By lex, on April 28th, 2004
I’ve got to work on some new titles
Two weeks and a bit aboard an Amphibious Helicopter Assault Ship. An LHA, for short.
Not a particularly attractive ship, I know. And coming from a carrier guy, that’s really saying something.
Our exercise was an interesting experience, which I’ll share more of tomorrow, I think. Some of that material will make for good musings.
Two weeks (and a bit) is just long enough to fall into the rhythm and tempo of shipboard life. For the first few hectic days, as you settle in with a new roommate (a Marine lieutenant colonel, in my case), you’re very much aware of being a visitor on board. Finally you fall into a that daily routine, with each day sufficiently like the last that there isn’t much to distinguish them – a continuous stream of now.
There are numerous small differences aboard an LHA, things that make you acutely aware of the fact that you are not aboard an aircraft carrier. The noise is the major thing – compared to a fixed wing carrier, it is very, very quiet. You may feel more than hear the sound of an H-46 turning on deck, waiting for take-off. AV-8B Harriers, VSTOL (very short take-off and landing) jets will launch from time to time, but no catapult joins its mechanical voice to the howl of the engine, and there is no resounding, body-shaking thump at the end of the take-off roll, when the catapult piston hits the water brake. The sound of the launch feels strangely incomplete, disorienting. Neither is there the shrieking sound of arresting gear being stretched out as a twenty ton fighter thumps aboard, no tailhook strikes the deck, no slithering sound of the arresting cable retracting, and settling above the fiddle-bow, swish, swish, swish, waiting patiently for the next arrival.
And then there is the movement of the ship herself – a carrier, if she moves at all, will gently pitch fore and aft as she plows her way through the uncaring sea. A helicopter carrier, with her shallow draft and top hamper, rolls nervously back and forth in even the most placid seas. A man walking down the passageway, or running on the treadmill, could feel a little clumsy. But it makes for great sleeping.
And as for that, the aircraft carrier never sleeps – there is always sound, Sailors padding the decks, the tie-down chain ghosts and tow bar poltergeists will scrape and thump the space above the rack you try to sleep in, until the suspicion grows upon you that there is some painted cross hair, just above your head, which indicates to initiates, “drop heavy loads here.” The mechanical noises of the ship, the wheeze of the ventilation systems and thumps of her hydraulics, leave you feeling as though you are a latter-day Jonah, trapped within some vast mechanical leviathan.
But after taps sounds aboard an LHA, the ship grows ghostly quiet, and the lights go dim. Walking the serpentine paths back to your stateroom, you almost grope in the darkness like Jody Foster in the murderer’s house in “The Silence of the Lambs,” blindly reaching with your hands.
Another strange thing is the tendency of the amphibious ship to be within continuous proximity to land – it seems nearly always in sight. A function of her mission of course, which is to deliver heavily armed Marines to their objective ashore. But in a carrier, the land mass is nearly always the enemy. You approach it at your peril, you send fighters to strike it from a distance.
And then there are the Marines themselves – but more on that tomorrow.
Much has transpired since last I darkened the blogosphere’s door. And I was left, again, a spectator, as in times past.
A hero died * in a far-away land . Like over a hundred others did. And those who were not fit to lace his boots (or cleats), were left to try to diminish his sacrifice , and that of all the others, by hurling envy-fueled deprecation against him for actually believing that there were things worth fighting for. Worth dying for. And it’s finally interesting to know that the Portland Indymedia, having been discovered mumping in their fever-swamps, have deleted all the references to the “Dumb Jock Gets Killed ” thread that so many more qualified have blogged upon.
“…let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” – Thomas Jefferson
Yes. Let them stand, if they can.
Najaf got hot . Fallujah got hotter **. Many and sundry waxed and waned about the right way to handle the problem. But it’s easy to have an opinion. Opinions are free.
But opinions matter little to the men in the arena:
“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 1910
We believed that once. Some of us still do.
So anyway, I’m home again. And the kids all said “hi,” and the Hobbit gave me hugs and kisses. And even if it wasn’t Ozzie and Harriet, it was pretty darned nice.
There’s much to be thankful for.
*06-30-18 – Link gone (went to front page of MSNBC) – referred to Pat Tillman – Ed.
** Link gone – 06-30-18 no replacement found – Ed.