Whether one agrees or not with the current policy of sending US ships into harms way, one thing should never be questioned; is the respect for the men and women that stand aboard those ships. Let alone their families which they leave behind, sometimes in a communications “black out” condition.
Currently there are 4 destroyers along with other naval assets being moved into what can only be perceived as “harm’s way.” The destroyers are what delivers or, what one considers the “missile” contingency of the battle group. (please pardon my clumsy attempt at the correct terminology)
Personally, I have been aboard one of these vessels. In particular The USS McFaul (DDG-74). One can not fully understand nor, can I express through words, the humility as well as the respect that grasped me once the full understanding of just what is at stake, for both those on board, as well as those that have to face her once she’s “on the ready.”
Only until I walked on and below her decks did the overwhelming presence of seriousness and humility envelope me. Words just can’t describe what I felt aboard a vessel that’s only purpose is to make manifest to any and all before her, what her commissioned status signifies. i.e., Destroyer.
When that realization hit me, especially while I was actually below deck knowing her armament to carry it out was only inches out of my reach, all I can say is, I was left feeling humbled. I wish I had the words or phrases as to put it into a more complete picture. However, I just don’t. For me, only being there can one truly understand what I’m trying to convey.
It’s just something that once you comprehend the utter seriousness on why the vessel was built, commissioned, and then manned to carry out her reasons to be at sea, does something unexpectedly serious in nature grip you. At least that’s what it was with me.
Moving these ships along with the men and women that man her is something I personally am grateful for not having to make such calls. When they are made, regardless of who makes the call, the weight of the world is, and should, be on their shoulders.
I hope what ever the decision – is the correct one. Regardless whether I agree with it at the time or not.
On another note. I had the luxury of this experience when the US NAVY had a display in Boston Harbor a few years back. They bring ships in an atmosphere of “Meet The Fleet” type event.
One of the interesting things that happens aboard many of the ships, is the crew will set up some makeshift tables and sell souvenirs. They in turn use the proceeds to fund crew related activities that may not be covered under normal procurement.
On the McFaul they had a table of coffee cups used on the ship (all new). Some were blank while others were marked with special designation for certain crew members. i.e., Captain, First Officer, etc. There are very few of the designated type usually available. (They’re not only prized by civilians, but by the crew themselves.) However, I noticed one with the designation FCO. Personally I’m a huge coffee drinker and love these type of heavy porcelain mugs. So I thought maybe I should buy one.
So I picked it up and asked. “It says here Fire Chief Officer. Is that the person responsible for putting out fires on the ship?” The answer came back, “No. That’s the person in charge of launching the missiles aboard the ship.”
Before I looked to see how much I blurted out, “I’ll take this one please!”
At that point I cared less if it cost as much as a Buick®.
I wasn’t leaving without it!
© 2013 Mark St.Cyr