Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sea Service

I was lucky enough to participate in a deployment once to various countries in and around South America. In getting some information about the training, liberty, and expected conditions of the deployment, I was pretty pumped. The ship that was planned was a huge new uber-ship, the liberty was well known by most to be a good time, and everything looked great.

One of the first things that went off track with the deployment was with the ship.

Apparently, Lord Murphy has some distant relatives that decided to enlist and proudly serve in the navel forces (not a typo). Got our nice, new ship either broken and/or re-assigned. Never fear, another boat was on standby, and it turned out to be a doozy. Commissioned in the late 60's, this old girl had been there / done that, got the t-shirt, bumper-sticker, and the free koozie.

Let me put it this way, the sailors on the boat with a more than passing knowledge of the girl's capabilities had a pool going on when (not if) the ship would break down and the deployment would be scrapped.

Not a good sign.

First time on board I think that it only took me about 15 minutes to get completely lost, and it wasn't that big of a boat (LSD-37). Also, I must have alternately scraped my shins and hit my head about 10 times on those funny little hatches. That were at the entrance to each room. And hallway. Every 10 feet. Made general quarters drill quite...interesting, but I am getting ahead of myself. Of course, immediately following the goat rope of classic proportions in our feeble attempts at boarding all of our gear, bodies, and weapons, not too mention all of the stuff that the Navy side was trying to do, the Platoon Commander called a leader's meeting. Following that, I attempted to make my way to my berthing area (living quarters).

20 minutes after starting out, I finally got to 'my' room. Bonking my head once again on the narrow door, I looked inside. I don't remember the measurements for my room, but I do remember this; We had just about the entire mortar section in one room. Racks about 4 high, lined up on the walls, and with a few more stacks in the middle, for good measure. If you were in between racks and wanted to pass someone standing in the space between the racks, about your only option was to decide which side of your body you wanted to be rubbing up against the other guy as you attempted to negotiate the narrow passageway. We were situated directly above one of the engine rooms, down the hallway from the shitters and showers, and the room right next to some machine gooners.


I noted that the only available rack in the room was the one tucked into the far corner, two inches above the floor. This space, directly above the engines had an actually somewhat pleasant constant muffled drone, that did actually help me get to sleep quite rapidly. The light was blocked out, also aiding in sleep. The (or should I say 'One') problem with this bed was that it was two inches off the floor, or about the height of a normal guys foot when he is walking along. I got kicked more than a few times as people were walking by, climbing in and out of racks, and just shooting the breeze. I could kinda schootch over to the other side of the bed, but then I would be getting way to familiar with the Marine in the next rack, and that wasn't an option. I hadn't been on ship for anywhere near long enough for that.

There is a routine for just about everything, and anyone who has moved around a bit or spent some time on ship can go into excruciating detail about routines on ship. I believe that the Platoon Sergeant was trying to avoid some of the less productive routines when he announced on the flight deck our Plan of Action. The 'plan' called for time on ship to be spent productively. Every morning we would leap out of the rack at Oh-my-God-Dark-Thirty, and commence to at least an hour in the gym and 30 minutes running in small little circles on the flight deck. We would then break for morning chow, and continue on to weapons, history, and culture classes. An admirable goal, but one that didn't turn out as planned.

First of all, the main purpose of our deployment was to cross-train with the various foreign forces that we visited. Secondly, the Navy never seemed to want to co-operate with our platoon schedule. Jeez, flight ops, general quarters drills, and fire alarms can really cut into the hours of the day, you know?

Fast forward a month....

In the mortars room, lights are out. If you listen closely over the hum of the engines, all you can hear are various Marines snoring, and the occasional passage of a sailor or Marine in the main passageway. An alarm goes off. Several people groan. With a few choice words, one Marine cuts off the alarm and asks, "Anybody going to lunch? I'm starving, somebody grab me a biscuit."

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