Carronade The Yankee Sailor Carronade

The Sea is a choosy mistress. She takes the men that come to her and weighs them and measures them. The ones she adores, she keeps; the ones she hates, she destroys. The rest she casts back to land. I count myself among the adored, for I am Her willing Captive.

I've relocated to a new Yankee Sailor.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Captain for a Day

I just finished my day as Command Duty Officer, and it was the usual mix of pleasure and pain. The CDO is the Captain's representative for the operation of the ship in port and the execution of the Plan of the Day. Within certain limits defined by Navy policy or the Captain's Standing Orders, the CDO gets to call the shots during the course of his duty day. Like most officers, on one hand I like being in charge and having the responsibility for making decisions, but on the other hand it means you have to be available around the clock to give permissions, receive reports and resolve problems. You also get to share in the ultimate accountability of the Captain if something goes wrong.

Yesterday was atypical for a duty day, because we had just pulled into port and there was a lot to accomplish. The day also started for me at 0230 to stand watch in the Combat Information Center until 0530, when we stationed the sea and anchor detail to enter port. Then I was on the bridge performing my duties as Navigator until just after 0900, when we were finally made up at the berth and the Officer of the Deck shifted his watch to the quarterdeck. So there we were, at the beginning of day one of two in an overseas port, with a long list of tasks that needed to be accomplished - take on 700k gallons of fuel, expedite the arrival of 50-75 pallets of stores, get our parts and mail from base supply, arrange more immediate air transportation for twenty or so Sailors that need to report or detach while we're pierside, wash down the vehicle and well decks and backload three hundred tons of containers and vehicles we are transporting back to the U.S.

In addition to making sure all these requirements were met, I had a personal "to do" list to complete. An adverse evaluation report needed to be submitted for a Sailor that has failed four body fat tests in the last four years. Charts and a navigation brief needed to be prepared and routed through the Executive Officer and Captain so we could brief our departure from port on day two of the visit. Still more charts needed to be prepared and routed to get the Captain's and Commodore's approval for the proposed route to our next port.For all that was set before us, the day went remarkably smoothly.

The base really jumped through their grommets to support us, and we got the fuel we needed in just over half the time we expected it to take. The cargo loading was completed just before taps, and a working party was identified to load the expedited mail, parts and stores first thing this morning. Travel arrangements were adjusted for those that needed it, and my paperwork drills ended successfully just after supper. The last remaining task in the plan was to make sure the liberty party was back aboard safely.

Liberty parties are always a source of frustration for a CDO. Despite Big Navy efforts to deglamorize drinking, Sailors still have a well-earned reputation for drinking with abandon, particularly when away from home and on the first night ashore in a port. Annother predictable shoal a Sailor can run up on while off the ship overseas is violating the “buddy system.” Away from homeport, everyone leave the ship with at least one buddy, sometimes two. This is done in the hopes that at least two-thirds to one-half of the brains in a give group are still functioning somewhat clearly at any given time. For the most part the system works well, but there are some Sailors who are determined to be, shall we say, “exceptional.” Last night, one of those exceptional Sailors exposed a problem with the buddy system.

Sailors A, B and C departed the ship together with a list of things to accomplish. While on the beach, Sailors B and C decided they wanted to change the plan and partake of some malt beverages. Sailor A, who had duty today, and a pistol qualification course to complete this morning, disagreed and stated his wish to return to the ship as planned. Sailors B and C mistakenly assumed that decision making in the Navy is democratic and went to the bar, and Sailor A caught a bus back to the ship. Upon reporting back aboard, the absence of Sailor A’s buddies is noted, and all three Sailors are slated to report to the Liberty Risk Board this morning.

Not long after this, I got a visit from Sailor A, who wished to plead his case in advance. I listened to him carefully, and reassured him that he’d made a good decision in the circumstances. Following the LRB this morning, I heard that Sailor A got put on “alfa libs” for the remainder of this port visit for his technical violation of the rules, and B and C got themselves “bravo libs” for this port and the next. Oh by the way, Sailor A has duty today, so last night was his only night out. In the end, Sailor A probably didn’t make the best possible decision given the circumstances, but his instinct towards doing the right thing got him off with a slap on the wrist. Good on him.