Monday, May 9, 2011

Be careful what you tell your people......

I was returning from my first 6-month deployment as a junior officer.  We stopped in Subic Bay, Philippines.  During our short stay, several new junior officers (JO) reported to the ship to get the experience of being underway with the ship prior to our return to homeport.

When we got underway I was given one of the newly reported JO's are my conning officer.  We took the watch as we transited through the archipelgo waters.  Soon after taking the watch, we were approaching a turn in our transit.  I took the conning officer aside and made sure he was good with what needed to be done.

As we approached the turn, our faithful quartermaster (enlisted who helps the Officer of the Deck navigate the ship) kept popping out of his chart room just on the aft part of the bridge like a cuckoo clock bird announcing the distance to the upcoming turn.  The Captain is in his chair quietly observing, taking in the sights.  His leg in a casts (another story) he isn't moving from his perch.

"500 yards to turn"

"400 yards to turn"

The conning officer is super glued into his position on the bridge.  He isn't budging.  I suggest he go out on the bridge wing and make sure we are good for the turn.

"100 yards to turn."

"Mark the turn!"

The conning officer begins the turn but he doesn't look to see if the turn if clear..........

I go out to the bridge wing and realize we are going to hit several small fishing boats if we continue......

I take the conn (for my non-navy readers, I tell the young Sailor actually turning the steering wheel to stop listening to the JO and listen to me).  And steer the ship around the fishing boats.

When the manuever is complete, I take my JO out to the bridge wing and explain what he did wrong.  I tell him never, never, never turn the ship without first confirming we are going to hit something but looking down the entire side of the ship.  I admit the communication of this information was not in a pleasant Mr. Roger's neighborhood voice.  We continued without incident.  He did as instructed from that point onward.

Fast forward several days.  We are not out in the middle of the vast Pacific ocean on the great circle route to Hawaii.  We are lucky enough to be on of the watch teams who will be able to make a course correction (1 degree course change to be exact).  AND I must add, we haven't seen another ship in at least three days.  There are no ships on the radar.

The turn approaches.  Our quartermaster is marking the turn in his usual fashion.  The Captain has come up to the bridge to observe the watch and is sitting in his chair.

"500 yards to turn."

"400 yards to turn."

My conning officer is once again glued to the bridge and hasn't moved.

"100 yards to turn."

"Mark the turn"

No order is issued from the conning officer.   I look to figure out what he is doing and why he has delayed the manuever. 

He is out on the bridge wing looking up and down our entire side.  Only then does he give the order to change the course of the ship by 1 degree. (not a very significant maneuver).

I hang my head.  Where did I go wrong?

The Commanding Officer chuckles and says, "Dave, what have we learned?"

"I should be more careful how I teach my junior officers on how to drive the ship."

"Exactly.  How long are you going to make him clear the side of the ship like that before you temper the lesson?"

"Once we pull out of Hawaii."

We chuckle.  But lessons are learned even when we are not the person in action.