The Kearsarge Bloggers Get Connected
Posted on 08.12.08 by Danny Glover @ 6:15 pm

It looks like the Navy finally got its online act together and secured Internet access for the bloggers it invited aboard the USS Kearsarge.

Thomas Crowe, who recently left the Navy’s chaplain candidate program and resigned his commission, is embedded on the ship and blogging at RedState. The humanitarian mission begins in earnest when the crew goes ashore in Nicaragua today. Visit RedState’s Operation Continuing Promise page at the link above to continue following this leg of the mission as it progresses.

The blogs War Is Boring and War & Health also are reporting from the Kearsarge and Nicaragua. Based on Chris Albon’s latest report at War & Health, I’d say the Navy isn’t waiting until after the mission to learn some lessons about new media. Good for them.

And the ship’s captain isn’t as concerned about disclosing the details of the Kearsarge’s protection as was the public affairs officer I asked about that issue. I wish I were in Nicaragua to do the live-blogging I wasn’t able to do the first two-plus days of Operation Continuing Promise. I’ll definitely be following the reports of the other bloggers onboard.

Filed under: Blogging
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Life On A Nuclear Sub
Posted on 08.12.08 by Danny Glover @ 2:30 pm

The Navy appears to be engaged in a serious public-relations push, as the bloggers aboard the USS Kearsarge aren’t the only ones reporting on life at sea.

J.J. Green, the national security correspondent for WTOP News was a passenger for a week on the nuclear submarine USS Miami. His stories, including photos and audio reports, are available at the WTOP blog Hidden Hunter.

It sounds like Green got a better deal than me. I had to pay $20 for three days of food when I left the Kearsarge, and his tab for a whole week was only $13.

But then again, he was underwater the whole time. The bloggers aboard the Kearsarge were able to get fresh air, such as it is 100 miles or so from the East Coast in summer, whenever we wanted.

Filed under: Blogging and Military
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The Sea Voyage Has Ended …
Posted on 08.08.08 by Danny Glover @ 1:32 pm

… so let the blogging begin. I’m sitting in Miami International Airport awaiting my return flight to the Washington, D.C., area. I spent the past two-plus days on the USS Kearsarge, a Navy ship headed on a humanitarian mission to Latin America.

I was one of a handful of bloggers on the ship as part of the Navy’s new media outreach. Let me just say they are definitely new at it — and not very good at it just yet. We were supposed to be able to blog from the ship; that never happened. Instead, I wrote blog entries in Microsoft Word during my stay.

I’ll be uploading and backdating the blog entries, as well as video and photographs, over the next few days. I wasn’t able to live-blog this voyage as I had hoped, so you won’t be able to read it as it happens, either.

To do that, go to the oldest entry in the Operation Continuing Promise category and work your way from bottom to top. I apologize in advance for the hassle, but I hope it will be worth your time.

Operation Continuing Promise certainly is worth the time of the Navy, Marines, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Public Health Service, nongovernmental organizations and foreign nations involved in the joint mission.

Filed under: Blogging and Military
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Time For A New Media ‘After Action’ Report
Posted on 08.08.08 by Danny Glover @ 1:15 pm

The Navy really doesn’t know what to do with us bloggers. Apparently we’re a bit nosier than the other people who come aboard. We ask questions that to us seem pretty basic but that apparently have never been asked.

Yesterday, for instance, I dared to ask, “I know this is a humanitarian mission, but is there ammunition aboard the Kearsarge?”

Admittedly, it was a stupid, poorly phrased question. (I can’t help it; I’m a journalist.) A Navy ship isn’t going to be at sea, or anywhere else, without ordnance. What I really wanted to know was what kind of ammo and weapons were onboard, what kind of protection the Kearsarge has even when it’s headed to the Third World to offer medical and engineering expertise.

My question was followed by a pause and a non-answer: “I can’t answer that question.” In other words, I wasn’t going to hear any more than a silent “yes.”

Then today, during our tour of the bridge, another blogger asked about a radio tower just outside the bridge. The answer he got: “It’s just a great big antenna.”

That’s when the communications guy giving us the tour admitted that he hasn’t been prepared for some of the questions he has been getting this week. And he’s cautious about giving answers because he knows it could end up all over the Internet.

I appreciated his honesty – and his hesitancy. I’m a journalist and blogger, and even I’m a bit reluctant to answer questions from my colleagues, especially now that I’m part of the imagined “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

But the Navy trains for everything else. Why weren’t Navy communicators better trained how to interact with bloggers before this life-at-sea outreach effort began? Why didn’t they ask some bloggers for advice on how to implement this new media plan?

Today, a couple of people, one in the Navy and one in the Air Force, reminded us that the U.S. military always assesses its missions and drafts “lessons learned.” The humanitarian work is new for the Navy, and Operation Continuing Promise is certain to generate reams of “after action” reports designed to make future missions run more smoothly.

The communications team needs to draft an after-action report of its own on the Navy’s first attempt at onboard blogger outreach. Kudos to the Navy for making new media a part of Operation Continuing Promise. It was a valiant effort. But there are definitely lessons to be learned, by both the Navy and the bloggers.

Filed under: Blogging and Military
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Three Square Meals A Day
Posted on 08.08.08 by Danny Glover @ 1:10 pm

That’s what the military promises, and that’s what it delivers. OK, the options are limited, but there’s plenty of food, and save for the occasional blandness, it doesn’t taste bad, either.

I haven’t felt deprived on this trip. You can get a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausage, grits and the like or dine lightly on fruit and cereal. Lunch options included the thickest cheeseburgers I’ve ever seen, pizza, and cheesesteak and fries. For dinner, the choices included fish, beef and other meats, as well as rice, mashed potatoes, vegetables and other sides. The officers’ mess includes a salad bar, too.

There is an array of beverage choices, including various fountain soft drinks, fruit juices, tea and coffee, that are available all day. And there are dessert options with every meal.

Our first night on board, we met the guy in charge of the ship store. He said he’s the most popular guy on the ship because he buys 11,000 pounds of chocolate goodies at a time. But Boston Maggie met the night chef a couple of days later, and he thinks he is the most popular. He never has to do his own laundry because sailors want to stay in his good graces.

Filed under: Blogging and Military
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Urinalysis Day
Posted on 08.07.08 by Danny Glover @ 6:41 pm

This wasn’t a good day to be on an unfamiliar ship if you drank a lot of liquids, as I did.

The crew “secured” for random drug-screening the heads that all of us bloggers had been using , and we didn’t know where to find the ones that were open to the public. It wasn’t for lack of looking, either. We were all over several floors of the ship, and I never saw one bathroom that wasn’t closed – and no wonder because we also saw the huge lines of sailors lined up for the screening.

Another blogger did find one alternative not far from our living space – but it was occupied every time I checked. I finally found an unoccupied stall about 3 p.m., seven hours after my last pit stop.

By that time, I had to go so bad that I was willing to volunteer for urinalysis duty. I almost got in line and said, “Just give me a cup and let me go already!”

Filed under: Blogging and Military
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The Blogger Who Missed The Boat
Posted on 08.07.08 by Danny Glover @ 6:01 pm

I won’t name names, but one of the bloggers who was supposed to be on the USS Kearsarge with us isn’t. He thought the ship was leaving this afternoon — until the ensign in charge of the bloggers awakened said blogger with the news that the ship was departing in two hours. What a bummer.

But he’s not alone. Some of the guys in the wardroom told us last night that a few sailors inevitably miss their deployments. In fact, those officers boarded the night before precisely to avoid getting caught in the typical mad rush to the ship.

So what happens when a sailor is late? From what we heard, he or she has three options: 1) Catch a boat or a flight to the nearest stop and beg for mercy; 2) report to the temporary processing unit and be counted as absent without leave until another opportunity to board is granted; or 3) remain AWOL without checking in at the TPU and eventually get arrested and possibly discharged.

I wonder if we’ll see our AWOL blogger pleading for mercy and entrance in a few days.

UPDATE: Word has it that the blogger is supposed to come aboard the Kearsarge in Miami via the same helicopter that three of us bloggers will be using the depart the ship the same day.

Filed under: Blogging and Military
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Oh To Be A Navy Officer
Posted on 08.07.08 by Danny Glover @ 5:45 pm

Navy officers have it much better than the enlisted men when out to sea, at least in terms of comfort.

I’m guessing their meals are similar, but the officers’ wardroom is well air-conditioned. The crew’s mess hall is steamy and smelly – and all we did was walk through it a few times while headed to other spots onboard. Eating a meal there would be most uncomfortable. I suspect the sailors burn some calories even as they consume them.

The wardroom lounge for officers is quite plush, too. It has a conference table with comfy chairs and couches gathered around a big-screen TV. The temperature in the room is downright chilly. I like it cold and could only stand 10 minutes in there yesterday morning. It was warmer by evening when I was writing but was still quite cool.

If I truly wanted to experience life at sea, as advertised for this trip, I’d ask for bed space in berthing with the enlisted men and chow time at their tables. Then again, if I wanted to enlist in the Navy, I would have done it when I was a teenager.

I actually did toy with the idea. Much to my Navy father’s chagrin, I invited a Navy recruiter to our house to talk about becoming an engineer on a nuclear submarine and serving a six-year stint. I had to take a test to join, though, and by the time I took it (and passed with flying colors), my interest in joining the military had faded.

Had I known then what I know now about enlisted life in the Navy, I might not have given that service a second thought. But knowing what I do now, I have even greater respect for the military’s rank-and-file. Their professional lives are much tougher than those of the officers, and they deserve greater admiration as a result.The good news is that they definitely have that admiration from their officers, many of whom moved into the officers’ corps after years of service as enlisted men.

Filed under: Blogging and Military
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Rougher Waters
Posted on 08.07.08 by Danny Glover @ 5:25 pm

This has been a good time for a trip at sea. Until today, I couldn’t feel any significant movement of this massive ship.

But the waters do seem to be getting a bit rougher as we near Miami, where myself and two other bloggers will leave the Kearsarge. The ship is swaying as I write this, and swaying and writing can leave you a bit motion sick.

The swaying gets worse as you move farther down into the ship. When we were visiting the chapel and the ship’s store today, we had to time our steps just perfectly — and quickly. Raising a foot at the wrong time or leaving it in the air too long can throw you off balance as the ship rocks.

I’m actually wondering whether I should go pop a Dramamine pill. I haven’t taken one since yesterday morning because the movement wasn’t noticeable and because yesterday’s pill left me sleepy much of the day. But I don’t want to wait until I get sick. It will be too late for Dramamine then.

I’m sure the swaying I’m feeling is nothing in comparison to what sailors typically face in a months-long tour of duty. One sailor told us yesterday about his experience in the North Atlantic. He was on deck when the bow of the ship was pushed underwater by a wave. He bid a hasty retreat to the ship’s interior.

The Navy chose to plan this humanitarian mission to Latin America during hurricane season precisely so the Kearsarge would be nearby if needed for disaster-related relief. But being in the Atlantic during hurricane season increases the odds of being in a hurricane while at sea. I’m glad to be leaving the ship before any hurricane threats arise.

Filed under: Blogging and Military
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It’s Like A 7-Eleven At Sea
Posted on 08.07.08 by Danny Glover @ 5:07 pm

Have you ever wondered where sailors get the necessities of life — and a few luxuries — while at sea? Wonder no more. They go to the ship store.

We stopped in today. It’s like a 7-Eleven combined with a Target. They have everything from socks and underwear to sweet and salty snacks, to movies and other goodies. I bought a Kearsarge baseball cap and t-shirt as a souvenir. (I was hoping they had souvenirs for the kids, but no luck there.)

The thing that made the biggest impression on me at the ship store, however, was a negative. The Navy must have a serious problem with theft. They strictly enforce a rule that limits customers in the store at any one time to six, and I was asked to leave my backpack at the front door. I did so only reluctantly because it’s full of expensive camera equipment – just the kind of thing some bad seed on the Kearsarge would like to steal.

Filed under: Blogging and Military
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