[from the stabenow.com vaults, 2007]
Some days I won’t be able to write directly about what we’re doing because of operational security. Today it’s not so much what as where. Keeping the bad guys in the dark is a good thing. Down side is that means keeping you in the dark, too, and I know you understand.
So, how about some more about our crew?
Take SN Jessica Roberts, late of Kentucky. This is her first year in the Coast Guard, and the Munro is her first ship. She reported on board and they told her to go to the lookout. “Where’s the lookout?” “Above the bridge.” “Where’s the bridge?” “Forward of the ward room.” “Where’s the ward room?” I met her first in the ward room as a mess cook, and later during a main space fire drill as a lookout (forward of the wardroom, above the bridge). Today, she was on the boat deck crew as we recovered the boat. She’s 15th on the AET A-school list out of the whole USCG, which is very good. She thinks she might be interested in aviation.
Then there is PO Tim Stamm, my Alaska compatriot. He comes from Nikolski on Umnak Island, and is one of many crewman on board who are happy about the Munro being sent to Kodiak . “The last time we docked at Kodiak I had ten friends meeting me at the dock.” I met him first on the bridge at the navigation station, then he was doing LE firearms training on the hangar deck, and then on a boat deck crew. He’s been in the Coast Guard less than a year. “If you work hard,” he says, “things happen fast in the Coast Guard.”
Chief Wes Guilmartin, the Munro’s navigation chief, will have been in the Coast Guard for twenty years this July. He has spent a lot of time in the Caribbean doing migrant mitigation, and his stories will break your heart. Once his 210 was looking for survivors of a boat full of Domenican migrants that had gone down earlier that day. By sheer luck (“We must have gone by her half a dozen times before then, she must have seen all these boats in the water going past and not stopping”) they spot a woman hanging onto a life vest. They put a swimmer in the water (“She was just about done”) and retrieve the woman just as she was going down. Her body was swollen from Wes figures a six to eight hour immersion in salt water (“She could just barely say “agua”, but of course her lips were swollen, too, and she couldn’t drink”) and her black stretch pants had acted as a screen for sea life and were full of all kinds of critters. “That was the most memorable migrant rescue I experienced.”
And it’s a bad idea to be sitting on a full bladder when ENS Chris McGhee starts demonstrating the various ways cadets fall asleep in class at the academy.
A personal note a week out -–
To someone who knows nothing, who doesn’t live it professionally, life on board a 378 seems exotic, even romantic. Everybody back on the beach already knows that, but you say that to these people and they look sort of baffled. “It’s just what I’ve been doing since I was 18,” says ENS Dan Schrader.
To a man and woman the crew is happy I’m writing the blog because they’re all too tired to write to their families when they get off work. “I’ve already lived through it once,” the Captain says. SN Jessica Roberts has emailed the link to everyone in her family because she says I explain what’s going on out here in words they can understand, which I consider high praise. “We should have an author on every ship,” says LTJG Eric Golder, not due to my considerable charm of manner but to the fact that he can write home every night, “Love you, read the blog,” and then zonk out.
It feels good to be able to provide a service for this crew, one that they appreciate out of all proportion to the effort expended. All I’m doing is showing up and paying attention, and then writing it down. They’re doing all the work.
Click here for ENS Dan Schrader’s photo essay of our patrol.
Click here to order a copy.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.