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:
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 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!

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