Saturday, December 30, 2006

Barrels of Fun

Saturday, December 30, 2006
Barrels Of Fun

It was a dark and stormy night...

"United States Coast Guard this is USS Henderson, requesting emergency assistance, over."

It was the same thing on all the radio circuits. Nothing but static.

"Hell, try MAD," Chief said.

"Military Air Distress?" I asked, incredulous.

"The Cap'n said all circuits. Give it a try," said the Chief.

How do I word this? I wondered. Ok...

"Military aircraft this is USS Henderson, requesting emergency assistance, over," I said, in my most professional radio voice.


"Hey Chief, what about squawking the emergency code on IFF (Identification Friend or Foe)?"
I asked.

"Can't hurt. Go ahead, enter it in," Chief said.

After entering the code, I went back to trying the radio circuits again.

What a bummer. I finally get to talk on the radios and everyone is at home watching Hee Haw.
Not that I blamed them. Who, in their right mind, would be sailing or flying in this storm?

Besides the USS Henderson? Talk about bad weather intel..

The ship took another violent roll.

Clump, clump, clump! Clang!

"Damnit!" Shouted OSSN Anderson, tumbling across Combat and smacking into the metal chart table.

"Hold on when your pukin'," said OS2 Weekly, chuckling.

"Thanks for the advice," said Anderson. "A$$hole," he said, under his breath.

One of the sound-powered phones started squawking. The sound was annoying under most circumstances and comical when in port.
I was thinking it had a Looney Toons theme.

"I got it, said OS2 Weekly.

"Combat," he said. " many? One? Yes Sir," he said.

"LTJG Spaz wants us to send one man down to join a working party in the hanger to help re-secure some tools and stuff that broke free," Weekly said. "He said Ops gave him the go ahead."

"Conrad...," was all Chief said.

"Roger that, Chief," I said.

Crap, I gotta work for that bozo?

I made a bee-line for the helo hanger, very slowly.

When I arrived, there were 4 other guys there, picking up tools.

One man was tying up a dented toolbox.

"Ahhh...Conrad. How nice of you to join us. Are you always this slow?" Spaz asked.

"Only during storms, Sir," I said, with a blank face.

"Don't get smart with me!" He said, starting to turn red.

Who can possibly get smart with you? I thought. How did this psycho get in the Navy? I wondered.

Bang! Crash! Bang! Bang!

What the hell?

Spaz opened the hatch and looked outside.
The howling wind almost blew him over, but he held on.

"Ok, here's the plan!" Spaz shouted.

Plan? This guy should plan on attending a super-ego anger management class.

"Get out there and re-secure those oil barrels, before they tumble off the ship!" He shouted, over the wind.

I moved slowly towards the hatch and looked out. Three oil barrels were bouncing around on the deck, as the ship rolled.

A wave crashed down on the deck and sea water rushed into the hanger, getting our boots and feet wet.

One barrel tumbled over the side.

"Now!" Spaz shouted.

Is this guy crazy? Was that his problem?

"No Sir!" Came out of my mouth before I realized it.

The wind continued it's eerie howl.

Spaz turned redder than a fire truck.

Here it comes, I thought, mentally bracing myself.

"What?!!! What?!!!" Screamed Spaz.

"I order you to secure those barrels!!! Now!!!" He screamed, inches from my face, spittle flying everywhere.

Mad dog! Dragon breath! Hydrophobie!

"No...Sir!!!" I shouted back. "It's too dangerous! No one can stop those barrels, or keep their footing out there!" I shouted, not backing down.

"You are going to Captain's Mast for disobeying a direct order, Conrad!!" LTJG Spaz said, with a twisted smile.

"The rest of you get out there now!" He shouted, looking at the other guys.

They looked at me, and I shook my head no.

They didn't move. Smart Sailors, I thought.

"I ORDER YOU!!!" He screamed, so loud his voice broke.

It looked like the veins on his neck and forehead were going to blow!
Posted by USS Ben USN (Ret) at 5:06 AM

Monday, December 11, 2006

Assault At Sea

Have you ever cooked omelettes on a flat grill, when the ship you’re on is rockin’ and rollin’ really good?
It’s like playing Pong(TM), and Food Fight(TM), with runny eggs.
Some of the omelettes were really weird looking.

Pancakes were also rather bizarre.
Eggs easy?
Not really.

Somehow, I made it through breakfast, but it felt like the entire Marine Corps was making an amphibious landing, on my brain.
I felt light-headed again, but that could’ve been the sea. It was getting rougher, too.
At least I wasn’t getting seasick, I thought.

After a cursory cleaning of the galley (i.e. the basics only), I hurried down to the berthing compartment to catch a few z’s.
I had just gotten undressed, and was about to collapse, when an alarm went off.
It didn't brighten my sunny disposition.

“General quarters, general quarters! All hands man your battle stations,” said the ship’s 1MC.

“Damn it!” I said, jumping down from my rack and getting dressed as fast as I could.
“Ow! Dammit!”

Note to self: do not attempt to put pants on while ship is rolling withoutfirst bracing yourself or sitting down!
The exclamation of the note to self warning was the cold, hard deck.
The recipient was my ass.

I decided to stay down, so I could get my pants on without falling again.
I had just gotten said pants on, when I heard somethig sliding towards me, from behind. What the?
I turned around… just in time to see an unsecured chair sliding...into my face!

“Ow! #@^%&*!” I said, as my nose started bleeding.

I grabbed a towel, dripping blood all over, then I tried to get my boots on while holding the towel, which wasn't easy.
The chair, unfazed, went sliding off somewhere. I got a good look at it, though, so I could identify it later in a line-up.
I finally managed to get my boots on, and I made a dash for the ladder.

Meanwhile, out of a dark alley between bunks, the homicidal chair struck again, targetting my legs! This was definitely a hit job.
What are the odds? I wondered.

I tried to jump, but it was too late. The killer chair seemed to laugh maniacally as it entangled between my legs. I noticed the deck was rushing up to meet me as I fell.
I hit hard…and slid...into a steel pole (they use them for wiring).
Good thing my shoulder took the brunt, I thought, trying to get up. My shoulder protested loudly. It didn't think it was a good thing.
That chair is toast...later, after general quarters! I thought. I'm gonna deepsix it.

I tried to find my bloody towel, dripping blood all over.
I slowly got up, hurting too much to curse this time, and, making sure that chair wasn’t close by, I limped toward the ladder, all traces of dignity I thought I had was now in shambles.
Dignity is a fickle mistress.

During General Quarters, you have to move fast, before they dog (close) all the hatches and scuttles (to prevent any possible flooding or fires from spreading).
Watertight integrity only works if the hatches and scuttles are dogged.

If you're too slow you get dogged in. Then you hafta call the bridge and explain why you got dogged in and ask for permission to break the dogs temporarily so you can get your sorry ass to your battle station.
It doesn't make a good impression on the Captain or XO, or anyone for that matter.
Besides, who would believe I was assaulted by a commie chair...twice?

I made it up the first ladder before it was dogged down, but I had to get to CIC, where my assigned battle station was located.
I limped quickly down the passage taking the next ladder I saw up another level, barely getting through it before it was closed off.

I finally made it to the door of Combat, pressed the combo keys in the right order, and limped inside.

Combat was dark, as usual, and I made my way slowly across the room, to the Surface Summary status board. I picked up the headphones and put them on, quickly putting the towel back over my nose.

“Sh*t! What happened to you?” Asked OSSN Brown, stationed next to me, at the Air Summary status board.

“Long story,” I said, my voice muffled through the bloody towel.

“Surface summary, phone check,” said the voice in my sound-powered phone headset.

“This is Surf., loud and clear,” I said.

“Finally! Ok, are you ready? I have 8 contacts,” said the surface RADAR operator.

I grabbed the white grease pencil saying, “Ready.”

“Standby to mark at 0804,” said the DRT operator.

“Mark!” He said, at 0804.

“Skunk Alpha, bearing 165, 22,300 yards. Skunk Bravo, bearing 329, 16,100.
Skunk Charlie, bearing 034, 9,700. USS Ranger, bearing 198, 5,200.
Skunk Delta, …”

I wrote them down as fast as possible, backwards, so it could be read from the other side.

“CPA for Skunk Charlie is 133, 1,200 yards. Time of CPA is 0823,” said the Maneuvering Board operator, OS3 Montoya.

“I concur,” said OS3 Harrington, on the SPS-10 surface RADAR.

“Looks good to me,” said OSSN Humphrey, on the DRT.
And so it went, every 3 minutes.

“How close do you want Charlie to pass, Chief?”, asked OS3 Montoya.

“Compute a course at this speed, 18 knots, to avoid Charlie by 2,000 and keep an eye on the Ranger”, the OSC said.

“Recommend turning port to 331 at 18 to avoid Charlie by 2,000 on our starboard quarter,” said Montoya, 15 seconds later.

“Roger, mark the Ranger every minute, they’re at flight ops,” said the Chief.

“Roger, standby to mark at 0806,” said Harrington.

And so it went, for 2 and a half hours, with a Man Overboard drill, and a simulated gas attack (where we wear MK V gas masks) thrown in for good measure. Fortunately, my nose had stopped bleeding by then.

After GQ I went down to the compartment to wash up, avoiding all the questions everyone was asking as to why my nose was swollen and what the bloody towel was for.
As it was I would never live this down once word got out, and it always does on a small ship.

“Conrad! Are you down here?!” I heard Eltee shouting.

“In here Sir!” I called, from the sink.

“Good God, man! What happened to you?” Eltee asked.

I had a good shiner going as well as the swollen nose.

“Killer chair sir. I think it’s a commie spy,” I said, wryly.

“Damn,” said Eltee, with a puzzled look.

“My sentiments exactly, sir,” I said, sounding like Rocky Balboa.
“Adrian!” I shouted.

The Lieutenant laughed.
“At least you still got your sense of humor,” he said.

Yeah. That and a quarter will get me a cup of coffee, I thought.

“Mac is still sick, so uh…can you do lunch?” Eltee asked.

“I don’t know, sir,” I said, not having to act pathetic.

“C’mon Rock! You can do it!” Said Eltee, trying to imitate Burgess Merideth as Mickey.

“Aye sir,” I said, wearily.

“That’s the spirit, Rock!” Said Eltee, punching my shoulder…the same shoulder I damn near seperated on a steel pole earlier, when I was attacked by the commie ninja chair.

“AAhhh!” I yelled, in white hot pain.

“I’m sorry! Are you Ok?” Eltee asked, backing up.

“Hurt…shoulder…earlier,” I managed to get out, through clenched teeth..

“Uhh, maybe you should get that checked out…after lunch,” Eltee said.

“Not…a chance!” I said, too loud.

“Right. Um. Ok, then. See you soon,” the Eltee said, leaving abruptly.

I slowly made my way up to the wardroom galley, checking the menu again.

“We need some more coffee,” said LTJG Spaz, sticking his head into the galley.

“Aye sir,” I said, leaving the galley and entering the wardroom.

I picked up the pot, and pain shot through my shoulder again.

“What happened to you?” Asked LTJG Spaz.

“Long story, sir,” I replied, in no mood to think about my losing battles with gravity, moving seas and the commie chair.

“You didn’t get into a fight did you?” Asked LTJG Spaz, suspiciously.

“No…sir,” I said leaving the wardroom and entering the galley.

I filled the pot with water, and put the filter and coffee in.
As I lifted the Coffee pot, my shoulder rebelled, and I dropped it on the galley deck.


“Sh*t!” I yelled in pain and frustration.

LTJG Spaz opened the galley door. “What happened?” He asked, looking at the mess.

“Bum shoulder…sir,” I said, holding it gingerly.

“Well, hurry up and get this cleaned up,” he ordered.

If looks could kill…
LTJG Spaz noted my look, and decided to take issue.

“You have something else to say?” Asked Spaz, crossing arms the color of a fishes belly.

“Yes! Sir! Please get out of my galley!” I shouted. “I have work to do,” I finished.

“Are you trying to tell me what to do?!” Spaz shouted back.

“What’s going on here?” Said Eltee, walking up beside Spaz and surveying the mess.

“He’s trying to…,” began Spaz.

“Shut up, I didn’t ask you!” Said Eltee firmly, cutting Spaz off in mid-sentence.
Spaz turned beet red, which was quite a feat for someone so pale.

“But he…fine!” Said Spaz, stomping off.

“Shoulder,” I said. “Couldn’t carry… the coffee pot,” I managed to get out.

“No worries, I’ll get it,” Eltee said, picking up the pot and rinsing it off.

Eltee made the coffee and even swabbed up the mess, while I prepared lunch.
After Eltee finished he said, “I want you to go see Doc as soon as lunch is finished. That’s an order,” he said leaving.

“Aye Aye, Captain Blythe,” I said, hoping Doc wasn’t open.

“Good thing I didn’t hear that,” said Eltee, closing the door. "Why are you so reticent to go to sickbay?" He asked.

"Polka," I rasped. "Doc likes...polka."

"Seriously?" Eltee asked, smiling.

"It's horrible, sir," I said.

"Well, I don't particularly like polka myself, but you need to get seen," Eltee said, stifling a laugh.

"I suffered through hours of that devil music," I replied. "I deserve a purple heart for that, Eltee."

"I'll be sure to put you in for one," Eltee replied, about to pat me on the shoulder and stopping himself.

After lunch, I made my way to the infirmary.
Unfortunately, it was open.

There was 5 sailors waiting outside, in a line.
All of them had plastic bags, and one was filling his, as I approached.

I slowly sat down on the deck, at the end of the line, with my back aganst the bulkhead.

“What happened to you, man?” Asked the Sailor ahead of me.

“Chief Cook lost his cool,” I replied.

“Really? He kicked your ass? Why?” He asked.

“I said something bad about his cooking, and he heard me,” I said, wincing.

“Dammnnn. That’s messed up homes,” said the good samaritan.

“Yeah, and get this,” I said, whispering, “the last sailor to piss him off disappeared out at sea. Without a trace.”

“No sh*t?” He said, eyes widening.

“I sh*t you not,” I said, seriously. “He’s crazy, man,” I said, looking scared.
“Watch what you say on the mess decks,” I said, looking around.

“Thanks for the warning, homey,” he said, looking at my face.

“Don’t tell anyone,” I said, knowing he would.

After about 30 minutes, Doc had seen all the patients.

“Next,” he said.

I slowly got to my feet, and walked in.

“Conrad? Is it true that the Chief Cook beat the crap out of you?” Asked the Doc, looking at my face.

“No, of course not,” I said, “who told you that?”

“My last patient. He said you told him,” Doc said.

“He’s probably messing with you Doc,” I said, smiling.

“Yeah. So what really happened to you?” Doc asked.

I explained about the chair.

Doc laughed for a long while. Then he stopped, looked at me, and broke out laughing again.

“Sorry…ha ha…really that’s…ha ha…alright, lets take a look at you,” he said, grabbing his favorite torture device and shining it in my eyes.
“Does your head hurt?” He asked.

“It does now,” I replied, feeling snarky.

“Oh! The light! Hurts eh?” Doc asked.

“Only when you click it on,” I said.

“How many fingers am I holding up,” he asked.

Not again! I thought.

“Four!” I said, immediately.

“Right!” He said, too cheerfully.
“Now let’s check out this shoulder. Does ths hu…,” he began to say, before my scream cut him off.

“I’ll take that as a yes. How about when I move it th…,” he didn’t finish, before I yelled again.

“Hmmm,” he said.

“What?” I asked, trying not to pass out.

“It’s dislocated, I think,” Doc continued.

“Are you sure?” I asked, skeptically.

“Well, probably…I’m not 100% positive, but it looks like it,” he said, obviously unsure.

“So what now?” I asked.

“Hmm? Uh, sit tight for a minute,” he said walking into his adjacent office and grabbing a thick book.

He leafed through the front pages, and opened it up to the page he wanted, and began to read.

He better not start another polkafest, I thought.
Ten minutes later he slapped the book closed, and came back over.
He must have found out what to do, I thought.

“You better lie down for this,” he said, frowning.

“Why?” I asked, suspiciously.

“Because I need to…,” he began, “just do as I say,” Doc ordered, looking nervous.

I laid back on the table, resting my head on the pillow.

“Now…turn your head away from me, and close your eyes,” said Doc, grabbing my arm.
"Your'e going to feel some...pressure."

“But Doc,” I began, before he cut me off.

“That’s an order!” He said.

“That’s the wrong arm!” I said, quickly.

“Oh. Heh heh. I knew that,” Doc said, turning red, and moving over to my other arm.
“Now turn your head…,”

“I know, I know,” I said, before he could finish.

I closed my eyes as he grabbed my arm.
I was so tired, I started to doze off.

“I’m going to place my foot on your chest wall for countertraction, so don’t move,” Doc said.

Right, I thought, drifting off, countertraction.
It was at that point that Doc pulled my arm and…

For those familiar with dislocated shoulders, I don’t need to explain the intense, bone-wrenching pain that came next.
For those that aren’t, let me say that you will survive if this happens to you.
Oh! And ask for morphine! A lot of morphine!

It was soon over, and I wished I could’ve passed out, but I didn’t.
My eyes filled with tears of pain.

“Here is some pain medication,” Doc said, handing me a packet of pills.
“They are strong, so take no more than 1 every 4-6 hours,” he said.
“Continue to use that arm, but don’t do anything really strenous. When we return to port I’ll send you over to Balboa Naval Hospital for some X-rays, and to see an orthapedic doctor,” said Doc.
“Come back to see me if you need more pain meds,” Doc continued.

“Okay,” I whispered in a hoarse voice. "Thanks."

I took a pill as soon as I left, chewing the bitter tablet to get it to work faster.

“Ugh!” I said, hating the taste. "That was dumb."

It was around 1330 when I got to my bunk.
How was I going to get up there? I wondered.
Better go get some coffee until this pain med kicks in, I decided.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Obviously, whoever belonged to the voice, didn’t pay attention during first aid training, I thought.

Apply direct pressure to the wound, as I recalled.
I got up unsteadily and grabbed a towel that had been drying at the foot of my rack, and pressed it on the back of my head.

The compartment was spinning, so I sat back down on the deck, where it continued to spin, only slower.

My head felt numb, but began pulsing with pain. My vision was blurry.
I felt… detached… like I was watching myself in a surreal setting. Maybe this is a dream, I mused.

The lights turned from a dim red to a bright white.
Too bright! I thought, squinting my eyes. It actually hurt! Do not go into the light, I warned myself, as I covered my eyes with my hand.

“What the hell?!” I heard a voice say.

“It’s f#ckin’ 0315! Turn the mother#8%$^@ lights off!” Yelled another voice.

Apparently no one else likes the bright light either, I thought.

“Shut your yaps and go back to sleep!” Said a closer voice.
“Conrad? Conrad! Look at me! How many fingers am I holding up?” Said a very close voice.

“What? I can't even see you," I said. “Turn the light off, I wanna sleep,” I continued, suddenly very tired.

“Sorry pal, no can do! You have to stay awake, do you hear me?” Said the voice as it grabbed my arm.
“Give me a hand and help me get him to the infirmary,” said the annoying voice.

Someone grabbed my other arm and I resisted. I had heard the annoying voice but I couldn't make sense of what it said.

“Leave me alone!” I warned.

“Conrad!” Shouted someone close.

"Geez, will you hold it down?" I asked, well past annoyed and irritated. "I gotta headache."

I saw a blurry face appear, but I couldn’t make it out. It hurt to try so I stopped trying. It was difficult, keeping my eyes open, and it was impossible to focus my vision and my thoughts.

“I’m petty officer Mendoza. I’m a Hospital Corpsman, and you will follow orders! Is that clear?” Said the blurry face with authority.

"No, it's not clear," I muttered. Why would a Corpsman order me around? I wondered.

“Anderson and Smitty will help you get to the infirmary, and you will cooperate!” blurry Doc said.

“Ok, but I’m not sure if I can help you, Doc,” I said, feeling groggy. I was certain he could find someone in better shape to cooperate with him.

“I’m counting on you Conrad, so stay awake!” He said.

Well, if you put it that way, I thought, curious as to exactly what the Corpsman was counting on me for.

“You can count on me, Doc!” I slurred, straightening up. Ugh. I felt a wave of nausea.

“Good! Now follow me,” he said.

I started to walk towards the blur, and lost my balance. Fortunately Smitty and Anderson were there to catch me, and lift me back to my feet.

The damn deck won't stop moving! I thought. What in tarnation is going on around here?
Several bruises later I finally made it to the infirmary.

“Thanks guys, I can handle it from here,” said the Doc.
“Conrad, what day is it?,” he asked.

“Saturday?” I ventured.

“Who is the President?” Doc asked.

“You don’t know?” I countered. This guy is dense, I thought.

“Just answer my questions,” he said, sounding annoyed.

“President Reagan,” I said. “He used to be an actor,” I added.

“Good. Can you see how many fingers I’m holding up now?” Doc asked.

“Two…no, three?” I guessed, trying to squint through the haze. Truth be told I couldn't even see any fingers.

Just then, I recoiled in pain as the doc flicked on a searing bright light...right into my eyes!
I tried to cover my eyes with my arm, but Doc yelled at me again. It would've been helpful if he had given a warning, I thought.
I endured the searing light torture without talking, and then my interrogater moved on to plan b.

“Alright, lower the towel so I can see the wound,” Doc said.
“Damn, you gashed it good. That’ll take six or seven stitches at least,” he said.

I didn’t gash it! I thought. The deck did.

“I’m going to clean the wound so it may hurt, a little,” said Doc.

I felt something cold and wet, and a burning sensation, as the Doc cleaned the wound.
At that moment, I started feeling cold, then I realized that all I had on was underwear. Needless to say I didnt exactly feel dignified.
This is embarassing, I thought.

“This may sting a bit,” said Doc, holding a long-ass blurry needle and moving it towards my head!

“Where are you poking that thing?” I asked, apprehensibly.

“I have to numb your wound, so I can stitch it up,” Doc explained.

Now, I was never afraid of shots but I couldn't help noticing, blurry as it was that the needle was huge! It looked like a marlin spike!

Small ships don’t have doctors, most of the time, but they do have Navy Corpsmen.

“Ow!” I said. “A little sting my ass!" I winced as he poked the marlin spike into my head in several places.

“Sorry, but it should be numb soon,” Doc said.

Indeed, it was. A strange experience, to say the least.

“Now I need you to hold still, and not move,” the Doc instructed.

“Um, may I get my pants?” I asked, feeling self concious in my skivvies...and cold.

“Sure. Right after I finish stitching you up,” the Doc said.

Seven stitches later, the Doc handed me a light blue hospital gown with ties on the back.

“I’d really rather wear my pants,” I said, indignantly.

“Sorry, but I can’t take the chance you might fall down again,” said Doc.

He didn’t look sorry, I noted.

“You will have to stay here until you can see clearly, and maintain your balance,” he said.

Is this guy serious? I wondered, trying to get the stupid gown to cover my butt, so I could somehow tie it behind my back.

“Here, let me get that,” said Doc, tying my gown too tight.

I laid back on the cold, stainless steel examination table. Brrr.

“No! I told you Conrad, you can’t go to sleep!” Doc firmly said.

“Who can sleep on this thing?” I asked. “I’m just resting.”

“Sit up anyway,” the Doc ordered, folding his arms.

“Can I at least have a cup of coffee?” I asked, with the best pitiful look I could muster.

“We’ll see. Maybe in awhile,” Doc said.

We’ll see? Of course we will! I thought. I just wanted a yes or no answer.

“I got work to do, so I’ll be right over here at my desk, if you need anything,” the Doc said, sitting down.

He turned on what looked like a stereo.
Oh great! Music! I thought, feeling more upbeat.
My jaw dropped. What is that? Polka? No way!
Yep, it was polka alright. Was this a joke? A cruel twisted joke?

An hour later, I concluded it wasn’t a joke. This was torture!

“Uhh…excuse me,” I said, trying to get Doc’s attention.
No response.
“Excuse me, Doc?!” I shouted, over the mind-destroying, never-ending polka.

“Eh? What?” he said, turning the ‘music’ down.

“How about that coffee?” I asked, hopefully.

“Yeah, ok. You wait here and I’ll be right back. Don’t move!” He stressed.
“Sugar? Cream?” He asked.

“No thanks. No frills,” I said.

“Gotcha! Now remember, don’t move,” Doc said, pointing his finger at me.

I was able to see more clearly now. My eyes settled on the boom box.
It crossed my mind more than once, to damage Doc’s stereo, or smash the polka tapes to smithereens. Was it possible to make it look like an accident?
Somehow, I resisted the temptation, but it wasn't easy.
Doc returned a few minutes later, and handed me my coffee.

“Thanks Doc,” I said, gratefully.

“Your welcome. How do you feel now?” Doc asked, grabbing the bright light thingy to fry my retina’s with.

"I see better, but I have a pounding headache,” I said, not adding that it was the polka that started it.

“Here, take this aspirin,” he said.

Somehow, I didn’t think that aspirin would be enough as Doc put in another polka tape. I looked on in horror. The second torture session had begun.

“This band is my favorite!” Doc shouted.

Sounds the same as the last band, I thought. How could anyone tell the difference?
Dear Lord, I prayed in desperation. Please smite Doc’s stereo!
I’m begging you Lord God!

Finally, at 0600, Doc turned the evil polka music off.
My mind was oatmeal. Or perhaps more like fried grits. I had undergone a polkabotomy.
I felt like drooling.

Doc checked me out again, making me walk a straight line, while touching my nose…basically a sobriety test.
I almost cried when he said I could go, giving directions to see him tomorrow, and if my vision got blurry, or dizziness returned, to see him ASAP.
Fat chance of that! I thought.
Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!

But my freedom was fleeting.
I was just about to hit my rack when Eltee showed up, looking for me.
Gee, I wonder why? I panned, to myself.
Too late to hide, I thought. He already saw me.

“Conrad! Are you Ok?” Asked Eltee.
“You fell out of your rack? That must have hurt!”
“Look, I know the Doc excused you from work, today, but that reservist guy is sick as a dog! Can you tough out breakfast?” Eltee asked, followed by a “Please?”

Oh hell, I thought. Better grab some more java.

“Aye aye, Sir, but do I have to shave?” I asked.

“No time! We have to move!” Said the Supply Officer, looking distressed.

“Then let’s move Sir!” I said, with more gusto than I felt, which was -5 on a scale of 1-10.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Haze Gray and Underway

For you guys that have reader this post (and subsequent older posts I'm putting back in the blog after they were wiped out) will appear as if new, but they are just oldies.
I did Benitorialize and add to this one though, in case you wanna read it again. I also found a much easier way to locate my lost posts, so this process of replacing my old posts back onto OCAS should proceed at a much faster pace.

Securing for sea isn’t difficult, but it’s time consuming.
The law of gravity is complicated out at sea. Not only can stuff fall down, but the sea can make stuff go sideways…and indeed, every which way it can possibly go. Even up!

“Cut me about three feet of that line,” said the Chief, pointing to the roll of white, quarter inch wide line.

I took the new buck knife I bought the day before from its brand new leather sheath and unfolded the blade until it locked open with a metallic snap.
I sliced cleanly through the line, in one easy motion.

“Damn! Think you got that buck sharp enough?” The Chief said, obviously impressed.

“My Grandpa taught me years ago how to use a whetstone,” I said.

“Hell! Most newbies don’t even know what a whetstone is for, let alone how to use one,” said Chief, tying off some Navy pubs (publications) so they wouldn't fall out (or fly) from their shelves which were bolted to the bulkhead in the wardroom.

It was a busy day for everyone, with Reservists checking in all morning for the training mission, and the crew getting the ship ready for sea.

“Alright, you got the idea,” Chief said. “I have to check on things in the main galley and mess decks, so yer on yer own,” he added.

“Aye aye, Chief!” I said, cutting another length of line.
At 1330 the ’sea and anchor detail’ was called over the ship’s 1MC (loudspeaker).

1400- “Underway. Shift colors,” was announced. The Ensign was simultaneously lowered on the stern, and hoisted on the mast.

The line handlers on the pier freed the mooring lines, and the Bos'n Mates hauled them in as fast as they could, to avoid getting them wet.
Wet mooring lines weighed alot more than dry ones.

I was on the 01 weather deck, watching the show.
I wanted to go to the bridge but it was too crowded, and only essential personnel were allowed.

In Combat, short for Combat Information Center (CIC) where I would normally be working, they were keeping an electronic eye on surface vessels with RADAR, performing RADAR Navigation, manning radios, logs and status boards, and making shipping and navigational recommendations to the bridge.

I stopped by CIC earlier, but it was crowded too, so I opted for the scenic view from the uncrowded weatherdeck.
Soon we entered the shipping lane, and proceeded at 5 knots (nautical miles per hour). A nautical mile is 2,000 yards or 6,000 feet, so it's a bit longer than a standard mile.

A few minutes later I noticed a small, green boat heading towards the Henderson from our starboard beam, about 300 yards out.
As they got closer, I could hear some guy on a megaphone yelling something about nuclear power and whales.

There were 8 people aboard the small craft, holding cardboard signs that said “Give Peace a chance”, “Save the Planut”, “Whales have rights!”, “Nucler power kils!” and “USN=Sea nazis.”

Must be protesters, I was thinking. Bad spellers, too.
When they got within 20 feet or so, they dropped their signs and picked up…
Water balloons? What the hey? I watched them intently as the Captain warned them to give way over the ship's loudspeakers after honking the loud horn. We had the right of way, but it was apparent the Captain didn't wanna sink the small boat if he could help it.

The hippy pukes were chanting “no more nukes!”

Thing is, the Henderson wasn't a nuke. Even a newbie like me could see the two boiler stacks the Henderson sported. Either these idiots didn't know we were a conventional ship, or they couldn't find a nuclear ship to harass. At any rate, it wasn't as if the officers and crew of the henderson were gonna suddenly start singin' kumbaya with these greenpeace morons.

I wondered also why they thought we were killin' whales. I sure hadn't heard about it, and could see no reason why we would ever kill whales, even if we wanted to.
We were kinda busy doin' other stuff, like keeping the sea lanes open, fightin' a cold war, training, and...well, you get the picture.

All the greenpeacers stood up and hurled the water balloons at our ship.
Splat! Sploosh! Splat! Only 3 managed to throw far enough to hit the Henderson’s hull.

That ain't water! That’s paint! I thought. Yellow, red, and green paint! These scumbags were vandalizing our ship!
The driver of their dingy turned and paralleled our course and speed.
The protesters picked up more paint balloons, with hate etched on their faces. They ought to change their name to greenhate, I thought. Or greenimbeciles.
They threw the balloons at our ship. Assholes! Fortunately they threw like little girls with lazy eyes.

I heard a ruckus on the main deck, and looked down. Someone was seriously pissed!

“No, Kilwaski! You’ll end up in the brig!” Yelled BM2 Sanchez, with his arms around a big guy waving a spanner wrench.
Must be Kilwaski, I deducted.

“I won’t hurt them, dammit! I just put hole in their boat!” Yelled Kilwaski.

“Then they’ll sue your ass, ‘Ski,” said Sanchez, struggling to hold the big man back.
"And you will get into trouble."

“We spent hours painting hull! They pay!” Kilwaski shouted, dragging Sanchez behind him as he moved towards the rail.

“Those scumbags aint worth it ‘Ski! Now give me that wrench!” Ordered Sanchez, breathing hard.

“Okay,” said ‘Ski, looking down and giving up the wrench. 'Ski glared down at the greenpeace bozos, who were pointing up and laughing at him as he shook his fist at them.

“Alright, big man. Don’t let them get to you buddy,” said Sanchez, leading Kilwaski away from the rail and into the ship. “C’mon, I’ll buy you some coffee.”

“But coffee free,” I heard Kilwaski say as the hatch closed.

I could feel the Henderson speeding up. According to the charts I saw earlier, we should be going 10 knots now, or perhaps 15 since visibility was good.
Now the wake our ship was making was bigger, and the small protest boat was skipping up and down, trying to stay close.
As one protester began to throw her paint balloon, their boat jumped and she fell in the water.

I heard loud applause and laughing from the fantail and foc’sle, where many sailors had gathered, to practice hand signals on the protester scumbags.
I joined in the festivities. The look on her face as she realized she was gonna be swimmin' in Long Beach harbor was priceless.

And it only got better. The small boat turned around and went to pick up their angry comrade.
The applause and laughter picked up as we could see port security closing in to make their bust. Bye bye scumbags! I thought, grinning. It felt good to see a bit of karmic justice administered to those vile hippies.

Later, I could feel the ship hitting the breakers as we left the harbor and entered the Pacific ocean.
The weather was fair, with only a few clouds in the sky, and the winds were nearly non-existent.
I could feel a new sensation as the ship rose up and came down in rythm with the swells.
I later learned this is called pitch, while the side to side rocking movement was called roll.

I could’ve spent hours watching the sea, but it was time to get back to work. So, reluctantly, I returned to the galley.
Chief was there talking with a reservist.

“If you have any problems, just ask Conrad,” Chief said. “I gotta run. Duty calls,” he said.

I heard a “brraaaappp!” sound and Chief laughing as he left the galley.
Gas attack!
Unfortunately there were no mark V gas masks immediately available.

“Chief! You really should get that checked out!” I called after him.

“What died?!,” said the reservist, with his arm over his nose and eyes watering.

I saw no stripes on his left arm sleeve, so I knew he was a Seaman or lower.

“Must’ve been the corned beef and cabbage,” I said, trying to wave the smell out of the galley with a towel.
“Whatever you do, don’t light a match,” I warned, chuckling.

“Good advice. He reminds me of my uncle Lenny,” said the reservist. “Uncle Lenny lived to ask us kids to pull his finger. It was a good way to get us to play outside. He wasn’t popular at Thanksgiving,” he said, grinning.

"I can see why," I replied, laughing. “I’m Ben,” I said holding out my hand.

“Mac,” the reservist said shaking my hand. “I’m actually an MS3, but I couldn’t find my old uniforms,” Mac said. “My wife…ex-wife, probably burned them. She’s so vindictive,” he continued, shrugging.
“I would appreciate it if you kept this on the QT,” he said. “The Chief already knows."

“No problemo,” I said. "My lips are sealed."

“Cool,” said Mac. “Do you mind if I start the dinner?” Mac asked.

“By all means,” I replied, glad to get some help since the last cook decided to go UA (unauthorized absence). After 30 days he would be AWOL, which was a much more serious offense.

After the meal, we went to the fantail to have a smoke break.

“How long have you been in, Mac?” I asked.

“About five years. Two of those in the active reserves after three years regular Navy,” he said. “You?”

“Going on an entire eight months now,” I said, laughing.
It seemed like longer somehow.

“We all got to start somewhere,” Mac said.
“You must be a good cook, to be promoted to the Captains cook so soon."

“I’m not a cook!” I laughed. “I’m an OS. The cook went UA,” I said. “You see, the Captain liked my coffee, and the Chief is short of cooks, so I got elected,” I said.

“That’s weird,” said Mac grinning. “You aren’t BSing me are you?”, he asked, suspiciously.

“No, I can hardly believe myself,” I said, shaking my head. "Believe me, I would rather be doing the job I was trained for."

“Welcome to the Navy!” Mac said, laughing.
“Hey, the Chief said tomorrow, at 0900, they are having small arms quals.. Are you going?” Mac asked.

“Sure! Sounds like fun,” I said, wondering how they did that at sea.

Later, as I was lying in my rack, I listened to all the ambient noise. The humming of the ships engines, pipes shaking and sometimes making the oddest sounds, the water slamming against the hull, and the steady, low roar of the sea, with an occasional crash on the bottom or sides of the ship!
The sea made me feel small and humble. I hoped the hull would stand up to the pressure. The Henderson was commisioned in 1945.

There were straps on the rack, and I asked about them on my first day. I was told they were to hold you in during heavy seas and storms.
I looked around and nobody else was using them. So I decided not to. Not the wisest choice I ever made.

I woke up with a strange sensation of weightlessness.
Then I realized I was falling, and it wasn’t a dream!
I was wrapped in my blanket and sheet, and I couldn’t get my arms or legs free!
Boom! I hit the cold, hard deck, landing on my back!

"Oof!" Was the sound of the air leaving my lungs.

I struggled to breathe, because the landing knocked the air out of me.
Short breaths, oww! That hurts! But I couldn't even say "ow" until I could catch my breath.

“You alright man?,” I heard someone say, from far away.

I struggled to free myself from the tangled blanket, hurting everywhere it seemed. Nothing appeared to be broken though. I still couldn't talk so I kept on focusing on taking short breaths.
When I was a kid we spent a few years in Hollywood, Florida. Some of the bullies there liked to punch me in the gut, so I learned even at that age how best to breath again. Tryin' to breath deep at this point would hurt a lot worse, hence the short breaths.

“I said, are you Ok?” The voice was closer this time.

“Yeah, I think,” I croaked, as I slowly got up.

“You really should wear the safety straps,” said the voice.

That’s good advice, I thought. A bit late, and now I know, but thanks anyway.

“Yeah,” I said feeling something wet on the back of my head.

What? Did I fall in a puddle? Puddles of water are constantly forming on ship decks, from leaky pipes. Especially in older ships. It felt warm.

“Oh man! You’re bleeding...really bad! Don't move, I’ll get the Doc!” The voice said.

"Don't hold nothin' back," I muttered, amused at the panic I had heard in his voice.

I still couldn't see who the voice belonged to but I heard it run away. I felt somewhat giddy now, like I was drunk, or well on my way to getting that way.
For some reason I thought it was hilarious to hear a voice run!