USS MaHan’s 1st Deployment

Feb., 2000. We are ofF the coast of Scotland, cape wrath to be exact. It’s blowing snow about 15 knots, seas are 21-24 ft, and the ship is pitching 15+ degrees.

I am a young bm3 Plankowner on the USS Mahan DDG-72, who’s hovering over a trash can about to heave forth my breakfast… “flight Quarters, flight quarters!..” blares over the 1mc. “”This can’t be for real”, runs through my head as I make my way up to the flight deck directly above me and my trashcan.

We lower the lifelines around the flighT deck and as the Sh-60 makes its approach. As the LSE FOR THIS EVOLUTION, I guide her in. For what seams like an eternity, she hovers about 60 ft above the deck, the the ship pitches forward and the flight deck raises and the helo is about 20 ft above, still hovering. The pilot is looking ahead of us and is timing the the twin screws come out of the water, shaking the flight deck like a California quake. As the flight deck violently lowers down, the pilot brings the 60 down as well, and I send the chock and chain crew out to lock her down. We unload to gear and the pilot immediately gives me the signal to send my crew back out to unchock and unchain. I shake my head, “No”, as I haven’t received permission from the bridge to do so yet. He gives the signal again. Again, I shake, “No”. He gives the signal one final time, reading his lips, he tells me, “Right F*%king Now!!”. I send the crew back out and send him on his way. It’s just about this time I am beginning to get an earful from the bridge, “Where the hell is he going?!”. “We’ll, sir, he is leaving”, as if it wasn’t plainly obvious at this point. It’s right about this time that adrenaline is wearing off and real
Fear is setting in. “This pilot is stationed up here and does this all the time. If he was worried about hanging around too long, maybe I should also be worried.

We proceed to take 2 or 3 more helo loads of combat systems crap onboard, all the while I am sure I am going to die today. We thankfully secure from flight quarters. As we the crew is using the hooks to bring up the the aft most lifelines, the back of the ship dips and as well washes over the the starboard corner of the flight deck and I watch 3 of my shipmates flail like mad in 6 ft of water, the water recedes and they lie on the deck right where the water picked them uP. I can still see the looks on their faces 22 years later.

Fast forward about an hour. Myself and BM3 Wilkes get paged to the mess decks. I arrive to find my chief sitting at one of the tables. Chief wenn tells me to take a seat and proceeds to tell me that we are going to drop a RHIB Boat and make a run to shore…. “Are you serious, chief? Didn’t we almost die doing flight quarters an hour ago?”, I ask. Here comes Wilkes.”Guess what? We doing boat ops in this.. guess who’s going? Us””, I tell him.

About 20 minutes later Bm3 Wilkes, myself, and Qm1 Urry are standing on the boat deck in our mustang survival suites with a 9mm for “the sharks”. Just as the boat lifts out of the cradle, the sweetest sound I have ever heard blasts over the 1mc, “Cancel Boat ops”

Later that night I am standing boatswain’s Mate of the watch on the bridge and it dawns on me, it is almost the end of the month and we don’t have enough landings for the month to get our flight deck pay. I approach the captain in his chair and ask if I may speak. “Go ahead, Boats”, he says. “Sir, we just had the scariest flight quarters that we have ever done and it occurred to me that we don’t have enough landings to get our flight deck pay for the month.” He nods his head and says, “noted, Boats, Thanks”

Two days later, Flight quarters is called and we take on another SH-60 from one of the frigates in our squadron. She makes her approach, lands, lifts off the deck and proceeds to make several more touches to qualify us for our flight deck pay for the month. Flight deck pay that most certainly earned.

Moral of the story is, it never hurts to ask

- Don M.

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