Its been about 10 days since my last update and though the days still seem to blur together there are some moments that stand out in my mind as highlights to our time here in training country. Yesterday was one of those moments: The new class began to arrive around noon and it is part of our duties to bring them up to speed and prepare them as much as possible for the coming days. We saw ourselves in their eyes; many of them with no prior experience showing up to a place that is as strange to them as foreign shores. I remember well wondering who exactly I was addressing when I checked into King Hall for my first day at ODS. Now coming full circle I realize I was simply looking at myself, 4 weeks matured. The student becomes the teacher, such is the way of the Navy.
The new class is, as we were, excited, anxious and slowly gaining a camaraderie that will carry them through those first trying days. At the same time we, as a class, have shifted our focus away from this place, with the last big hurdle being graduation itself, most of our days are now filled with the details of the coming weeks as we transition into our first duty stations. We have learned what this place has to offer and so we pass on what we can and look to future days.
A quick recap of the past few days:
Last weekend we had liberty in town (essentially we got three days off due to the long weekend). Summer whites were the uniform of the day and made us stand out brightly against the backdrop of tourists. We were in essence part of the scenery, being stopped regularly to pose for pictures, constantly thanked for a service to country none of us felt like we had yet to earn. At one point someone confused us for a local cruise ship crew or members of the Coast Guard; In good spirit we corrected them on both accounts. We are proud to serve in this Navy of ours, for many of us that Khaki has rooted itself in our blood: We are Navy, wearing the colors of our service with pride.
Tuesday most of the class participated in a fire fight trainer. I was still recovering from having 3 teeth yanked out of my mouth so I was medically unsuitable. I honestly felt fine but better wiser men and women made those choices, so I spent the day wandering the P-ways of King Hall looking for things to do. Just an aside, boredom can set in at this place from time to time as your weeks progress. Bring reading material or at the very least something to do.
Wednesday, in groups of 20 we went through the Wet Trainer, AKA the USS Buttercup. The Buttercup is an indoor trainer of a small section of a ship that floats in a pool and “springs” various leaks, ultimately sinking the ship. Think titanic meets amusement park and you get the general gist of the exercise. A LOT OF FUN.
After 2 hours of introduction we met topside and got a brief overview of our team make ups. I wound up being the On Sight Leader (The officer in charge; making all the decision about how best to accomplish the tasks at hand) Not the most enjoyable task. I was constantly questioned by my superior (one of the staff member) and given a constant deluge of information by the other 19 officers with me. Whether I succeed or failed at the job was something I never quite understood because I was informed that “I fell down a ladder and died” thereby giving another shipmate the chance to lead. I was then moved to the I-Team (much like the A-Team but instead of kicking butt and taking names we patched holes in the floor of the ship – a noble task indeed – if not quite so glorious.)
Once our team was set into motion the deck hatch we needed to shore up was four feet underwater. By the time we finished shoring it, it was 6 feet underwater and 20 minutes later. I personally spent about 15 of those minute underwater as close to the deck as possible as my team mates handed wood (which floats) down to me and then stood on said pieces of wood as I positioned them. We finally did shore it up, but at that point the ship had fully sunk and we had all drowned or abandoned ship. Our instructors gave us a B+ for leasons learned and we left the trainer soaked, exhausted and ready to try again.
On Friday I took the Basic Officer Curriculum / Fleet Officer Curriculum (The BOC & FOC) the only written test we will take here. Passing is 70% and you take it until you pass (it is relatively easy if you pay attention during the briefs and I passed on the first attempt – in fact I think our entire class passed onthe first try)
On Tuesday we began our leadership briefs which will carry over into Monday, aside from that our class room time here is done and most of our time will be squaring away last minute details to detach from Officer Training Command and move on the next part of our careers, some to further training some to their ultimate duty stations.
I’m currently sitting in an internet café in jean, flip-flops and a t-shirt, enjoying a day of full liberty, meaning I have the day to do what I want as I see fit. Desert is back on the menu after 4 weeks of no sweets, including soda. Friday I had Tiramisu, which was the best Tiramisu I had ever had! And who knew that jean could be so comfortable, abet a bit larger then the last time I tried them on. I’m shrinking still, talk about high school skinny – join the navy!
As I write this I am reminded of yesterday morning, September 11th. Our class gathered around the flag pole for morning colors to render a salute to that symbol of the country we hold so dear. As the Ensign rose sharply in the brisk morning every eye focused straight head, every hand raised in a poised salute as the resounding anthem of our nation echoed across the silent day. The swell of pride, the recall of memories of that day clouded our minds and in each of us something caught in the back of our throats, some primal need to honor those fallen, to protect those left, to serve those yet to come charged us all emotionally. As the last note play all salutes dropped in unison, and for a moment no one moved. For an eternity we stopped, locked on to a day 9 years ago which shook a nation to it core, and as the moment passed we moved on, stronger, more resolute, determined in our course. We are United States Naval Officers.
Four days until we move on from this place, graduation looms on the horizon a beacon we aim for. The time here has been short, but dear to us all. I pray we take the training to heart, that it in turn leaves its mark on us preparing us for the days and years ahead. Much as a senior looks in anticipation of a life ahead full of dreams so do we. That Khaki is very much apart of who we are now; Citizens and servants of the greatest nation on earth.
In His Grips