Thursday, April 23, 2009

I Am A GONZALEZ Sailor - Return Remix

It's not quite Friday yet, but it feels like it should be. GONZALEZ Sailors are in the midst of completing an Aviation Certification, Aviation Readiness Qualification, Fleet Synthetic Training, and an Engineering Team Trainer...all while wrapping up remaining items from our shipyard period before sea trials. As I watch some of my Sailors participate in two or even all three of these significant training events, I am easily reminded of how amazing Navy Sailors truly are.

So, I figured it was time to bring back our GONZALEZ recruiting video! The Sailor's Creed is an important aspect of many ceremonies onboard our ship and to honor the best crew in the Navy, we incorporated a GONZALEZ version of the Sailor's creed with pictures and video from our 2008 deployment. The full DV version looks much better, but this compressed version was suitable for publication on the blog. Hit play on the video below to check it out.

I am a GONZALEZ Sailor.
I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and
I will obey the orders of those appointed over me.
I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and
all who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world.
I proudly serve my country’s Navy combat team with Honor, Courage and Commitment.
I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all.

GONZALEZ Sailors Promote Motorcycle Safety

As Commanding Officer a Navy ship, I have the best job in the Navy, and with a crew like mine, I also have the easiest job onboard GONZALEZ. At the beginning of 2009, we published command goals for the year. My only direction was to set achievable and measurable goals. My XO and CMC then drafted a set of goals based around our command philosophy, vetted them through the crew, and then I had the easy job - I approved them. Under our category of "Do Our Best at Everything," we have a goal to 'Maintain Eligibility for all Safety and Health Awards." Not only did we win our third consecutive Fleet Health and Wellness Award - what we call the GREEN H - we also recently took a proactive approach toward motorcycle safety. All I asked was that we find a way to put out a positive motorcycle riding story and my motorcycle riders did the rest - again, I have the easy job. My Public Affairs Officer tells it best...only fitting too that I included a picture of our GREEN H winning Doc on his bike as well. - CO

---- Gonzalez Public Affairs (ENS Monika Hess)

(NORFOLK) —Motorcycle riders onboard the Norfolk based destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) decided it was time for a positive news story regarding the increase in motorcycle usage and the military. On 9 April, seven Gonzalez Sailors went on a command-sponsored, group motorcycle ride around the Hampton Roads beltway to promote motorcycle safety and to raise a little money for the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) at the same time. With a $10 buy-in, the Gonzalez riders added an additional $70 to the command’s total to NMCRS, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide emergency financial assistant to Sailors and Marines.

With recent and renewed Department of Defense-wide attention placed on motorcycle safety, proper protective equipment, and required motorcycle riding courses, Gonzalez riders joined together to show off the positive aspects of riding, build camaraderie and support the Navy’s motorcycle safety requirements. “This was a great opportunity for new bikers to get comfortable on their motorcycles with more experienced riders,” said Hospital Corpsman Chief Petty Officer Mike Ferretta. The riders met up at the Naval Exchange Service Station at the Norfolk Naval Base, completed a ride around the Hampton Roads beltway, and then met up with the rest of the command at the Norfolk Naval Station Bowling Alley for a command Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Bowling Tournament as part of a ship-wide celebration for completion of a successful Selective Restrictive Availability (SRA) period.

After a safety brief, the Gonzalez riders departed for their ride wearing proper riding jackets, reflective garments, and helmets. The road captain, Fire Controlman First Class Randy Sturgill, planned the route which looped around Hampton Roads through Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Pungo, and Chesapeake. “It was a great day for a ride. We rode for about two hours with several stops along the way,” said Information Technician Chief Petty Officer Brent Robinson. The group traveled on interstates, highways, two-lane roads, and winding country roads. Despite the different driving environments, the group maintained a staggered formation with a road captain, a tail, and two road guards.

Fire Controlman First Class David Belt, a seasoned motorcycle rider, was among the Gonzalez riders. Belt who had recently been in a motorcycle accident when another motorist pulled into his lane unexpectedly commented, “When you ride a motorcycle, you may get in accident at some point. The Basic Riding Course [the Navy’s required motorcycle safety course] gave me a foundation to safely get on the road and mitigate an injury. The Basic Riding Course is a great training tool.” Gonzalez anticipates more group rides to continue to promote awareness and safety.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Late Join to the Piracy Blogosphere

It has been an intriquing, interesting, and amazing week and a half for the United States Navy...and I mostly missed it all! My family and I took a week of leave (no internet, email, or television - only a cell phone in case of an emergency), and I returned to a inbox, blogosphere, internet and television full of anti-piracy successes, concerns, and questions. First of all (and I know it's a little late), congratulations from the men and women of GONZALEZ to CDR Frank Castellano, the crew of USS BAINBRIDGE (DDG 96), and the embarked SEALS on safely and professionally executing their mission tasking. Well done! As a former "Billy-B" Sailor on USS BAINBRIDGE (CGN 25), I was particularly proud to see a ship with such a strong heritage in the news. I was also a little amused at some of the initial commentary (well more than a week old now) which suggested that the current BAINBRIDGE was an "old nuclear cruiser." Reminded me of a day back in 1992 when I was touring the American History Museum in Washington DC and a young boy pointed to a model of the nuclear cruiser BAINBRIDGE in her original designation as DLGN-25 and said to his father, "Dad, look at the model of this really old ship!" BAINBRIDGE was indeed some 30 years old at the time, and having overhead the conversation, I couldn't help but point out that "she wasn't that old and that I happened to live right there (pointing to the model) on the O-2 level aft." I always thought it was funny that my first ship in the Navy was actually on display as a model in a Smithsonian museum while she was still in commission. Anyway...

Naturally, as Commanding Officer of a ship which has previously been involved in an actual exchange of fire with pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2006 (although I was not in command), my family and friends were interested in my thoughts and opinions on the Navy's role in countering piracy. For my GONZALEZ family and friends and other readers of our blog, you know by now that I have never considered our blog as the appropriate forum while I am in command for my personal commentary on Navy missions. I will offer something for consideration though to put into perspective the tenacity, resiliency, and professionalism of GONZALEZ husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters and all Navy shipmates.

Consider the angst of the average sports fan who grimaces each time his or her favorite athlete strikes out, misses a putt, drops a ball, fumbles, misses a free throw, or doesn't achieve a specific standard, particularly when the pressure is on and a national/international audience is watching. Many professional athletes get paid millions of dollars for what they do. Some of them have been playing their particular sports since the time they started walking. They train, practice, and rehearse the same basic fundamentals of pitching, catching, putting, throwing, kicking, passing, etc., over and over and over again. At the end of the day, athletes play games for the competition and our entertainment. Now, I am a sports fan myself, and of course have my favorite professional athletes and teams, but consider this....Navy Sailors don't get paid millions of dollars for what they do and the average Sailor has only been doing his or her job for a very short time, usually just a few years. Many of the missions we are assigned, we have never specifically trained for or at a minimum have only limited training. Sometimes we only get one or no rehearsals. The broad, generalities of our training don't necessarily cover detailed specifics like working with FBI negotiators or picking up parachuting SEAL Team members or working with SEAL snipers. And as the recent piracy coverage validated, we always have a significant national/international audience watching and commenting, particularly if it goes wrong. These are often complex and challenging missions and the pressure of having lives on the line is very real. But we do these missions, and we do them with style and professionalism. Everyday. Many of them we do so we can continue enjoy the freedoms we do in our great country, like sitting on the armchair to watch our favorite sporting events.

A very welcome home to the Captain and crew of the Maersk Alabama, but let us not forget, BAINBRIDGE and her crew are still on station, still executing the missions to which they are assigned.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

GONZALEZ Underway Again!

GONZALEZ finally got underway again this morning! It was only a short journey from the BAE shipyard back to the Norfolk Naval Base, but it nice to head back up the Elizabeth River and put downtown in the rear view mirror.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

GONZALEZ Sailors Attend the 2009 Blessing of the Fleets at the Navy Memorial

Yesterday, afternoon a group of the best Sailors in the Fleet made an early drive up from Norfolk, Virginia to our Nation 's capitol to participate in the 2009 Blessing of the Fleets Ceremony at the Navy Memorial. This year marked the 18th iteration of the event held annually in conjunction with the Washington DC Cherry Blossum Festival. GONZALEZ Sailors proudly manned the fountain ring as Sailors from the Washington DC Ceremonial Honor Guard charged the fountains with waters from the seven seas. Afterwards, we took an opportunity to pose with the Memorial's signature Lone Sailor statue and even managed to get a photo with 94-year old Ruthanna Weber, a World War II Veteran and former WAVE. Stars and Stripes put together a nice article on the ceremony and Ruthanna's visit. Although it was a very long day, weather in Washington DC could not have been better as evidenced by some of the largest crowds I
have ever seen in the city. In the end, GONZALEZ Sailors had a chance to show off Navy excellence, briefly tour the capitol and even make a few new friends. - Captain

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ship of War 101

Fighting Freddy's time in the shipyard is almost complete, and we will soon be ready to return to our home at the Norfolk Naval Base. While critical to maintaining our ship in top fighting form, maintenance availabilities also provide unique and challenging opportunities for both me as Commanding Officer and my Sailors. So one of the things we have done each week while we have been in the shipyard is to host a weekly Captain's Call every Friday just before lunch. Of course, my Sailors would probably tell you it was just a chance each week for me to work on my improv routine, but I found it was a great way to communicate both weekly successes and challenges before we put down Aloha Friday liberty call. With so many strategic events happening in the Navy (both on the operational and personnel sides of the Fleet), it has also proven to be an opportunity for me to address our schedule, future operations, training, upcoming events, and weekend safety. My favorite part of each weeks Captain's Call though has been the "Friday Follies."

Starting week one of the shipyard period, I used the Captain's Call to recognize top performers from each Department, but also point out things in which we didn't do so well - the point being to learn from our less than successes. After all the top performers and follies were recognized, I selected a single Sailor from the list of top performers to recognize with a command coin. That Sailor also received a large, framed piece of rusted deck. Rusted deck? Yep, rusted deck! The purpose of the framed piece of rusted deck was to remind everyone of our purpose for being in the shipyard - to take care of GONZALEZ. The winning Sailor then had to proudly display the framed rust in his or her workspace for the week.

At last week's Captain's Call, I also issued a completely different, but even more important reminder to my crew. I reminded them of the first line in our Command Philosophy: "GONZALEZ is a ship of war, designed to sail into harms way, dominate an enemy, and win our Nation’s wars." I reminded them that our shipyard period was coming to an end, we had friends and shipmates conducting important national security missions all around the globe, most recently highlighted by ships on station in the Pacific Rim and off the Horn of Africa, and that we needed to be ready if called. After many weeks in the shipyard, it just seemed like to right time to remind myself and my crew of our mission - Ship of War 101.