Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Cruise_Day 8

Great SWO Moments at Sea – With only 6 weeks left in command for me, GONZALEZ experienced one of those awesome Surface Warfare moments at sea which I will remember for a long time. All through the night, we stalked the BLUE force carrier and her escorts. Very early in the morning, two of the BLUE force escorts broke off to the north for a pre-dawn refueling at sea with the oiler in our operating area. After gaining sufficient sea room, the oiler and the two escorts turned south and connected to refuel. We then followed the carrier and her remaining escort at high speed on a reciprocal northerly course toward the refueling trio. The carrier then hauled out to starboard and we followed the one remaining BLUE force escort to the north. Just as the other two BLUE force ships broke away from the oiler, we suddenly became a BLUE force ship ourselves so that we could refuel with the remaining BLUE force escort we had been trailing. Just as we took the oiler down our starboard side, she put her rudder over right towards us. Now inside her turning circle and with the other BLUE force escort turning on the other side of the oiler to port to maneuver into station, my conning officer expertly swung around to port and then made an awesome full rudder turn back to starboard to bring us into station on the oiler’s starboard quarter with the other escort now on our port beam.

So if the excellent SWO shiphandling wasn’t enough, the as yet unnamed ship on the other side of the oiler taking fuel with us was none other than USS HUE CITY (CG 66). If you have followed the blog or know your Naval and Marine Corps history, you know Sergeant Freddy Gonzalez was the only Marine to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for gallantry and intrepidity at the Battle of Hue City – a great day at sea whenever DDG 66 gets to sail in company with CG 66. But wait there is more great SWO stuff! About 30 minutes into the refueling, the skies opened up on us and the heavens pelted all three ships with heavy, driving rain in 40 knots of wind. Both ships then very professionally executed emergency breakaways at the same time and hauled out to port and starboard respectfully and raced back to the carrier. Of course, photos rarely do the weather at sea true justice and there were no cameras on the bridgewing in the rain, but the included photo at least shows the approaching storm. The games continue….

Afternoon Update: The afternoon was filled with some more excellent shiphandling opportunities as the BLUE forces attempted to keep us from approaching their carrier. Naturally, we came prepared. We honed our warfighting and damage control skills further this afternoon with a General Quarters drill as well.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer Cruise_Day 7

Fun with Aircraft Carriers – Today was our first day to operate with the BLUE Forces carrier. As part of our tasking, our bridge watchstanders and new Sailors had an opportunity to observe a nice air show as we performed our Opposing Force duties very well – some nice shiphandling and tactical maneuvering by GONZALEZ Sailors! Only a couple of photos today as I spent most of my time on the bridge.

Before maneuvering into the BLUE Forces operations area we had time to conduct a re-enlistment of a Gunners Mate up in the gun mount and kicked off DITS for the week. DITS is short for Division in the Spotlight. Each week all aspects of a single Division are reviewed by various leaders throughout the ship. We review administrative programs, Sailors in the DITS Division take various level of knowledge exams, there is a personal and space inspection, and a host of other events. We even run no-notice damage control and medical emergency drills on the DITS Division to make sure they are keeping their fundamental skills sharp. - CO

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer Cruise_Day 6

Sunday at Sea – Whenever our operations allow we respect Sunday at Sea as a day of rest as much as possible. Sometimes our duties don’t allow, but nonetheless we always offer church services led by our Lay Leaders as GONZALEZ does not have a Navy Chaplain onboard. We also do not pipe reveille on Sunday morning which allows everyone (except the morning watch unfortunately) an opportunity to catch up on sleep. Following Sunday brunch the ship comes to life again and various training opportunities arise. We held some training on the mess decks this afternoon and then participated in a search and rescue training exercise by marking a downed aircraft site for the blue forces. In the afternoon I took the opportunity to talk with our embarked Midshipmen about leadership and naval history related to the Battle of Trafalgar. And for those who asked, yesterday’s flag hoist was simply an A-L-O-H-A to the CO of our target ship.

On a completely separate note, one of the events which takes place in the wardroom each year, usually unheralded throughout this ship, is the Wardroom Mess Treasurer election. The Wardroom Mess Treasurer is typically a new Ensign who is charged with computing the monthly mess bill for the officers and then collecting monthly payments. It’s a somewhat unexciting but necessary duty. Given the number of new Ensigns GONZALEZ has onboard, the competition is heating up. The photo at the right says it all.

Lastly, it seems as if tensions between blue forces and the OPFOR are increasing so I suspect our action will increase dramatically very soon! -CO

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Summer Cruise_Day 5

Let the Games Begin! After stalking our contact of interest overnight we proceeded to disrupt their operations this morning through a range of tactics, techniques and procedures – what otherwise might be known as good Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) fun. We then maneuvered in close to give our Midshipmen a chance to observe their flight operations and surprised them with our ability to rapidly man up our ship self defenses – very good SWO fun! Not content with simply carrying out our OPFOR duties though, we also ran a series of engineering training evolutions in preparation for our upcoming engineering certification, completed a complex combat and strike scenario, and conducted several other training events throughout the ship. As part of our fun disrupting the operations of our contact of interest our new Ensigns and Midshipmen practiced station keeping, maneuvering board drills, and flag hoist drills. We even managed to hoist up a three halyard personal signal for the Commanding Officer of our contact of interest.

As for the weather...it’s very hot out here in the operating area. Much hotter off our southern coast than it was in the Mediterranean last summer, but our engineers are keeping the ship’s a/c plants running in peak condition to keep everyone as cool as possible, and they’re doing a great job! After just a few days at sea, everyone is settling into our underway routine, and we continue to improve our operational prowess every day. GONZALEZ Sailors continue to prove they are the best crew in the Navy and our Midshipmen are right at home with their running mates in the wardroom and crew!

Qualifications of course continue in earnest as we qualified a new Officer of the Deck last evening and expect to qualify a couple more before we return to port. I’m also very ready to qualify some more Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialists and Surface Warfare Officers. Lastly, we held a special birthday meal this evening – steak, lobster tails, baked potatoes, and more. Another great day at sea! - CO

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Cruise_Day 4

Battle Preparations! We started this Friday morning with a no notice torpedo evasion drill, man overboard drill, and general quarters drill in preparation for our OPFOR role in our training exercise. I expect there will be many more no notice events over the course of our training time at sea. In the afternoon we conducted visit, board, search, and seizure training while fulfilling another target role – no reason to waste any training time! And now, we are stalking the other forces. Should be a good night of hunting. -CO

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer Cruise_Day 3

Refueling at Sea – We started the morning with some more basic damage control training which finished with an impromptu fire hose handling competition. In the afternoon we moved on to some combat training and then finally joined up with other naval air and surface forces to begin training together. Truth be told, we are playing an opposing force (or OPFOR) role and for our first event we were simply a “target.” Being the target though, got us a couple of great fly bys which we enjoyed. The big event of the day was an early evening refueling at sea. Refueling at sea or what we refer to as Underway Replenishment or UNREP for short, is one of the most fascinating and exciting things we do at sea. More than 25,000 tons of naval power sailing together on the same course and speed at a distance of 150-160 feet lateral separation for more than an hour to take on upwards of 100,000 gallons or more of fuel! Today we refueled from the oiler USNS LARAMIE (TAO 203). We refueled on the LARAMIE’s starboard side while USS DEWERT (FFG 45) refueled on the other. Five new Ensigns had the opportunity to conn the ship alongside and a deck seaman stood her first watch as Rig Captain – all in all, another great day of training at sea.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer Cruise_Day 2

Training, Training, Training, and Qualifications – As we sail out to the operations area where we will conduct training with other Navy ships, we have taken time today to focus on some individual training and qualifications. Probably the most important training which all hands focus on is Damage Control Training. In addition to being good Sailors and knowing our basic seamanship, all Navy Sailors have to be fire fighters, ready to combat damage at all times of the day or night. Perhaps a no-notice General Quarters drill later in the week? Today we did basic damage control training all day long for our newest Sailors. We also did or still have scheduled training for our Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure team, training for our tomahawk cruise missile operators and anti-submarine warriors, and engineering drills. We also worked on small arms qualifications today and gave our Midshipmen an opportunity to shoot. -CO

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Cruise Day 1 - Seamanship Training

Seamanship Training – When it comes to training, GONZALEZ Sailors know we do more Seamanship Training than anything else, and I have always been very proud and impressed every time we have been called to demonstrate our seamanship skills (see our linked articles on Sailboat rescues last winter). So along those lines, today was a typical first day back at sea for us. After our sea and anchor detail transit to the Virginia Capes operating area, we conducted shiphandling training, small boat operations, and practiced man overboard recoveries. Today was a great day to work on line handling skills, give my newest small boat coxswain a chance to practice her skills, and put my newly qualified search and rescue swimmer through his paces. Our embarked USNA Mids also had an opportunity to participate in small boat operations and observe various man overboard recovery maneuvers. Pictures? Of course... - CO


The sun shines on GONZALEZ as we are underway again conducting training in the Virginia Capes. For this underway, I am going to try and make a small blog post each day for our family and friends and highlight a few of our training evolutions. In addition to 8 new Ensigns and a whole host of new Sailors joining the ship in the last month, we also have 20 United States Naval Academy Midshipmen embarked. Should be a great underway! -CO

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all GONZALEZ Dads and Navy Dads everywhere! And congratulations to two GONZALEZ families who welcomed new Sailors to their families on Father's Day Weekend! It's great to be home and celebrate with family and friends this year, but I thought I would share a few photos and memories from last year's deployment when we celebrated Father's Day at sea in the Mediterranean. GONZALEZ had just left Souda Bay Crete a few days before and was enroute to Augusta Bay Sicily. In addition to our Sunday at sea routine, we held a special Father's Day celebration which included individualized gift bags for all the father's, music, a Steel Beach Picnic, video messages and songs from our families, and a flight deck movie. -CO

Friday, June 19, 2009

GONZALEZ Family Update

There have been so many events and changes onboard the ship lately that I have been remiss in updating the blog. In the past month we have had more than our share of re-enlistments, award ceremonies, frockings, promotions, retirement ceremonies, and even a change of Command Master Chief. Fair winds and following seas to CMDCM(SW) Keith Thomas and welcome aboard CMDCM(SW/AW) Diane Ruhl! Of course, being so behind in updating the blog, I'm going to take the easy route and just show of sampling of all our events! I hope you enjoy the photos. -CO

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Actor Tom Hanks Has Brush with Fame

On the 65th Anniversary of D-Day, I can't help but think one of the highlights of actor Tom Hanks' participation at the commemoration in France was getting to meet a Fighting Freddy Division Officer, Ensign Marcia Durrett. While temporarily assigned to USS PORTER (DDG 78) to work on her Officer of the Deck qualifications, Ensign Durrett participated in the D-Day commemoration with other PORTER Sailors and took advantage of the opportunity to give Mr. Hanks a brush with GONZALEZ fame.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Midway Day

This year the GONZALEZ Wardroom will again be dining together to commemorate the 67th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway. While deployed to 6th Fleet in 2008, DDG 66 paused in much larger fashion to commemorate the 66th Anniversary. Still some of my favorite photos... - CO