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December 13, 2012 / iDriveWarships

Back to Sea: From Office Space to Engineering Space

EN2 HowesSURFPAC Sailor Volunteers for MCM IA
By EN2(SW) James Howes, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

This isn’t your normal blog post from an engineer complaining about how hot it gets in the pits, or how we’re the ones who are truly the first to arrive and the last to leave. Ten years ago when I was getting ready to march with my boot camp division from the drill hall after pass and review, we were all asked if we finally found out what NAVY stands for. Someone jokingly answered, “Never again volunteer yourself.” We all chuckled and forgot about it, but I later realized that within the Navy, some people actually stand by that statement.

About two months ago I was asked if I wanted to be one of the first to volunteer for an Individual Augmentee (IA) to a Mine Countermeasures (MCM) crew. I could have said, “No, I don’t want to go.” Because I just left a crew. Or I could’ve even used my two kids as a reason for staying. Don’t get me wrong, the thought may have crossed my mind for a moment. But then I thought about some of the guys I know from being on a ‘sweep who have been on deployment with no idea of when they’re coming back. Then it hit me—if I was in their position, I’d be one of the Sailors waiting for my crew to be relieved so I could fly home to be with my family.

I know the hours will be long and hard. I’ll be on a ship that makes a cruiser look like a big deck. I’ll step onto one of the only true wooden deck ships in the Navy. Yes, I said that correctly—wooden. As it is written on most of the ‘sweep fleet: 214 feet of fighting Douglas fir. They are definitely not for those that get sea sick, but they make you feel as though you’re in the days of sail, even if only for a moment. But after two years on shore duty, it will be nice to work within my rate again. Watch and duty days will return, and spot checks and inspections will become the norm again. 

I’ll miss my family. But I’m willing to give up some time with my family if I know it will give another Sailor a chance to have that time with his/her family. So I am gladly volunteering my time. I may be considered “old Navy” (and still young to some of the old Salts), but I was told when I came in that it went ship, shipmate, and then self. That’s how it should be and I hope, especially this holiday season, that it will.

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