a purple one. Because she likes purple. I've been looking
forward to getting it for days. And yesterday, the modern miracle of mail
came through!

The shuffle had quite a trip...we sent our small boats in (both of them) for
a logistics run. We had someone flying out today, but the weather was
supposed
to get bad, so I wanted to get him to shore while we could. We were out of
milk and produce. I asked for a veggie scramble yesterday morning, and was
told the
only veggies the cooks had left were onions. And our starboard main deck
landfill
was overflowing. We don't have any way to process trash onboard except a
trash 
compactor. And after as long as we've been underway since our last port
call, especially with migrants on deck, we were starting to run out of room
to put our trash. I needed to get some of it gone.

The point of all this was that, since we were going in anyway, I had the
guys pick up our mail. Which means I got my shuffle. Love the Allison Krause
and 
Paul Simon. There's also some great stuff that I don't know what it is.
Uncle Heathen contributed some, as did Aunt Nancy. It's fun trying to figure
out whose music is whose 

I grinned for the rest of the afternoon. 

Then this morning I laughed out loud when "Take It Easy" by The Eagles came
on. I told my sister years ago that it was one of my favorite songs. We
played it on MAUI as our breakaway song after fueling from a US Navy cruiser
working in the area. It was a glorious flat calm day, and it was definitely
the best life's soundtrack song for that moment. I was so happy to hear the
song...it took me right back to that moment in the NAG.

And then I laughed again when the next song was "Semper Paratus"...while I
cussed her a little bit. When I told her that, she emailed me back, "Excuse
me, *I* am not the person who put your shuffle on, er, shuffle!!!"

I know I've said it a bunch, but thanks again, sis. You make this sailor's
journey that much easier every day! Even before the shuffle.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What I Don't Talk About

I got to thinking that maybe this is sounding too much like a pleasure
cruise... sunrise yoga, Tuesday Trivia Night, Super Bowl parties, and pizza,
cake and ice cream. We put a great deal of effort into morale onboard.
Mostly we're successful. Usually. 

What I try not to write about, because it sounds too much like bitching and
whining, is all the effort that goes into being underway and doing the Coast
Guard mission. Every department onboard, every division, and every single
individual works hard on this ship. Sure, maybe some work harder than
others, and each person has their own responsibilities. But we're all in it
together, and I'm almost certain, that if asked for help by a shipmate, any
one on this ship would pitch in to assist.

What I don't talk about are the chat messages, emails or phone calls at 3 am
that change our tasking for the day, wiping out hours of OPS' and CO's hard
work planning evolutions and coordinating schedules so that boat transfers
and migrant operations go off without a hitch. 

I don't talk about the two hours of watch stood by the lookouts up on the
fly bridge when the winds are cranking at 28-plus knots. We usually bring
them down to the bridge proper when it gets that windy, but they're still
outside, staring into the distance, trying to pick up merchant vessels,
recreational boats, or migrant rusticas...getting scoured by the salt air.

I don't talk about the migrant interdiction at 3 am when the guys onboard
are not compliant and don't want to come with us. They had 74 people working
hard and wanting them to be safe, and they were pissy about having to put on
life jackets and the tyvek suits and then threw their personal rain jackets
overboard. 

I don't talk about the troubleshooting the engineers do in the engine room
on pick-a-piece-of-equipment that's usually so old that component parts are
no longer made (and if they are, have a 6 to 8 week lead time). Never mind
that average temperatures in the engine room are over 100 degrees,
especially if we have both main diesel engines running at even moderately
high speeds. Never mind that they come up with complex solutions for
troubleshooting, ingenious work-arounds while our logistical support system
works to get them needed parts, and just plain make stuff function,
sometimes with PFM (pure f'ing magic) and their blood, sweat and tears.

I don't talk about the cooks that steam over a hot griddle, steam racks
billowing steam, baking ovens, and more steam from the steam kettles. All
for 74 meals three times a day that people have no problem telling them when
they suck. Never mind talking about the mess cooks cleaning dishes in the
scullery, or taking trash to be compacted, or putting all the leftovers
through the macerator.

I don't talk about the Navigation BMs who prep charts for a planned port
call, only to scramble to prep different charts when the port call gets
changed with 2 days notice, and then changed again with 6 hours notice.
Nope, the charts always seem to be ready.

I don't talk about how every time it rains, the EMs end up chasing some
ground or another because there's not enough monkey shit on this planet to
plug up all the nooks and crannies that water can get into around wires on
this ship. And how every time the EMs chase a ground, they have to flip off
breakers to figure out where the ground is, and sometimes it's my computer
and I lose all the 3 hours of work I should have saved, but didn't because
I'm a dumbass and I didn't listen to the pipe when it told me to, "Place all
sensitive electronic equipment in standby while the EMs chase a ground." 

I could not talk about something for every division onboard. But I'm tired.
I didn't sleep much last night after one of those phone calls that changed
everything for the day, and I spent the next four hours reracking the POD in
my head until it was time to get up and actually make the changes happen.
But I'm not gonna talk about that either.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Monday, February 8, 2016

Super Bowl Sunday

Our schedule changed a few days so, instead of being on a port call for
Super Bowl Sunday to enjoy the game, we're underway. According to one of
guys who extended to a 4-year tour onboard, this is DILGIENCE's 4th year
underway for the Super Bowl. (I know it's a bummer, but we've had
Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's inport both years I've been here, so
I'm not going to complain too much.)

At least we have satellite TV. It's been working decently this patrol,
though it struggles to keep a good signal on a couple of courses, and cuts
out during a turn, until we steady up on a new, good course.

So once we found out we were going to be underway for the game, we had some
planning to do. EMC WE came up with the fantastic idea to order pizzas for
the crew and send the small boat in to pick them up during a logistics run.
I was a little worried until about mid-day today that something operational
would interfere, or that the weather would be bad enough that we couldn't
launch the small boats. We tried to keep it a secret from the crew, which is
super hard to do. These guys are smart, so we had to come up with a
plausible reason for FSC MP to ride in with the small boat (besides paying
for the pizzas). I think we were about 65% successful at keeping it a
secret, but 100% successful at improving morale onboard.

The cooks also made up some irresistible queso and chips. And FS1 DP made a
Super Bowl cake...chocolate cake with homemade icing, in a football field
pattern, "Broncos" stenciled on one end, and "Panthers" on the other. Oh,
and green sparkles to highlight the green turf icing. The Half Time treat
was Super Bowl cake and birthday cake ice cream. 

About 3 minutes into the first quarter, the phone in the wardroom rang. CO
answered. OPS had taken the bridge watch so the JOs could all come down and
watch the game. He was calling to tell the CO that one of the guys working
out on the fantail spotted a white flare off in the distance. While we were
getting that sorted out, and correlated to something Sector knew was going
on, Sector got a report of a demasted sailing vessel about 120 miles away.
Thankfully there was another unit closer that was able to respond, and we
were finally able to stop turning around, and reacquire the satellite
signal.  

Occasionally during the game, we'd hear shouts of triumph and groans of
defeat from the messdeck. EO is a Denver fan, while I don't like Peyton
Manning...and we live in North Carolina anyway! We *should* be rooting for
the Panthers! By Half Time, EO was pretty smug. 

It's the start of the 4th quarter now. Not looking good for the Panthers.
We've got an early morning tomorrow, so I'll keep watching while I make my
rack. But then I'll probably turn it off so I can get some rest before what
will likely be a busy day. 

Oh, and the commercials sucked. The best one was the Doritos commercial in
the doctor's office with the baby in ultrasound. Then maybe the weiner dog
ketchup commercial or the singing sheep one. But the one with the marmot was
just plain creepy. Maybe they got better after I turned the game off. 

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Not Anything=Nuthin Worthwhile

I can't think of anything worthwhile to write about tonight. Ideas flit
through my head, and I can dredge up a pithy phrase or two, but nothing
sticks beyond that. 

The weather is pretty crappy, but we found a nice lee. It's colder than I'm
used to. I have to...gasp...turn off the a/c in my stateroom if I want to
work at my computer. I'm expecting to wake up at some point tonight and hear
the low vis sound signal blowing from the bridge. It's muffled by two decks,
but it's still enough to pull me from sleep to wonder what's going on. Or it
sinks into my dreams as the horn on an 18 wheeler, or the vibration of a
garage door opening.

We have special plans for watching the game tomorrow evening. I'm very
grateful for the satellite tv connection -- it takes a good bit of the sting
out from being underway for the game. 

I need to do laundry tomorrow. Need more socks. I like to wait until Monday
when it's Chiefs' and Officers' scheduled day, but Sundays are open game.
I'm telling myself I'll get up early to get it done with before too much
more of the crew wakes up, but the likelihood is high that, given the chance
if operations are slow, I will be somewhat sluggish in the morning. Socks,
shmocks...I have a couple ratty pair in the back of my drawer for when I get
super low.

Oof, it's OER season for the LTJGs. I'm about 80% done with one, haven't
started on the 2nd, and the third is due to me in 4 days. The JGs are doing
a great job, so the evals are pretty easy to write...if I had the discipline
to sit down and do it. I got a couple of lines written after dinner this
evening, and felt like I nearly accomplished something. 

Yup, nuthin worthwhile to write about tonight...

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Friday, February 5, 2016

Crew Trivia

We've had a good run of Tuesday Trivia Night this patrol. Except this week.
This week Tuesday Trivia Night was on Wednesday because we were busy with
boat ops on Tuesday. FS1 DP is a wonderful host, coming up with diverse
categories and tough questions.

EO Loves Pickles and Sauerkraut!!!! and XO Loves Asparagus!!!!!! destroyed
the first two rounds. We may have had a slight advantage because our team
consisted of CO, EO, OPS and me. However, we went down in flames last night
with a team name of EO's Haircut (it's a long story about hair cut
appointments made a week ago, cutting the line, and missing Evening
Reports...). We ended up in second to last place -- especially shameful
because we only got 5 of 10 state capitols correct. We did however get 8 of
10 in the Food/Drink category, and I protested the stupid question about
"What mixture is tempura dipped in?" when "panko" was the wrong answer, and
"batter" was the correct one.

However, I have an idea for a new category of questions: Crew Trivia, made
up of interesting tidbits about crewmembers onboard. For example:
-- Who was the lead singer in a Scream-o band (like an "Emo" band, but with
a throat destroying screamer as a "singer")? Answer: SN NC
-- Who got a tattoo of DILIGENCE's name on their uh...cheek? Answer: PO AP
-- Which DDG did CO serve on as Navigator? Answer: USS HOPPER (DDG 70)
-- Whose father spent time as an NFL team coach? Answer: SN RS
-- Where did SN EW get his first name "E"? Answer: it's the shortened
version of a family name, and yes, it is just the letter "E"
-- Who worked at a mortuary before joining the CG? PO JM
-- Who was on a CG vessel that grounded? Answer: OPS (sorry, no way to
maintain decent anonymity with that -- and it wasn't his fault. The river
shoaled.)
-- Where did FN WD go to college? Answer: The Citadel

I think there's plenty of good material for lots of questions in our crew
alone.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Underway OOD Board

We had our first underway OOD qualification board for our first year Ensigns
this afternoon. ENS LR (aka, ANAV = Assistant Navigator) did a fabulous job.
Though not necessary, she quoted COLREGs ("Rules of the Road" for making
sure ships don't collide out at sea) nearly verbatim. She rattled off all
six movements of a ship. She laid down a mo-board (maneuvering board = a
plot of vectors to show how ships are moving in relation to each other)
while we peppered her with watch situations and questions. 

Qual boards are a rite of passage in the Coast Guard. Experienced
watchstanders grill the boardee with questions with a couple of purposes in
mind: first, to test the bounds of the boardee's knowledge. The standard
line is that the qualification earned is the minimum knowledge required to
safely stand the watch. Newly qualified individuals are exhorted to keep
learning their craft and increase their proficiency in all aspects of the
details. They start with the basics, and gain the nuances through hours upon
days upon weeks upon months upon years of experience of actually standing
the watch. 

Second, qual boards test the boardee's judgment. One of my favorite
questions is "would you rather be the give way or the stand on vessel? And
why?" I know what my answer is, and by the way the boardee answers, I gain
insights into how they think about driving the ship, maneuvering with other
vessels, and making decisions. I find out how they perceive the stated
priorities. 

Third, qual boards create stress in the boardee in a safe environment.
Boards are stressful, there's no doubt about it. You're sitting in front of
four to six people that have, collectively for ANAV today, nearly 32 (!!)
years of sea time, that know their shit, have seen and survived scenarios
you could never even dream of, are asking you difficult, technical and
nuanced questions and are listening closely to your questions, judging
everything you say. But it's safe. You can say stupid stuff in a board, and
not steam the ship into a hazardous situation. Unlike on the bridge on watch
where if, in a stressful situation, you say something stupid, you could run
the ship aground, hit another vessel or put your shipmates' lives at risk.
Some people freeze, some people babble, some people mumble, and some people
fake it. But stress is inevitable on watch. How the boardee deals with it is
something incredibly important for the CO to know.

If you're sitting for a board, you've already completed the Personnel
Qualification Standard (PQS, pronounced pee-que-ess) package, stood numerous
and varied watches, had a pre-board where the second year junior officers
put on a mock/trial board to give some sense of what a real board will be
like, and stood part of a busy watch with OPS so he can evaluate your actual
performance on watch. Do folks sometimes choke at the real board even after
all that? Sure. It happens. But they go back, stand a few more watches
maybe, study a bunch more, make more reports to the CO, whatever it is they
need to work on before going back in front of the board. Everyone sleeps
better at night when they're confident in the watchstanders' ability.

This qualification is a **huge** one for JOs. It is typically their first
major qual they earn after commissioning. For officers that pursue an afloat
career, it is the first of hopefully many OOD quals, one for each ship on
which they sail. I still have my first qual letter. And my second. And my
third. And my fourth. (I didn't give myself a qual letter on the two ships I
was CO on :)) While each one is only a piece of paper, they represent
success at a major effort to learn a new language, master technical and
unique skills, and understand the ship as a sum greater than its component
parts. 

CO read a brief snippet from The Caine Mutiny soon after he congratulated
ANAV on earning her qualification this afternoon: 

"On this day Willie took a mighty leap upward in life. He stood the
noon-to-four watch as officer of the deck. Keefer was present to correct any
disastrous mistake, and Captain Quegg himself perched in his chair
throughout the watch, alternately dozing or blinking placidly in the
sunshine. Willie conducted a faultless watch. It was a simple matter of
staying on station in the screen while the convoy zigzagged. Whatever his
inner shakiness, he kept a bold front, and maneuvered the ship firmly. When
the watch was over he penciled in the log:
 12 to 4--Steaming as before.
   Willis Seward Keith
   Ensign, USNR
He had signed many logs for port watches, but this was different. He put an
extra flourish to his signature, and thrilled as though he were entering his
name in a historic document." (p 239-240, The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk,
Little, Brown and Company paperback version)

"Whatever his inner shakiness, he kept a bold front, and maneuvered the ship
firmly." Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. And that confidence earned today
with her first qual will be solidified and burnished through the crucible of
watches yet to come. 

Congrats, ANAV!

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**