My 1/C training was during the 0 phase of the summer, 10MAY to 25MAY. I was assigned to the USS Halyburton, an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate. The Halyburton was commissioned in 1984, and is nearing 30 years of age, passing its life expectancy of 20 years. The Halyburton’s homeport is Mayport Florida, which is located just east of Jacksonville. Mayport is a very interesting naval base due to its specialization in supporting frigates. My running mate was Ensign Legayada, who was the ASWO (anti-submarine warfare officer) and FPO (force protection officer).
There were 19 midshipmen on board during my time on the ship. There were 5 first class and 14 second class. 13 of the 19 were academy midshipmen. My running mate, Ensign Legayada, was given the task of running all the midshipmen events for the duration of the cruise. Because of this, I was delegated the responsibility of keeping track of all the midshipmen. I informed them of the POD, and took muster at all the events. I delegated group leaders to help accomplish my tasks, and compiled everyone’s contact information to keep the group informed and accounted for during times of liberty.
For the extent of my cruise, the Halyburton was working up to be qualified for its deployment in August. I was able to see three certifications take place: Force protection, maneuvering, and anti-submarine warfare certification. The first task I witnessed on the ship was the preparation, and execution of the force protection exercises. These exercises were crucial for the Halyburton to be certified to pull into foreign ports. I was lucky enough to have my running mate be the JO in charge of handling the event. In fact, 2 of the 3 certifications relied on the leadership abilities and actions of my running mate. With that being said, I knew immediately that I had the potential to learn a great deal of valuable information as long as I stayed involved with all the events that encompassed the certifications.
For the force protection exercises, I helped set up security zones outside the pier gates for our enlisted personnel to guard during the evolutions. A team from the naval training command came to play as actors to challenge the ships security. Throughout the day we had to respond to various bomb threats and threats involving suspicious people trying to enter our gates. I took part in operating radios and responding to various commands. During the day we had around 16 different trials from the time of 1300 to 0300 the next morning. The evaluators would wait until we became complacent and initiate tests to see how we would respond. During the day we had a floating object, a vehicle IED, and pier IED, a surveillance team, an alarm response, a suspicious package, an illegal aircraft, intrusion in the pier, a hostage situation, a swimmer with a bomb, a bomb threat, and a boat probe. Later in the night, the evolutions were the most fun but also the most stressful. The “swimmer in the water” is the most failed task for force protection certifications in the entire Navy, and we needed to pass it. ENS Legayada put me in charge of designating the midshipmen to various points around ship to help spot the swimmer. The swimmer could approach at any time after dark, and in the pier he is extremely hard to spot. I am proud to say that one of my midshipmen that I placed at a crucial spot in the pier spotted the swimmer, and accomplished the task for the ship. When I made my plan, I thought the swimmer could come up between the small space between the pier and the USS Klakring, our neighboring ship. I got to operate the peak beam light from the bridge wing to shine down on the swimmer, and together we accomplished the task. This event was great for proving to the ship that the midshipmen on board could be very helpful, and while some midshipmen were not as involved as others, we helped the ship legitimately qualify for a real certification. I was proud of that.
On 17MAY the USS Halyburton went underway to the Bahamas for anti-submarine warfare and maneuvering qualifications. The ship met up with an evaluator team near Nassau, which came on board to take a look at the ship’s rudders and engines. After we got the green light, we commenced in doing maneuvers such as “big bird” torpedo avoidance maneuvers, man overboard turns, and flank hard rudders. A “nixie” is a long cable that is dragged behind the ship much like fishing line and works to attract incoming torpedoes. The “big bird” maneuvers allow the ship to drag the nixie as well as pull hard rudders at flank to out maneuver a torpedo. A massive s-shaped wake was left behind the ship.
One of the days the Captain called all non-qualified JO’s to the pilothouse to get their PQS signed off for man overboard maneuvers. The exercise consisted of throwing a floating flare overboard as our pretend man, and demonstrating an Anderson or Williamson turn to get back to it. There were supposed to be about 6 officers total but many were late and it was just one Ensign and myself with the captain at the beginning. After the one Ensign conned the ship, the Captain was looking for another to begin the maneuver before the floating flare got too far away. I volunteered to the Captain to con the ship, and surprisingly, he let me. I remembered the commands of the officer before me and copied what he did. After I brought the ship about with an Anderson turn, I put the warship into the wind to slow us down faster after I ordered engines all stop. I think I got lucky, but I was able to put the ship within 10 yards of the flare.
The last real big event that happened on our underway was the discovery of a capsized vessel. One day one of the boatswain’s mates noticed a floating object through the big eyes on the bridge wing and we called the captain to the pilothouse because it looked suspicious. As we got closer we could clearly make out that it was a man-made vessel. After discussing with some of the officers on board, I learned that the body of water that we were in has a current that goes straight from Cuba to Florida, and that many people attempt to float to America via this route. After we pulled up alongside the craft, we flipped it with grappling hooks and discovered no bodies. The Captain suspected whoever was floating in it was capsized during the tropical depression that came through a couple days before. It was grim to see the situation in person, and it made me realize how vast and dangerous the ocean can be.
Reflecting on the leadership of my running mate, I had a unique opportunity to view many different aspects of the junior officer lifestyle. Ensign Legayada was the only pinned JO of all the running mates for the first class midshipmen, and had a deep experience in his division along with collateral duties. ENS Legayada is well known throughout the ship by officers and enlisted alike by his involvement in many jobs. Yes, SWO life is very difficult, my running mate maybe got 2-4 hours a sleep a day during underway, but I thought it was really great to see him go from job to job, sometimes changing his mindset completely to accomplish a task. For one watch rotation Legayada would be doing ASW tasks in the CIC, then the next watch he would be in the pilothouse as Officer of the Deck (OOD).
I spent most of my time following my running mate, but when times came when he needed to go off alone or take a break, I would return to the bridge and learn as much as I could from anyone that would teach me. What I learned from standing watch and learning PQS information is that there is no time to focus on only one thing. Good officers must multi-task, and learn their department. One man cannot do everything. The key to a successful ship is the enlisted sailor working with their officer as a team. If the enlisted are not the number 1 priority, it will be impossible to get the job done. Ensign Legayada displayed his hard work and care for his sailors every day. I noticed that college time management does not work in the Military. The Navy needs a job done, and it can’t delay. An officer cannot just wait with a CASREP until he is done with his PQS for example; he needs to be able to find a balance between the job and qualifications. This is a fundamental characteristic of a good officer.
I was able to witness a couple of ethical dilemmas during my cruise. The first was a series of two Captain’s Masts (administrative proceedings for minor offenses of military law) involving enlisted sailors and the second was a dilemma involving the OOD in the pilothouse. The first captain’s mast was a case of gun decking. One of the boatswain’s mates was in charge of cleaning the Baxter bolts aboard the ship and made the mistake of forgetting one that was hidden under a crate. The Baxter bolt subsequently seized after time and cost thousands of dollars to replace. The sailor was known for very good aptitude and was well liked by the whole crew. In that case the sailor’s charges were dropped and no consequences came. This is an example of how mistakes can happen to anyone, and that people deserve a second chance if they are willing to make a positive change. An officer must understand that no single person is perfect, and that the best kind of teamwork comes from challenging adversity with understanding, trusting others, and verifying the work to accomplish the task.
The second Captain’s Mast was a case of driving while intoxicated. Another enlisted sailor was pulled over with a BAC higher than the legal limit. This sort of case is well known all over the United States. What struck me most is that no matter how much we talk about DUI’s, people still get them. The sailor lost pay grade and had extension on his active duty time. This NJP had a very serious consequence and ultimately taught me that I as an officer need to take special care of the sailors under me, because everyone is capable of making a bad decision such as this sailor, and it is my responsibility that my sailors remain safe, and understand the risks.
For an ethical dilemma involving officers, I was standing the midwatch with my running mate who happened to be OOD during evolution, and we got into a tricky meeting situation with a cruise ship. The rule was that if the CPA (closest point of approach) to another ship on our track was within 5 nautical miles, we had to give a contact report to the captain. In this case, I was operating the Furuno, a long-range radar, and I was marking contacts for the OOD because nighttime navigation can be tricky. Towards the end of our watch I located a cruise ship near our track. My running mate brought the ship to a new bearing at our waypoint in order to turn the ship down a deep channel, but forgot to check the bearing of other ships in the area. The cruise ship that was only 4 miles away dropped its CPA to 0, which is essentially head on, constant bearing decreasing range. I called the OOD over and showed him that he accidentally moved the Halyburton right into the path of the cruise ship. Our ship was the give-way vessel and we were required to move, but the cruise ship moved away at the same time we did, and therefore initiated a collision course. We called the captain to the bridge later than we were supposed to in order to give a correct contact report. The captain ultimately chewed out the bridge team and navigated the ship away safely under his command. What I learned is that if there is an imminent problem facing the ship, your embarrassment or fear of being in trouble should not hinder your ability to call for help. If we would have admitted our flaws to the captain earlier on, we could have made the situation far less stressful.
I would like to conclude my report by stating that I had a blast on my cruise. I know that SWO training can be frustrating at times, but what I found was that SWO life was an environment I felt very comfortable in. I enjoy the personality of the job, and that SWO life takes a lot of common sense. I am the sort of person who can make a difference in the SWO community through my dedication to mission accomplishment, but most importantly my dedication to the well-being of my sailors. An officer with a good attitude will inspire greatness in his sailors around him. I would come to my ship with a strong work ethic, great attitude, and provide for my enlisted and senior officers the sort of JO who will be a dependable resource, and a strong leader for defending our nation.