Chapter 9: Settling into Masirah Anchorage

Chapter 9: Settling into Masirah Anchorage

The night before the ship anchored off Masirah, the XO made a challenge that worried him for two months. Each autumn, Navy commands conducted the “Combined Federal Campaign” fund drive. The Yosemite’s had been running for about a month.

The ship’s goal was to get 100 percent participation in giving to the fund and to give more than other commands. The XO thought he might influence both goals being met. So at Eight O’Clock Reports on the evening of Thursday, October 28, I put my foot in my mouth. I mildly chewed out the department heads, command master chief, etc. for not getting more crew members to donate. Then, I announced the executive officer would take the person who in ship’s company donated the most to the campaign out to dinner at our first liberty port. I followed that up by posting it as a note in the POD the morning before we reached our anchorage.

Almost immediately, I began to have doubts. I wondered what I would do if the crew member gave the most so he or she could bend my ear about how bad I or another officer was treating them. I was concerned a malcontent might do the same just to make one liberty night miserable for me. And I wasn’t looking forward to spending one of the few evenings I would have to relax ashore spent with a crew member I might not enjoy. But most of all, I worried I might have encouraged a

The night before the ship anchored off Masirah, the XO made a challenge that worried him for two months. Each autumn, Navy commands conducted the “Combined Federal Campaign” fund drive. The Yosemite’s had been running for about a month.

The ship’s goal was to get 100 percent participation in giving to the fund and to give more than other commands. The XO thought he might influence both goals being met. So at Eight O’Clock Reports on the evening of Thursday, October 28, I put my foot in my mouth. I mildly chewed out the department heads, command master chief, etc. for not getting more crew members to donate. Then, I announced the executive officer would take the person who in ship’s company donated the most to the campaign out to dinner at our first liberty port. I followed that up by posting it as a note in the POD the morning before we reached our anchorage.

Almost immediately, I began to have doubts. i wondered what I would do if the crew member gave the most so he or she could bend my ear about how bad I or another officer was treating them. I was concerned a malcontent might do the same just to make one liberty night miserable for me. And I wasn’t looking forward to spending one of the few evenings I would have to relax ashore spent with a crew member I might not enjoy. But most of all, I worried I might have encouraged a sailor to spend a lot more than they could afford just to have dinner with me.

The possibilities continued to bother me until the winner was announced at the conclusion of the CFC drive.

*    *     *

But as we went to anchorage, this executive officer had the problem overtaken by becoming busier than expected.

Once anchored, the world of Yosemite changed quickly. We were now at a place where we would remain for an undetermined amount of time. The operation of the air base  primarily was accomplished by British Royal Air Force personnel who were based there.We had received guidelines on what was expected of the ship by the Omani Air Force base on the island through government channels. Our Supply Officer, Commander Tim Allega had worked on the coordination for us. Most of the coordination on the Omani side was done by the British.

We were just off the coast of what was for all of us a strange land. We would find out more as crew members went ashore, but we tried to give the crew some ideas of what this strange land was like.

What we could and couldn’t do was pretty straightforward except for one item: trash. The word we received from shore was emphatic: there could be no trash floating up on the shore of Masirah. In  case you haven’t been on a ship, they do not get regular service from garbage and recycle trucks. Ships have to deal with it. For my entire time at sea, the way we dealt with it would give today’s environmentalists a heart attack. We dumped our trash over the fantail and watched it float away on our wake or sink. But Yosemite was not underway. We had a problem. The captain, department heads, and I put our heads together and came up with a plan. It was explained in the 01 November POD:

9. Trash/Garbage Procedures for Masirah Anchorage: While at the Masirah Anchorage, it is imperative that we take necessary steps to ensure all trash is bagged, sinkable, and dumped at optimum tide conditions. Accordingly, the following procedures will be applied.

The fantail is the only authorized trash dumping station. No coke cans or other items of trash are to be discarded over the side except as specified below.

All trash and garbage will be held on station until the authorized disposal time.

All trash will be compacted to the maximum extent possible and bagged in such a fashion as to prevent the load from coming apart before it sinks. (e.g.  coke cans or aerosol cans floating loose).

Take extraordinary steps to ensure no radio copy (classified or unclassified) or any classified material is mixed in with the trash.

Times for dumping trash will be published in the Plan of the Day. During the trash dumping period an EDF [Enlisted Dining Facility, i.e. the mess decks] will supervise at the fantail dumping station. He will make the determination as to whether or not a package is in compliance with the above procedures. In making this determination he is exercising a watch responsibility and will not be over ruled by a more senior petty officer. Any dispute over what is approved for dumping and what is not will be resolved by the quarterdeck OOD.

If it becomes necessary to send a boat to retrieve a package which did not sink, the offending division will provide the personnel to to ride the boat and fish out the mess.

Trash Dumping Hours for Today are:
0600-0700
1830-1930

We announced daily the times for dumping trash coinciding with the outgoing tides. We thought we had solved the problem.

This was just the beginning of the extra work we had due to our unique situation.

*     *     *

It was time for this executive officer to remember the admonishment Captain Roger Newman had given him when I departed the Okinawa for my change of duty to the Yosemite.

In my time at sea, one of the signs of a good ship handler was bringing his ship alongside a pier with no tugboats assisting. In today’s Navy, the increased size of the ships and the cost of repairing any damage if there was contact between the ship and pier has pretty much eliminated this maneuver without tugboats. In the case of tenders, their size and lack of maneuverability compared to destroyers and many amphibious ships in the early 1980’s, they nearly always used tugboats.

But we were in Masirah, at anchorage, not alongside a pier. There were no tugboats. For ships to come alongside and tie up for their maintenance periods the conning officers of the approaching ship had to demonstrate exceptional shiphandling capability.

The next day, the USS Fletcher (DD 992) was approaching our port side at 0900 and would not only test the seamanship of her conning officer but would also put me through one of the worst experiences of my tour.

As Fletcher made her approach,  our linehandlers were responsible for passing the  “messenger” lines (“ropes” to landlubbers) to the Fletcher linehandlers on their forecastle, amidships and on the stern. The Fletcher linehandlers would then tie the messengers to their mooring lines and our linehandlers would  pull the mooring lines back to Yosemite.  When the Fletcher moved into her mooring position (our rubber fenders were out over the side to buffer the ships from actual contact), the mooring lines would be secure.

Passing the messenger normally was done by two methods. One was heaving the lines by hand to the other ship. The other was using a shot line. A shot line was the messenger tied to a small

This was in an open sea  and bringing a ship alongside a ship at anchor required lines being passed as quickly as possible. The mooring lines were passed quickly on the forecastle, but the seas had separated the two sterns out from each other and the fantail linehandlers had not been  able to get their lines across. The captain began to become more forceful in his orders through his sound-powered phone talker to the fantail. George Sitton, the first lieutenant, spoke to me with some urgency. He essentially said the linehandlers aft couldn’t get the lines across and we should use the crane to pass the lines. i agreed. We suggested this to the captain. He did not agree and became more forceful in his commands to pass the lines aft.  As Georg and I became more belligerent in our recommendation, the lines were passed without the crane as the captain had ordered.

The lines were tightened and Fletcher was secured alongside. We secured from sea detail but before going below, the captain asked me to come to his cabin. i followed him and sat in the chair in front of his desk.

“XO,” he began, “Don’t you ever question my orders again in front of our crew or officers again! I cannot tolerate that kind of show of disrespect. If you disagree with a decision or order of mine, we can discuss in private, but never do that again.”

I not only knew he was correct in admonishing me, I was embarrassed I had forgotten that parting advice from Captain Newman: “You know when you become executive officer, your most important job is to support the captain,” he explained, “It doesn’t matter what you think about his decisions, if you don’t like his actions, or even if you don’t like him. Your job is to support him, to do anything to make him successful, to be his voice, his mirror reflection. That is your primary job.”

And I had forgotten. In my mind, I had committed a major blunder. It may have been done with good intention, but it was something an executive officer should never do.

I immediately responded to the captain, “Aye, aye, sir. i understand and apologize.” As I was leaving his cabin, I vowed I would never disagree with him in public again.

to spend a lot more than they could afford just to have dinner with me.

The possibilities continued to bother me until the winner was announced at the conclusion of the CFC drive.

*    *     *

But as we went to anchorage, this executive officer had the problem overtaken by becoming busier than expected.

Once anchored, the world of Yosemite changed quickly. We were now at a place where we would remain for an undetermined amount of time. The operation of the air base  primarily was accomplished by British Royal Air Force personnel who were based there.We had received guidelines on what was expected of the ship by the Omani Air Force base on the island through government channels. Our Supply Officer, Commander Tim Allega had worked on the coordination for us. Most of the coordination on the Omani side was done by the British.

We were just off the coast of what was for all of us a strange land. We would find out more as crew members went ashore, but we tried to give the crew some ideas of what this strange land was like.

What we could and couldn’t do was pretty straightforward except for one item: trash. The word we received from shore was emphatic: there could be no trash floating up on the shore of Masirah. In  case you haven’t been on a ship, they do not get regular service from garbage and recycle trucks. Ships have to deal with it. For my entire time at sea, the way we dealt with it would give today’s environmentalists a heart attack. We dumped our trash over the fantail and watched it float away on our wake or sink. But Yosemite was not underway. We had a problem. The captain, department heads, and I put our heads together and came up with a plan. It was explained in the 01 November POD:

9. Trash/Garbage Procedures for Masirah Anchorage: While at the Masirah Anchorage, it is imperative that we take necessary steps to ensure all trash is bagged, sinkable, and dumped at optimum tide conditions. Accordingly, the following procedures will be applied.

The fantail is the only authorized trash dumping station. No coke cans or other items of trash are to be discarded over the side except as specified below.

All trash and garbage will be held on station until the authorized disposal time.

All trash will be compacted to the maximum extent possible and bagged in such a fashion as to prevent the load from coming apart before it sinks. (e.g.  coke cans or aerosol cans floating loose).

Take extraordinary steps to ensure no radio copy (classified or unclassified) or any classified material is mixed in with the trash.

Times for dumping trash will be published in the Plan of the Day. During the trash dumping period an EDF [Enlisted Dining Facility, i.e. the mess decks] will supervise at the fantail dumping station. He will make the determination as to whether or not a package is in compliance with the above procedures. In making this determination he is exercising a watch responsibility and will not be over ruled by a more senior petty officer. Any dispute over what is approved for dumping and what is not will be resolved by the quarterdeck OOD.

If it becomes necessary to send a boat to retrieve a package which did not sink, the offending division will provide the personnel to to ride the boat and fish out the mess.

Trash Dumping Hours for Today are:
0600-0700
1830-1930

We announced daily the times for dumping trash coinciding with the outgoing tides. We thought we had solved the problem.

This was just the beginning of the extra work we had due to our unique situation.

*****

It was time for this executive officer to remember the admonishment Captain Roger Newman had given him when I departed the Okinawa for my change of duty to the Yosemite.

In my time at sea, one of the signs of a good ship handler was bringing his ship alongside a pier with no tugboats assisting. In today’s Navy, the increased size of the ships and the cost of repairing any damage if there was contact between the ship and pier has pretty much eliminated this maneuver without tugboats. In the case of tenders, their size and lack of maneuverability compared to destroyers and many amphibious ships in the early 1980’s, they nearly always used tugboats.

But we were in Masirah, at anchorage, not alongside a pier. There were no tugboats. For ships to come alongside and tie up for their maintenance periods the conning officers of the approaching ship had to demonstrate exceptional shiphandling capability.

The next day, the USS Fletcher (DD 992) was approaching our port side at 0900 and would not only test the seamanship of her conning officer but would also put me through one of the worst experiences of my tour.

As Fletcher made her approach,  our linehandlers were responsible for passing the  “messenger” lines (“ropes” to landlubbers) to the Fletcher linehandlers on their forecastle, amidships and on the stern. The Fletcher linehandlers would then tie the messengers to their mooring lines and our linehandlers would  pull the mooring lines back to Yosemite.  When the Fletcher moved into her mooring position (our rubber fenders were out over the side to buffer the ships from actual contact), the mooring lines would be secure.

Passing the messenger normally was done by two methods. One was heaving the lines by hand to the other ship. The other was using a shot line. A shot line was the messenger tied to a small

This was in an open sea  and bringing a ship alongside a ship at anchor required lines being passed as quickly as possible. The mooring lines were passed quickly on the forecastle, but the seas had separated the two sterns out from each other and the fantail linehandlers had not been  able to get their lines across. The captain began to become more forceful in his orders through his sound-powered phone talker to the fantail. George Sitton, the first lieutenant, spoke to me with some urgency. He essentially said the linehandlers aft couldn’t get the lines across and we should use the crane to pass the lines. i agreed. We suggested this to the captain. He did not agree and became more forceful in his commands to pass the lines aft.  As Georg and I became more belligerent in our recommendation, the lines were passed without the crane as the captain had ordered.

The lines were tightened and Fletcher was secured alongside. We secured from sea detail but before going below, the captain asked me to come to his cabin. i followed him and sat in the chair in front of his desk.

“XO,” he began, “Don’t you ever question my orders again in front of our crew or officers again! I cannot tolerate that kind of show of disrespect. If you disagree with a decision or order of mine, we can discuss in private, but never do that again.”

I not only knew he was correct in admonishing me, I was embarrassed I had forgotten the parting advice from Captain Roger Newman as I left Okinawa: “You know when you become executive officer, your most important job is to support the captain,” he explained, “It doesn’t matter what you think about his decisions, if you don’t like his actions, or even if you don’t like him. Your job is to support him, to do anything to make him successful, to be his voice, his mirror reflection. That is your primary job.”

And I had forgotten. I had made a major blunder in my mind. It may have been done with good intention, but it was something an executive officer should never do.

I immediately responded to the captain, “Aye, aye, sir. i understand and apologize.” As I was leaving his cabin, I vowed I would never disagree with him in public again.

And I turned my attention to how to run a ship with a crew of 800 men and 100 women while anchored off a strange land with no precedent from which to learn, and, oh yes, with a Spruance Class destroyer moored alongside, the first to receive our maintenance and repair services. It seemed like the deployment was becoming longer, not shorter.

 

 

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