Sunday, January 31, 2016

Good Enough

This is one of those days when I can't think of anything that's worth
writing about. It's been a decent day. Sunrise yoga, field day, material
inspection, quarters, burgers for lunch, a lazy afternoon with a little bit
of watch thrown in while the JOs had their Town Hall with the CO and Command
Chief, dinner, rendezvous with a patrol boat to transfer migrants, evening
reports, and a quiet evening (hopefully). Yup, that sums up the day. No big
thoughts, no great insights. No huge successes or massive failures. 

I'll call today good enough.

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

Saturday, January 30, 2016

It's Been Slow

It's been slow here recently, which was fairly easily explained by the poor
weather up until Wednesday morning sometime when the wind eased off its
howling. But the weather has been good for a few days now -- or at least not
bad. Maybe the wind is out of the wrong direction? I don't know. We've been
speculating about why things are quiet. 

And quiet is not bad, not by a long stretch. It's just odd. We've been
keeping busy with lots of boat training and drills. 1 January starts a new
quarter, new semi-annual period, and a new annual period. All our drill and
certification calendars reset at the start of the new year, so we have a lot
of drills to get through. So the quiet time is coming in handy. 

It is a little unsettling, though, to plan a full day's worth of training
and know there's a dang good chance that we won't get to do any of it if we
get busy with operations -- because operations always come first. I know
when I was OPS, my XO and I had a running joke about how many times and how
thoroughly I blew up his POD. It's not so funny any more...

We're also getting through Town Hall meetings with the CO, Command Chief and
the various paygrades. I'm usually a tad nervous putting these on the POD
because a) I know they're really important, b) they usually take at least an
hour, and often times a lot longer, and c) they're really important. The
Town Halls are a chance for the crew to speak directly with the CO about
what's on their minds. They bring up great ideas for improvements, concerns
we as the command haven't thought about, and vents we haven't heard before.
They also offer the CO and Command Chief the opportunity to explain things
on a more individual level to the folks who are actually doing the work.
That's why they're really important.

So all in all, I'll take the slow days, even if I don't understand why we're
having them. OPS can blow up my POD tomorrow. Or better yet, the next day...

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

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Wednesday Underway

We pitched around a good deal last night, looking for an upswell - downswell 
ride. It wasn't too bad for me, but I have a sense that some of the guys up in 
Deck berthing may have caught a split second or two of air on some of the 
swells.

My alarm went off at 0615. I called the bridge to ask about relative winds, 
temperature and true winds. Relative winds were 240 at 18 knots which seemed a 
little high for Sunrise yoga, but the temperature of 77 degrees convinced me I 
didn't have any good excuse to be lazy. Once I figured out from the comparison 
of true wind to relative wind that we were going downswell, I committed to 
getting out on my mat. BM3 JR joined me for about 30 minutes of peaceful 
stretching as the sun struggled to shine through the clouds. We got sprinkled 
on somewhere about the third sun salutation. There's some irony there...

After breakfast and a French press full of decaf coffee, I trundled up to my 
stateroom to work for a bit while the Engineers conducted BECCEs (Basic 
Engineering Casualty Control Exercises). I got some good thought work done, 
planning meetings and events for the weeks ahead before it was time to go to 
the Integrated Training Team (ITT) brief.

At the ITT brief, EO, OPS and I ran through our plan for a drill that 
incorporated multiple training teams. The Navigation and Seamanship Training 
Team (NSTT) ran a man overboard, shipboard pick-up drill. About one minute 
after Oscar (our simulated man overboard) went over the rail, the Engineering 
Training Team (ETT) simulated a loud metallic noise in the port side (NR2) 
reduction gear, which means the Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOW) had to 
ask the Officer of the Deck (OOD) permission to shut down the NR2 main diesel 
engine (MDE) so there wouldn't be catastrophic damage to the reduction gear. 
The Conning Officer then had to drive to approach the man in the water (still 
Oscar) on one engine. ENS LR had the Conn and did a great job with the 
challenging approach -- but I'm getting ahead of myself...we're still just 
briefing the drill. Once Oscar was recovered, the Medical Training Team 
(MTT -- not sure why it's a Team because MTT is really only our corpsman, HS2 
TW) simulated that the individual who fell overboard (a real person now, not 
just Oscar) had suffered a compound fracture to his leg when he fell.

Whew -- it sounds like a lot. But our Training Teams are pretty good at this 
stuff, and once the briefings were all over, we moved into our respective 
positions, conducted safety walk-throughs and waited for the Training 
Environment pipe.

The drill went super smoothly. Seriously, ENS LR handled the ship like a 
seasoned pro, even with one engine, picked up Oscar, and then three life rings 
that crewmembers had thrown over so "Oscar" could grab one while he waited for 
us to pick him up with the ship. The guys on deck got some handy line handling 
training in, the engineers got some good casualty response training, the 
bridge team got some ship handling and emergency response training, and BDS 
(Battle Dressing Station) personnel got some good first responder training. 
"Secure from drill, stow all gear."

And it was time for the Training Team debriefs, and then the ITT debrief. We 
passed all three drills. And **finally** it was time for lunch!

I had some more quiet time after lunch while there was departmental and 
divisional work going on about the ship. CO and our Command Chief held a 
non-rated personnel town hall meeting to get the opinions and pulse of our 
junior enlisted members. I worked on some JO OERs until my eyes felt like they 
were going to pop out of my head. At that point, I went up to the bridge to 
stare at the horizon for a few minutes, and ended up talking to some of the 
watchstanders up there about various career progression issues.

In the meantime, OPS was working out plans to transfer a handful of migrants 
to another ship for potential repatriation. We met up with the other vessel 
who was doing small boat training, and used their small boat to transfer the 
people and their stuff over to the other ship. All done, well before dinner 
time. We're getting so we can be manned and ready for receiving or 
transferring off migrants in about 10 or 15 minutes. Not bad considering we 
hadn't done any significant migrant ops for more than two years before this 
patrol.

A little more computer work after the migrants were all transferred, and then 
dinner. Conversation around the dinner table was fun as usual. Gentle joshing 
about each others' foibles. And laughing about having to soften the butter 
pats in our pockets before being able to spread them on the rolls. And great 
delight about the strawberry-banana milkshakes on the messdeck, especially the 
pipe announcing them.

Then it was off to prep for evening reports and getting the plan of the day 
(POD) templated out before the OPS Brief. We had a new style of OPS brief --  
OS3 JS got fancy with his weather slides -- very impressive. And he even put a 
couple cartoon jokes on the last slide, which was a nice touch. Then Evening 
Reports, to make sure we're all still onboard, plan the day tomorrow, wrangle 
a bunch of details, and laugh some more. I left fairly early to get the POD 
published.

And now it's 9 pm, and I think I'm gonna read my book for a while. Just 
another day underway...

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Big Thoughts Continued

Going back to a post from a couple weeks ago...
I suspect the NE quadrant (good mission/good admin) is a combination of training and proficiency, hard work, attention to detail, high standards, and a good dose of luck. The SW quadrant (poor mission/poor admin) is laziness and lack of luck. The SE quadrant (good mission/poor admin) is pure damn good luck with a small dose of proficiency mixed in. The NW quadrant (poor mission/good admin) is where the heart of my quandary lies. There's more to mission effectiveness than just being good at knowing the policy, being good technically with the tools, paying attention to the details and good comms/teamwork. Luck does play a huge part in finding the go-fast, or seeing the PIW (pee-eye-double you = person in the water). If you think you have all the things in the first list, but never actually have to put it into action during a real case, how do you know if you're just good at training in scenarios or can actually do it for realsies? And maybe "luck" isn't the right word. It's more of being in the right place at the right time, or the right place at the wrong time -- because our operations are mostly about responding to people in crises. We are in the business of disaster response, whether it's traditional search and rescue or natural or manmade disaster response. The explosion of Deepwater Horizon, Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, the tsunami in Indonesia -- the Coast Guard is in the right place at a time when things are going extremely badly for everyone else. So I'm not sure I should call that good luck. I think it's more luck in the sense of exposure to opportunity. You can't catch a drug running go-fast if there are none in the water within 500 miles of you. A particular, individual unit can't respond to a natural disaster if they're in drydock when the event happens. And so timing, and patrol schedules, and being in the right spot when something goes badly -- that's how units get involved in big cases. And if there are no big cases to respond to, how do we know if we know what we're doing? Because our admin is good? Inspections, assessments and training team certifications can only tell you so much. No matter how good our training teams are, the training environment still relies very heavily on simulations. If real world experience weren't important, why would we still require boarding officers and boarding team members to get exposed to pepper spray before they're allowed to carry it? I don't doubt that our crew is one of the best there is out there in the fleet. We communicate well; we know our tactics, techniques and procedures; we're proficient at working as a team; we know our jobs, trust our shipmates and take care of our equipment. Is there karmic backlash in hoping we get the opportunity to show it, when that means someone else has an insanely bad day? LCDR Charlotte Mundy Executive Officer USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616) ** UNDERWAY**

Monday, January 25, 2016

Long Day

So this is where being lazy early in the week really comes back to bite me
in the ass. I don't have anything to write about, I'm really tired, it's
been a crazy busy long day, and (not that I don't appreciate my blog
readers) the last thing I want to do is try to be coherent in the written
word.

We're on the first day of a brief stop. We were supposed to come in
yesterday, but gale force winds made us delay our arrival for a day. Much
easier to moor with 18 knot winds than 38 knot winds...go figure. But we
arrived in time to get folks out on liberty in time to watch the Playoffs.
About halfway through the Carolina v. Arizona game right now -- GO
Panthers!! I mean, we are homeported in North Carolina. 

But pulling in is always hectic and a little frantic. I'm really not sure
what happened between about 10 am this morning and 5 pm this afternoon. That
seven hours is a blur of Nav and Anchor Detail, Mooring Stations, getting
situated on the pier, getting trash offloaded and fuel onloaded, people
coming and going, Sweepers, Officers and Chiefs Call, Quarters, Liberty, van
runs, airport runs, supply runs, chasing 76 cats in 97 directions.

Here's to a well deserved break for the first time in 18 days!

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

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Next Assignment

The Commander Assignment Panel met last week, before DC got snowed in. The 
list is out, so it's pretty official. My next assignment is in the Office of 
Cutter Forces (CG-751) at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC. I'll be 
working on policy development and budget justification for the major cutter 
fleet.

Now, despite the fact that this job was not one that I asked for (more on that 
in a sec), I am excited and thrilled to be going there. Don't let anyone tell 
you that HQ is boring or there's not good jobs there. A job is what you make 
of it -- and I have Plans. I have the opportunity to influence the lives and 
jobs of the people I'm closest to in this organization...boat people (more 
officially known as Cuttermen). If I don't do something good with this job, 
it's my own damn fault, not for lack of opportunity in the job.

One of the things that I think I'm going to have to remember on a daily basis, 
going to HQ directly from an operational unit, is that progress does move more 
slowly there. On the ship, I'm used to things happening fastfastfastfast. At 
HQ, I need to be prepared for them to move at what feels like a glacier's 
pace. But there are good reasons for that -- policy change can have unintended 
consequences, political ramifications, budget-based excuses, and/or just be 
plain bad ideas. The HQ review process is intended to protect us as an 
organization against those negative outcomes. And at least I know going in 
that things, even stupendously good ideas, can take a while. I know the 
building and how it works, and I'm looking forward to working with some great 
people I met while I was there last time around. I'll get the opportunity to 
refine one of my up-and-coming leadership pro dev topics: how to effectively 
run a meeting.

About getting a job that I didn't exactly ask for...my Assignment Officer was 
generous with his time and offered me the explanation below. He also called me 
a couple of weeks before and asked what my thoughts were on a couple of jobs 
that weren't on my e-resume, including the job I got. I told him a few things: 
first, I learned long ago not to ask for something I didn't really want; 
second, what I make of any job is up to me -- if I think it's a shitty job, 
I'll make it into a shitty job and if I think it's a great job, it has the 
potential to be the best job of my career; third, they're called "orders" for 
a reason -- I'll go where the Coast Guard needs me to go. But I did struggle 
with how to talk to the junior officers onboard about it. Not getting a job on 
my e-resume doesn't quite fit into the narrative I've built for them about 
"work hard, get great OERs, and that's the best way to get the jobs you want."

Here's the response I got back:
___________________________________________________________________________
This is a great example of where service need can
often times trump the desires of even the highest performers.  I do the very
best I can to accommodate cuttermen competing for a variety of assignments -
especially those outside of the afloat community in special assignments,
OCONUS and joint positions.  These are great opportunities for each member
and are great for the afloat community at large.  That said, I also need to
ensure cutter support/staff assignments at the headquarters and area level
are filled with well qualified officers as well.  Generally speaking, most
cuttermen due for staff are not always seeking this assignments.  I lose
many senior cuttermen for opportunities like Senior Service School, special
assignments, assignments in officer's secondary specialties where they are
needed when not afloat, etc.  Working alongside the commands on the cutter
forces staff positions, I make a concerted effort to ensure those officers
who continue to perform well in these staff positions are rewarded for their
performance and are able to continue their afloat careers in command or
other command cadre positions.  While this assignment may not be what you
were looking for, I have no doubt it will keep you on track for your long
term goal you mention in your e-resume comments of striving for command
afloat.  I would argue there is no better assignment than the division chief
positions at CG-751 where the service can leverage your most recent
experience as an XO...

In addition to service need like I mention above,  it's based on many other
things like seniority, where you currently are in your career and the next
logistical progression in the career path you've chosen (ie. Being due for
staff or operational assignment).  This was not at all the case with you,
but I see many times where an officer's sense of what is realistic for their
next assignment is not necessarily in alignment with the career path(s) they
have chosen.  That's where early and routine comms with your AO is critical
to make sure you are on the same page and considering the right/realistic
jobs for your next assignment.
_________________________________________________________________________

I truly appreciate the detailed explanation. In the middle of an insanely busy 
week, he took the time to provide me thoughtful feedback, and thoroughly 
answered my request for help.

Am I a little disappointed I didn't get to go play in Europe or sunny SoCal? 
Sure, but if I overlook the opportunities in this next job -- that's ALL on 
me. Now...bring me that horizon!

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

Leadership Professional Development

I'm totally cheating with this post, plagiarizing an email I sent to a
friend who is starting her XO ride this summer. It's been a long day. 

She asked me for a list of the topics I use for JO pro dev a bit ago, which
is below with some notes on each topic. I also may ask the JOs for
suggestions for our early summer patrol. I think the 1st year ENSs may have
enough sense by then of what they don't know to have some good ideas for
topics.

Pro dev is Sunday afternoons underway, after Divine Services; I try not to
go for longer than an hour, but some of the discussions get carried away.
I'm also going to change it to "Leadership Pro Dev," away from just JO Pro
Dev, to encourage the participation of Chiefs and maybe 1st Class POs for
particular topics. Still mandatory for officers, but more encouraged for
Chiefs. JO watchstanders know they have to find a stand-by if they're
scheduled for watch. We wait for everybody to get there before we start.

Officer specific topics:
-- OERs: usually 2x/year because it's that important. I use a "Writing OER
Input" doc that I drafted a while ago and make the COMDT's Guide to Boards
and Panels mandatory reading prior to the discussion.
-- Officer workforce management -- usually in late spring/early summer after
the Officer Corps Management Plan (OCMP, on CG-12A's portal page; mandatory
reading prior to discussion) comes out. It's also helpful to have the latest
Active Duty Promotion List (ADPL) selection message (for any rank, really)
to use as an example as well. The stats at the bottom of the message are
great to talk about above zone selection and in zone reordering. This is the
enterprise-wide view (selection size, OOS, time in grade, etc), but usually
devolves into what this means for "my e-resume."
-- Officer career management -- usually in late summer/early fall prior to
submission of e-resumes. Good to review OPM-4's career management guides
prior.

General leadership:
-- Time management/organization: I try to offer different ways of managing
their time and organizing their stuff. This one is tough since each person
has to find what works for them, usually through trial and error.
-- Effective writing: Chapter 10 of the Correspondence Manual is the
required read-ahead. Also helpful to have a writing example to evaluate on
whether it is effective or not.
-- Leadership philosophy development: I know they get a ton of this at the
Academy, but it's interesting to see how their perspective changes very
quickly when their in an operational
environment.
-- Effective counseling: I ask the CPO Mess to lead this one; it's a good
way for Chiefs to work into that "JO mentor" role. It's good to link this
one to the Enlisted Employee Review (EER) session described further down.
-- External engagement: this has a homework assignment for officers to meet
with/invite stakeholders to ship, which takes some work on the XO/CO's part
to come up with good/reasonably accessible local stakeholders for the JOs to
reach out to (definitely lucky in Wilmington for that, with so many good
partners). Examples include: river pilots, local business coalitions, VFWs
or other military related orgs, local JROTC programs, fire dept (EO), police
dept (OPS), local volunteer/support groups (Red Cross, etc.). We start with
a discussion about "unity of effort" and the importance of working with
partners, with supporting documentation from COMDT's Guide to Boards and
Panels.
-- Flag management/service etiquette: this was a JO-requested topic; it may
morph more to general etiquette, so we can talk about nautical and service
traditions. The flag aspect can be good if you have someone in the
leadership team who has Aide experience or has worked closely with a number
of flag officers 

Enlisted workforce specific topics:
-- Enlisted workforce management -- usually early summer after Enlisted
Training and Accession Plan (from CG-12A portal site) comes out in early
May. Discussion about workforce pyramids, how the SWE process works,
ERATS/advancements, Rating Force Master Chiefs, A schools, etc. Once we get
talking about it, the questions become pretty broad reaching. One topic that
*should/must* be covered is the "Recommended/Not Recommended" question --
also should cover that in the next topic. Definitely helps to have a couple
Chiefs in the room for this one.
-- Enlisted Employee Evaluation Reports (EERs) -- New topic for this
upcoming patrol. Different roles for Supervisors, Marking Official,
Approving Official. I think we'll talk mostly about member's input, and how
the gets worked up the chain of command, but I may spend a few minutes on
the Direct Access process we use onboard to route the marks.

General CG knowledge
-- Appropriations structure: usually in late winter after the President's
Budget comes out (1st Mon in Feb). Very basic approps structure, and general
numbers associated with it. Gets to
"color of money" or "buckets of money" so when they hear AFC-45 v. AFC-56
it's not a foreign language. Dreadfully boring for most of them, but hugely
critical, IMHO.
-- Headquarters structure: early winter after Flag/SES assignment message is
released. I showed slides of CG-81's Org Charts for the upper levels and
their eyes all bled. Getting them to understand the difference between even
DCO and DCMS is a start.
-- DCO/Area/District/Sector/cutter interactions: General discussion about
the different operational levels; similar to HQ structure discussion, but
closer to home because we're talking about things the JOs tend to have heard
of/done. Also good to get into a small discussion of how logistical support
fits in there...though can lead to bigger discussion of operations v.
maintenance.
-- Mishaps/risk analysis: Use a couple case studies and relate to some
recent operational decision which helps to widen their aperture on risk
analysis/mitigation. I use a shipmate's mishap report from when he
intentionally grounded his CB-M when he was on the 87; he did a great job of
explaining risk v. gain. We reviewed these then talked about why we made the
decision to cut our patrol short after one of our SSDGs catastrophically
failed even though JIATF-S had an op pending they wanted to use us for.
-- Strategic document discussion: Not sure how I'm going to do this one --
there's so many docs to chose from. Maybe an overview of the major ones (CCG
Strategic Intent, Western Hemisphere Strategy, Cyber Strategy, Pub 1, Artic
Strategy, and Cooperative Strategy), and then chose one to get more in depth
with...though that means I'll have to actually read all the strategy 
docs...yeek.
-- CG Intel: Our new CO has an intel background so he gave a presentation on
our intel partners, CG intel structure and some of the types of intel we
work with. Need the right person for this one.

Other topics that have been suggested that I haven't worked in yet:
-- Award writing, especially just prior to awards season
-- Engineering principles, which I think could reasonably include a
discussion of the CG's maintenance structure/philosophy
-- Shiphandling principles in a classroom setting (though our debriefs are
pretty thorough)
-- Personal financial planning
-- Benefits discussion: could be combo'd with personal financial planning;
someone was asking specifically about the VA housing loan guarantee
-- Working with civilians
-- Where to look for "extra" money, i.e., backlog, security funds, POP Board
self-help funds -- could be a practical dovetail into the approps structure
discussion.

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

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Pictures!

At least a couple. Not sure how many I can get off the ship at any one time.
Hopefully they'll have good enough resolution.

The "boat circles" picture has a little bit of DILIGENCE in the far left
corner, four small boats circling in the middle, and two Fast Response
Cutters (FRCs) on the right. We were transferring about 100 people among the
three cutters, using all four small boats. Two small boats are from
DILIGENCE and the other two are from the respective FRCs.
 
 
 
 
 
The "sister ship" picture is one of our sister ships who we took over for
when we got to the area. Nice air coverage from a C-130 up high.
 
 
 
 
 
The "transfer at sunset" picture is a beautiful shot of an FRC. We were
doing a personnel transfer with them. It was a beautiful evening, though the
seas were a little googly to be truly comfortable for small boat operations.
We safely transferred nearly two dozen folks though.
 
 
  
 
 
LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

AMIO

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the AMIO mission. AMIO is alien 
migrant interdiction operations -- we're making sure illegal immigrants don't 
complete their journey to the United States. My current thoughts on this are 
totally separate and aside from the entire immigration debate. I am doing my 
job. This is not the first time in my career that I have ambiguous feelings 
about the strategic national goal with which I am tasked to support. But I 
chose to serve my country and earn my living in this manner, so I am obligated 
to do the job. This is the first time I've done any AMIO though, so it's new 
to me.

We've picked up a couple groups of migrants from pieced-together vessels that 
are far from what the Coast Guard would normally call sea-worthy, especially 
for a journey of undetermined length, without sophisticated navigation devices 
beyond the GPS on a smartphone, open to the elements, with more people than 
should fit onboard. So far, the groups have been relatively small, less than a 
dozen people. We've also had over 100 migrants onboard from interdictions 
completed by other units that we held onboard while their disposition, 
typically repatriation to their country of origin, was worked through the 
regular channels.

Mostly, everyone we've picked up or taken from another ship has been 
cooperative, doing what we ask them without complaint. We haven't yet 
encountered what other units have: individuals that try to incite a riot 
onboard or hurt themselves to get medevac'ed or refuse to leave their vessel 
and abandon their quest for a better life (this trip) and actively resist our 
boarding team. Those things happen -- I know they do. They just haven't 
happened to us on this trip (yet).

One group of 10 people we picked up left their country 12 days before we found 
them. They left home the same day we left on patrol. A passenger on a cruise 
ship had passed close enough by them the night before we picked them up to 
hear their cries for help. They were out of water, and one of the two women 
onboard was severely dehydrated. Our corpsman gave her an IV with the 
assistance of a couple of our other crewmembers, and within two hours she was 
responding normally again and expressed her sincere gratitude for our 
assistance. Some of them have small bags with a few possessions with them, but 
not all of them. Some of them are carrying IDs, but not all of them. I've seen 
nearly emaciated frames, cuts and burns, and scars whose possible origins make 
me sad.

The AMIO mission is a humanitarian mission. We saved those 10 folks who were 
in the middle of a shipping lane, nearly getting run over by a cruise ship, 
going in the wrong direction -- away from land. Any land. We provide basic 
food, shelter and sanitation while they are onboard our vessel, and treat them 
with respect.

The AMIO mission is also a security mission. We don't know who the people are 
that are trying to get in, and them not going through the proper channels 
exposes our country to potential nefarious intent.

And I still see them as individuals, trying any way they can to make a better 
life for themselves. I try to imagine what circumstances would compel me to 
leave my home, my family, the world I've known my whole life on a dangerous 
journey at the mercy of the sea, unprepared and exposed, enroute a country 
that will send me back where I came from given half a chance.

And I fail. Maybe that's the greatest blind side of my birthright -- the 
inability to imagine such overwhelming personal hardship, while the greatest 
privilege is the opportunity to secure myself against desperation.

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

Monday, January 18, 2016

Secure for Sea

The wind picked up to a steady 35 knots this morning just after 4 am. And
stayed that way for most of the day. We had a few pieces of gear on deck
that were acting as great big sails, threatening to rip some equipment
overboard. 

So, in the spitting rain, pitching seas and howling wind, we got a team out
on deck to make things safer. Knives were pulled out of pockets. Poles were
braced. And in a cheer-worthy display of teamwork, we safely got the tarp
off a huge tent we had on the flight deck. After standing around for about
20 minutes trying to figure out if we could save the tent pole's structure,
CO decided it would be better to take the tarp off. But, how to safely take
the tarp off without hurting someone or losing the tarp overboard?

Another 10 minutes of discussion, and BM1 CP threw a heaving line over the
top of the tent to provide some brace for the tarp about midway, in case it
did start to fly away once the front straps were let go. All the guys lined
up at the windward face of the tarp and coordinated the release of the
straps holding the tent to the frame. The wind was blowing from the
starboard bow, and really just pushed the tarp onto the poles harder.
Someone got some boat hooks (long wooden poles with a dull metal hook on one
end) to push the tarp over the upper poles. 

Before long, they had gotten the tarp over the first set of upper supports
and were doing a great job of rolling it up as it came, so as it went over
the second set of upper supports, it was already mostly rolled and much less
of a flapping hazard. Within about 15 minutes of starting, the whole thing
was neatly rolled and tied off on the back of the flight deck. And no one
got hurt, despite the heaving decks, sharp knives, extra tall ladder or huge
sail area of the tarp.

CO and I watched from the bridge after realizing that our presence on deck
wouldn't help anything, and could actually confuse everyone with who was
giving direction. We left in the very capable hands of BM1 CP and ME1 JP. 

Despite needle-dart rain pelting them in 35 knot winds, the crew proved once
again what great team work can accomplish.

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

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Not Much to Say

Not much to say tonight. It was a day. We had a guest onboard for a few
hours this morning, but it didn't stop me from making sure we got a field
day done, just like any other Saturday morning. 

The weather has been decent today -- we actually saw the sun for the first
time in about five days. But we expect it to deteriorate quickly tomorrow as
a low pressure system moves through the area. I hope we can get a couple
evolutions wrapped up early in the day before it turns totally nasty. 

I sat in on the afternoon session of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace
University, Military Edition. Figure there's something I can learn from him.
We have ten young guys taking the class right now. If we can start them off
with good money habits now, there's a good chance the lessons will stick
with them for a long time with big payoffs as they approach retirement. I am
heartened by the number of crewmembers who have said they've signed up for
TSP (Thrift Savings Plan, the federal government's equivalent of a 401K) in
the last couple of days since MPA and I did a little education session on
the modernized military retirement system. I totally geeked out on it when
the message came out about that! It's such a wonderful opportunity for the
majority of military members, especially the ones who don't stay for 20
years. But misunderstandings abounded about it; hopefully I cleared up some
misconceptions. And if a dozen people signed up for TSP afterwards, all the
better!

It was Officers' Pizza Night for dinner, where the officers all pitched in
to make pizza for the crew (with the help of FS2 CV -- we wouldn't have
found anything or known what to do in the galley without his help). But the
galley's a little tight for 12 people, so I took over the scullery and did a
lot of dishes tonight. 

And after dinner, I've been reviewing OER input and CART (Command Assessment
of Readiness for Training) checklists. And reading a few Dave Ramsey
chapters. 

Yep, rockin Saturday night.

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

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Patience

I should have made one of my New Year's Intentions to focus on patience. Or
maybe that would have been a waste of an intention. Because I am being
forced to be patient. Against my will. Kicking and screaming. And cussing.
Loudly. 

Despite being on a ship, most of my job is administrative. Sure, I get to do
cool stuff like coach JOs during shiphandling exercises, coordinate damage
control training and assist with operations like being on the bridge for a
go-fast chase or making sure the processing of migrants onboard goes
smoothly, but really, most of my job is on the computer, typing emails,
reviewing memos and other communiqués, approving purchases, reading
messages, and looking stuff up online. 

When we're at the pier (this last inport not-withstanding) we generally have
good internet connectivity. When we're underway, we still have connectivity.
But it's not lightening fast like we get used to inport, and there are
various things that can interfere with it.

So I am having to acclimatize to an email that takes 45 seconds to open, a
webpage that takes four minutes to load, or at least two minutes to switch
between screens in Outlook. I am breathing deeply a lot. I am finding other,
ship's server-based things on which to work. I am getting used to being
frantically productive when it seems like we have decent connectivity. I am
working on being more patient.

Unfortunately, what seems to be happening is that I'm using up all my
patience on the damn computer, and have less for dealing with the actual
human interactions upon which my job relies. Maybe that's why I was pretty
snappish at Evening Reports tonight. 

Hopefully the weather holds for some Sunrise Yoga on the flight deck
tomorrow morning...maybe that will help. 

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

Thursday, January 14, 2016

It's A Small World After All

In the scope of the Armed Services, the Coast Guard is the smallest at about
48,000 members, including active duty, reserves and civilian employees --
should be somewhere close if I remember my Body Shop numbers correctly. And
the afloat community is a subset within the Coast Guard -- at some point I
must have heard the number of personnel afloat at any one time, but I can't
remember it right now. Maybe 4,000 to 6,000 people stationed on ships? And
of course there are folks that are cuttermen who happen to currently serve
ashore, or people that you've run into at previous jobs that have also since
moved on.

Our patrol area right now is rich with shipmates I know from previous
encounters. My last supervisor is commanding a WMEC homeported here, and I
worked with his XO while we were both at HQ; another WMEC is commanded by a
friend I met while at HQ; I know the Sector Logistics Department Head from
HQ; one of my 12ATAs is commanding a patrol boat homeported here; the
Seventh crew XO from my time in Bahrain is on another patrol boat here; my
OS1 from Bahrain advanced a while back and is now an OSC on an WMEC here;
walking across the base a couple of patrols ago, I ran into one of my ENSs
from when I was OPS who has his own patrol boat now. I'm sure there are
others, but those are the folks I can think of off the top of my very tired
head right now.

Shoots, I think I might know more people here than I do in Wilmington!

There's a great sense of community that comes from sailing into a port call,
getting tied up and then walking across the pier to talk sea stories with
friends, peers and shipmates I may not have seen in five years. It's an
understanding, a shared experience of being underway on a Coast Guard cutter
-- not having to explain all the acronyms and evolutions, having experienced
the exasperation of JOs that are still learning or logistics that don't
always work as expected, the giddiness of having things go, maybe not
perfectly, but right enough to get the job done and dodging Murphy's bullet
one more time. And always the sea stories. This one time, off the coast of
Panama...

Today at dinner, we were talking about the other ships we're working with in
the area. I hadn't been paying attention to exactly who was out here and was
delightfully surprised to be reminded that one of my friends is CO of one of
the boats. CO and OPS asked me where I knew him from, and then came the
inevitable stories about when we sailed together (XO, who's whistling on the
bridge?!?!!). And when I got back to my stateroom from dinner, I had an
email from my friend, inviting me over to his boat for lunch since we'll be
working in the same area for a while. It'll be great to visit, and also see
how he has matured as a leader and shipmate since we last sailed together. I
hope he can say the same 

I don't really feel like I've done this topic justice. I'm sitting here with
a grin on my face typing this post, can't quite figure out why -- there's
just something special about seeing old shipmates out and about in the
fleet. 

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Python

I feel a little like the python who swallowed a pig tonight. My eyes are a
little bugged out. My gut aches from what it's been fed. My sides are
swollen and my brain is slow.

I am digesting. It will take me a while to get it all down, but I'm working
on it. 

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

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunrise Yoga

My alarm went off this morning, like most mornings at 0615. Usually I laze
around for a few more minutes, before I finally drag my lazy carcass out of
the rack by 0630 or 0645. This morning, I sprang up, and hustled through my
morning ablutions. I had Sunrise Yoga on the fantail at 0630 to be ready
for!

I called the bridge to ask what the temperature was outside, and was
pleasantly relieved to find it had warmed from the blustery low 50s we had
last night for flight ops to 70 degrees this morning. Sunrise was predicted
for 0725ish, so I knew it would be pitch-ass black when I got out there. But
go I must -- Sunrise Yoga was on the POD (Plan of the Day), handwritten in
last night at 2130 because I forgot to type it in the original draft.

We'd been wallering around all night, with the swell gently off the quarter,
so I was a little nervous about actually be able to even stand upright,
never mind move through a series of sun salutations or breathe deeply in
down dog. I set out the mats on the centerline of the ship, and hoped for
the best. ME3 RS, SK2 KH and CO all braved the dark, rolling decks to join
me. 

Now, I have never taught a yoga class before. I don't even really have my
own practice at home. I go to yoga when it doesn't interfere with my
schedule, which usually translates into weekend warrior yoga two or so
weekends a month. I ran through one practice session on my own before we got
underway, with a very basic series of poses, and figured that would be good
enough. And then...well, then I told other people I'd be guiding Sunrise
Yoga on the flight deck (fantail made more sense this morning) on Wednesday
and Saturday mornings at 0630 this patrol. So now I had to do it.

Guiding a yoga session ain't all that easy! I had to be loud to be heard
three people away because the fantail was kinda noisy, being right over the
steering gear in aft steering. I kept getting my left and right mixed up. We
were still rolling, the decks were slippy wet, and I wasn't really sure how
much experience any of my fellow yogis had.

But I still had a blast! We started seated to focus on our breathing and
then moved through some seated side bends. On to table top and cat/cow pose.
Then some core work -- extending opposite arm and leg and then pulling elbow
to knee and then extending again. That takes some balance when you're in a
yoga studio planted solidly on terra firma. Underway, with a quartering
swell...it was definitely a level 3 core work! Then we moved on to starfish
pose, on one bent knee with the other leg extended out to the side, bending
over the extended leg. Then to a series of five sun salutations, moving
through Warrior I, Warrior II, extended side angle and reverse Warrior and
then through a vinyasa of a chataranga push-up, up dog and down dog. I may
have giggled my way through a couple of the reverse Warriors as a swell
tipped the boat away from me and I almost landed on my not so Warrior butt. 

And about this time, the sun was sending pink and orange rays of brilliance
shooting from behind the clouds. 

We moved through pigeon pose on both sides, and cow face pose -- both hip
openers because I was being a little selfish. Then a seated forward fold,
bridge pose and shavashana. We ended in easy seated pose as the rays of the
rising sun disappeared behind thickened cloud cover. 

I know shavasana is supposed to be meditative, but I couldn't help the
thought that passed through my mind of being intensely grateful for the
thick steel upon which my body was resting, that protects me from this great
ocean and allows me to sail on her waters and have this amazing job. Even
though I didn't breathe the way I was supposed to because I was giving
guidance to the other yogis, and I didn't stretch as deeply as I normally
would because I was trying to simply maintain my balance on the rolling
deck, I left this morning's Sunrise Yoga session so happy and energized. 

Namaste DILIGENCE!

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

Friday, January 8, 2016

Big Thoughts

This will likely be a multi-part post, because I'm still working on framing
the issue in my head. But I've been thinking for a while about how being
good at or doing well on inspections really translates into being successful
at the mission or effective at our jobs. 

DILIGENCE entered her "inspection cycle" earlier this fiscal year and has
gone through about half of our required inspections so far. We still have
our big ones, Command Assessment of Readiness for Training (CART) and
Tailored Ships Training Availability (TSTA, pronounced tis-ta) coming up in
the next number of months. We've had Finance & Admin, Ordnance Technical
Inspection (OTI, pronounced oh-tee-eye) and Ordnance Safety Inspection (OSI,
pronounced oh-ess-eye -- no idea why these are not oh-tee and oh-see), Food
Service Assistance and Training Team (FSAT, pronounced ef-sat), and Aviation
Standardization (AVSTAN). 

We've spent countless hours reviewing checklists at many different levels,
double checking them, building binders of documentation, running reports,
and on and on and on. And, truly, I do understand the need for all the
bureaucracy when it comes to safety, money, bullets, people, training,
accountability, etc, etc. There's a reason why we have all the regulations
and requirements, and the checklists we use for the inspections are hugely
helpful at making sure we're doing what we're supposed to be doing as told
in numerous different places, spread through a couple hundred different
manuals. 

I'm not questioning the inspection requirement or process. 

What I am wondering is, in an organization like the Coast Guard whose
guiding principles are Service to Nation, Duty to People and Commitment to
Excellence, how does a commitment to excellence in inspections translate
into service to nation? Is there a direct link between operational
excellence -- being good at what we do out on the water chasing
narco-terrorist or rescuing people from overloaded and unsafe boats or
searching out a mariner in distress -- really what the American people pay
their taxes for us to do, and the sometimes mind-numbing tedium of being
good administratively? Or are administrative organization and operational
readiness two sides of the same coin?

I feel a diagram coming on: 

 
 
Hopefully, that worked. If for some reason the diagram didn't translate
through all the computers, it's basically a two-dimensional graph, with
"Mission Effectiveness" on the horizontal axis and "Administrative
Effectiveness" on the vertical axis. There's a scale for both axes, from
"Poor" to "Good." I think what I want my question to do is to fill in what
scenarios look like for each of the quadrants.

And is "Mission Effectiveness" a misnomer? How much of what we consider
"Mission Effectiveness," i.e., drugs seized, suspected narco-traffickers
arrested, lives saved, migrants interdicted, is just plain the luck of being
in the right place at the right time (the power of an effective intelligence
process not-with-standing)? And not being unlucky with mishaps because
sometimes shit just goes squirrely (an unexpected visit from Mr Murphy that
the best team coordination cannot avert)? 

I gotta stop now -- I think I'm getting to what's been bugging me, but I
still have a couple of layers to peel through.

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

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Outbound Cape Fear

It's a 26 nautical mile transit that takes between two and a half and three
hours depending on which way and how strong the current is running. We've
made it up the river in about two and a quarter hours, with a following
current of about two knots -- but I don't recommend that because, when we
did that, the flood was still running about a knot by the time we got to our
pier which made mooring...exciting. Especially since we were twisting in the
river to moor port side to. We almost moored to the pier north of us, which
could have been bad because it doesn't have the depth of water alongside
that we need...

Today, though, OPS timed it perfectly, and we got underway just as the ebb
current was coming slack. We were starboard side to, and had to twist around
once we got away from the pier to head in the right direction. DCA did a
great job of using the wind and what hint of an ebb was left to spring on
line three (our forward leading spring line) while backing on the outboard
engine to get the bow away from the pier, take in line three, and then drive
into the center of the river to start our twist to the south.

The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge rose quickly so we didn't have to station keep
and wait for it to go up. Thank you so much for your patience to anyone who
was stuck in bridge traffic for us! Just south of the bridge, we had to
squeak by a dredging barge who was taking up about 2/3 of the channel with
their work. 

The rest of our transit was smooth, after we got our small boat and line
handlers back onboard. The ranges were (mostly) all clearly lit (we'll be
sending an ATON (aids to navigation) discrepancy report for the one or two
range lights that we noticed were not watching properly). A gentle flood did
turn a bit strong once we got to the southern portion of the river, just
between Sunny Point on the west and Sugarloaf on the east. With the wind
coming from behind us, and the current coming up, the water stood up into
cheerful little white capped peaks and frothed energetically. 

We overtook a sailing vessel also headed outbound; they graciously moved
over to the west side of the channel for us and hugged the green buoys. We
danced a little with SOUTHPORT and CROATOAN, the Fort Fisher/Southport
ferries that make hourly runs between the two sides of the river. And
RANGER, the ferry between Bald Head Island and Southport, subsequently
overtook us just north of Battery Island.

Our turn around Battery Island, through the Big S turn (or as CO heard 1LT
say one transit, the Big Ass Turn...I'm not sure which I like better. Both
are highly accurate), always looks like we're going to run up on the marsh.
But we made it safely through and had a nice conversation with a shrimper
outbound from Southport about him staying on the green side of the channel. 

And then we were out to sea. We're hugging close to the coast, to try to
stay out of the worst of the seas until they lay down some more. I expect
we'll rock gently in the trough all night long. 

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

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Have You Heard Where You're Going Yet?

No. No, I have not. Not yet. The email or IM may come any day. But, NO, I Do Not Know Where I'm Going Yet.

I have to keep telling myself over and over again that it's ok. It's still very early. No matter where I go, whatever job I go to, it's what I make of it. My attitude can take a great job and make it crappy, or take a crappy job and make it great -- I've done it before. And, it's not like they'll run out of jobs before they get to me, and leave me with nothing. I'll still **have** a job. I just don't know what or where it is yet.

And that's ok. Really ok (if I say it enough times, maybe it will sink into my thick skull and I'll start to believe it). This would be the second earliest I've ever found out. First was finding out three days before Christmas 2007 that I'd be going to MAUI in Bahrain, and that was only because PDT (pre-deployment training) started like five weeks later. Even if the Assignment Officer doesn't reach out until the day before the CDR Assignment Panel, that's still relatively early for me to know.

And what does it matter anyway, right now? I've got a patrol to make it through, a mission at hand, a crew to guide, a ship to sail, and another busy inport to plan. Knowing right this minute would not change **any** of that. I'm not bored with my current job; I don't really want to leave it; I still have plenty to learn and accomplish. I do not need to know right now.

But the truth of the matter is, the ironically obnoxious high point of my day was having two people, neither of whom I've ever had a conversation about transfer season with, ask me if I knew where I was going yet. Sadly, I don't think I was as graceful with either of them as I should have been.

Truth is, I'm grumpy with wondering what's next. Never mind which specific job I'm going to, even knowing which coast would make a difference (maybe). Knowing which state, or (gasp) city, would be great. Knowing the actual job -- HUGE relief.

I don't know why I'm so wrapped up in this, spending so much time wondering. Maybe it's because I'm a planner by nature, training and profession, and not knowing means I can't plan. (Somehow this line of thought is sounding dreadfully familiar to one I think I wrote about two years ago when I was waiting for orders out of HQ -- there may be a trend here...) Maybe it's the sense of pending Big Change that I don't feel like I have any control over right now. Once I know, I have control of how I react and what I do about it; I control my destiny then. Right now...not so much.

And at least it's only myself I have to plan for. I can't imagine the pressure if I had a spouse and or kids that were also hanging in the balance. There are times when being single definitely has its advantages.

All in good time. I know the AOs are busy, and they have a slew of people to contact. They'll get to me when they get to me. It's still early. There are no bad jobs, just bad attitudes.

Maybe later this week...???...please, Universe, please...soon...

Monday, January 4, 2016

Intentions for 2016

It's almost 2016. Another year down and gone. 2015 was pretty darn good; a few disappointments, and far too much time away from people I love and enjoy hanging out with, but overall, very good.

I don't do New Year's Resolutions. I do New Year's Intentions. I thought a little about the difference between resolving to do something and intending to do something. Intending definitely sounds a little weaker, a little wussier. Resolving is steadfast, committed, resolute. Intending gives me wiggle room to forgive myself more easily if I don't live up to my own high expectations. So, New Year's Intentions:

Blog five days a week while away from homeport: my week runs from Monday to Sunday, and while I give myself two days off a week, they cannot (?)...should not be back to back days. I'll lose my momentum if I do that. And the beauty of getting underway for patrol close to the beginning of the New Year is that I get to immediately put this Intention to the test. Thanks again to Uncle Heathen for being my aider and abettor; and thanks for the ideas of how to make this Intention easier to face on those days when I just don't wanna write (whiny footstomp implied). This post kicks off my first week. Yay, Monday!

Stop buying stuff with hidden sugar in it. I just got done reading Year of No Sugar: A Memoir, by Eve Schaub. And I'd love to try the same experiment she and her family did. Alas, I have two options for going on patrol with an Intention like that: take nearly all of my food with me which is not particularly feasible because of storage space, the impending timeline for departure, and my lack of available time (aka, my general laziness) to plan; or piss every single member of the crew off by imposing my quite ridiculous Intention on them (CO vetoed this outright). So I must compromise, and the compromise I can live with (for now) is to stop buying stuff with hidden sugar in it. This means reading labels, learning about fructose, sucrose, and a whole bunch of other -oses. And while I'm on patrol, I have a built-in loophole: I don't actually buy any food to prepare so I don't have any direct control of what gets purchased. I buy meals ready made by our fantastic cooks, which I will eat with relish and delight that I don't have to fret over food when there's so much other stuff on which I do need to focus. I do promise to do my best not to be obnoxious reading the labels of all the condiments we have out on the table and protesting (loudly) when Every. Damn. One. Of. Them. has some form of sugar in it. I may at least have a conversation with FSC about how much he and his guys read labels when buying staples like tomato sauce and mayonnaise.

But this also means intentional desserts -- not just shoving cake or cookies into my pie-hole because they're easy and available. Sorry, EO, I know you like me better when I'm not on a no-sugar kick, but I am allowing myself one dessert per week. And this time, honey is not allowed -- store it in the fridge all you like. No more being all self-righteous about not having an after dinner candy bar, but eating three rolls smothered in honey.

I'm not doing this specifically to lose weight (though dropping about 15 pounds sure would be a nice by-product); I'm doing it to try to manage my energy levels a little better. I don't want to be exhausted at the end of every day.

I suspect there's more going on with my propensity towards laziness on my time off than just my diet, especially after reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. On every single personality test I've ever taken, back even when I was about 10 years old, I have always been an Introvert (yes, with a capital I). Large, noisy groups of people stress me out. It takes effort for me to make small talk and be personable, especially with people I have just met -- I can do it, and maybe, sometimes, even make it look relatively easy, but after encounters like that, I usually need a few quiet hours on my couch with a good book. Reading Quiet was helpful because it pointed out many of the benefits of being an introvert that I hadn't previously considered.

Or maybe I just read too much.

So what does being an Introvert have to do with New Year's Intentions? I'm transferring this summer, moving to a new city. Unfortunately, because I love Wilmington and DILIGENCE -- but I know I have to leave. And I want the energy and the framework for involving myself in things outside of work so that I can build a sense of community wherever it is that I'm moving to for the next two to three years. I intend to find a place or two to volunteer at least once a month, maybe Girls on the Run or some local arboretum/nature preserve. I intend to join a running group -- and actually run with them at least once a week. I intend to accept invitations to coffee, lunch or dinner with friends and not look for excuses to bail, no matter how draining work has been. And I intend to be okay with letting myself be a lazy slug on my quiet couch if I have met my (self-imposed) social obligations for the week, guilt free.

Happy 2016 all! May it bring you peace, happiness and the adventure you seek!