Francisco Delgado recently sent us the next installment of his diary from the Nimitz. He also shared some photos from the voyage--click on the photos to enlarge.
It is Tuesday morning at 0600. "Set the low visibility watch section two." We were going through some straits when we hit a huge storm, and we had some pretty low visibility. They called the low-visibilty detail, and two of us headed to the front of the ship to serve as a lookout. It is our job to make sure that other ships in the area do not get too close to us or that we do not run into another ship. Since we were going through those straits, all of our fifty cals (caliber guns) were armed and ready for action. We also launched our helicopters to defend us from the top. Whenever we get too close to land like we did today, we have to prepare for an attack. I was standing next to two other guys who served as the ships shooters, and I would not want to be struck with one of their bullets. I asked them: "What if someone shoots at us?" They said, "Just duck for cover, and we will take care of the rest." As the storm intensified, I noticed more ships getting too close to ours. We had one that decided to turn left, right into our path. I called it out to the top... "This is starboard watch to the top, I see a large vessel ahead. Its exact location is 0100, and her distance is seven nautical miles. The vessel seems as if she is slowing down." They replied, "Copy that Starboard watch." The ship in our way increased speed and moved out of our way. "This is starboard watch to the top, large vessel has increased speed and is no longer a threat." Again, "Copy that starboard watch."
We do not want ships to get to close to us, and we learned this the hard way back in 2000 when the USS Cole was attacked. For the most part, the ships were friendly, and we could see people waving at us and cheering us on. It made me feel proud that, despite what the media says, people still have respect for our country. As the storm lifted, I could see a lot of tall buildings in the distance as we moved along the coast of Singapore. It was a sight to see.
After the storm cleared, I headed back to my work center. I was in the middle of telling everyone in my work center about the work that was completed the previous night and any work that I could not finish that needed to be done. Then at 0730, I hear: "Cleaning stations, cleaning stations, all hands man your cleaning stations. Smoking lamp is out." Every day at 0730 and at 2000 the entire crew is required to clean their work centers. We clean everything from dusting off pipes, cleaning our desks, sweeping, mopping, the list could go on forever. At 0815, "Cleaning stations, smoking lamp is lighted." Cleaning stations was now over.
At this point my mind was on sleep. My 12-hour shift is coming to a close. Or so I thought. I head down to the berthing to get ready to go to bed, and I noticed someone from my division that was still up. "Why are you still up?" He replied, "Because we have repair locker training at 1000." Repair locker training is fire-fighting training, and it keeps us up to date on how to fight fires. Training was over at 1100. I headed down to my berthing once again to get some shut eye..... "I forgot to finish a report!!!!!" I headed back up to my work center. This report is important because it contains all of the airplane parts that have been ordered, and San Diego is waiting for a response from us to see if we still need these parts. There is a problem with the download, and a majority of these documents are not appearing in our system. I head down to speak with the person that is in charge of downloading. An hour goes by and finally, the documents get downloaded. I head back up to my work center and attempt to finish the report. An hour passes, and the report is complete. It is now 1300. I have math class at 1530, but there is an earlier one at 1300. I figure that, if I go to that one, I can still squeeze in four hours of sleep before I have to be back at work. I head on over to the classroom only to find out that it has been moved to a different classroom on the opposite side of the ship. I do not have the energy to make it. I also know that if I go to my rack and sleep, I would not wake up for the 1530 class. I head back up to my workcenter and fall asleep in the back on a chair. I manage to fall asleep at 1400, and I get in a good hour and a half of sleep. Its 1530, time to head to class. At this point, I am in a bad mood, and I am also anxious since we are getting our grades for our test that we took last week. I know I was half asleep when I took it. I received my test back, and I scored an "A". I was relieved. Class ended at 1700, and I headed back up to my work center and back to the chair and slept for an hour and five minutes. At 1805, I was now five minutes late for my haircut appointment. I rushed up to the barbershop to see if I could still get my haircut. Fortunately for me, they had an opening. I finished getting my haircut, and it was now 1900, time to head to muster. I get a passdown of all of the work that needs to be accomplished for the night, and I head down to my berthing to shower. As I am heading to the shower, I glanced over at my rack and thought about sleeping. That thought would have to wait. I head back up and start my night of work. It's a rather slow night. I manage to find time to study for my air warfare pin. My board is on Thursday, and I have to know everything about aviation supply, how the flight deck works, the different weapon systems, how our air traffic control center works, how our flight operation center works, first-aid, and I need to know our aircraft inside and out. I have about hundred pages that I need to memorize before Thursday. 0700. It's time to do a turnover. I find out that we are going to be having fire drills all morning long and that I wouldn't be able to go to sleep until 1400.
0730 "Set the training environment,"is announced. From 0730 to 0815 we are at cleaning stations. Then we hear, "White smoke, white smoke, report of white smoke, hangar bay three. Class alpha fire is now engaged. We have reports of three casualties in hangar bay three, medical team on scene." This is followed by "This is the DCA we have reports of black smoke on the flight deck. All hands man your repair lockers." I rush to my repair locker, put on all of my fire-fighting equipment and stand by, waiting for the word. "Missle's inbound, brace for shock... Hit Alpha, Hit alpha. We have reports of multiple fires on the 03 level." Our team leader notices white smoke coming from one of the berthings on the 03 level. Hose team one is manned and ready. I am usually part of hose team one, but this time we let the new kids on the block fight the fire. Suddenly, we get word that there is another fire in a different berthing. Three of us rush to the scene, flake out the fire hose, and start fighting the fire. The berthing is dark and filled with white smoke. One of our fire fighters goes down with smoke inhalation. We get reports of casualties in the other berthing. We search for casualties in our berthing but it looks like everyone made it out okay. We continue to fight the fire, at the same time we are reporting to our central command the status of the fire: "We have a class alpha fire in 03-282-2-L". All three of us take turns manning the nozzle. As soon as I man the hose, my air cuts off. There seems to be a problem. The guy behind me relieves me; I drop to the floor and fix the problem. We get the fire under control and report "Class Alpha fire in male berthing has been contained." Then we hear "REFLASH, REFLASH!!!!" The fire comes back to life. All three of us continue to put out the fire. We finally put the fire out and back out of the space. It appears that another fire has started; all three of us were short on air. We cannot go back in. The locker leader sends in other people to take our spot. We take off all of our equipment; we are all drenched in sweat. Our faces are red. Of course, this was all only a drill. The drills went well, and once again, we proved that we are the best ship in the fleet. 1400 comes, and I can finally hit my rack for some sleep. It starts all over again at 1900. The crew looks forward to the weekend, even though we still have to work, our chain of command makes it a little more enjoyable. Friday is Pizza Night and Movie Night, and Saturday is Bingo night. Of course, the work on the ship never stops, because our enemy never stops thinking about how to destroy our freedoms...