Most of the USS Carney crew tend to details of main mission support
October 11, 2015
ABOARD THE USS CARNEY IN THE ATLANTIC OCEAN —This 7,000-ton guided-missile destroyer can knock out a ballistic missile and defend itself from attack at the same time. Just don’t expect its industrial washers to safely clean decorative bunting.
That’s what Petty Officer 2nd Class Isaac Payne learned when he was handed several bags of red, white and blue decorations last month, all to be readied to hang on the ship’s rails before its arrival in Spain. The Carney’s industrial washers and dryers would have ruined the delicate fabric.
“It’s got to be hand-washed and scrubbed,” Payne said.
So it goes on one of the U.S. Navy’s most technically advanced warships, which will make its first missile patrol in November.
Loaded with political and strategic significance because of its Aegis ballistic-missile defense system, the Carney is home to a workforce that includes cooks and clothes washers in addition to engineers and boatswain’s mates. All play a role in keeping the ship at sea, its officers say.
“One thing we always tell sailors is there is no one job greater than any other job,” the Carney’s executive officer, Cmdr. Peter Halversen, said.
The Carney and its crew of about 300 officers and sailors arrived in Rota, Spain, on Sept. 25, one of four American guided-missile destroyers that will make regular ballistic-missile defense patrols in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
Only a few officers and sailors have any direct role in the missile-defense system; much of the crew works to keep the ship’s propulsion and life-support systems going. Many sailors juggle multiple roles, something common to the Navy’s smaller ships, which include frigates, destroyers and cruisers.
Payne is the ship’s barber on most mornings. In the afternoons, he helps wash clothes — about 350 pounds each day — and manages inventory for the ship’s store. He also suits up for regular damage-control drills.
The ship’s medical officer, Senior Chief Petty Officer Noel Martinez, acts as the local health inspector, checking the ship’s galley and the cleanliness of its water supply when not updating medical files or scheduling immunizations.
“Downtime? When I sleep,” Martinez said with a laugh, “usually at the end of the day. And that’s if we don’t have someone who’s ill or gets ill in the middle of the night.”
Petty Officer 2nd Class Branden Rabb maintains damage-control equipment like oxygen masks and radios from a small space below deck. He stands watch in the engine room and participates in several damage-control drills a week.
Engineers take special pride in their knowledge of a ship’s lower decks, bow to stern. Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Phillips, a gas turbine technician, said he can go for days without going topside. The ship’s mission depends on engineers’ ability to keep it moving, he said. “So as long as we keep the power going, the propulsion going, topside can do whatever they want,” he said.
Food, laundry and the ship’s store fall under the supply department. All are important, said Lt. Jessica Bronson, assistant supply officer.
“Morale is huge on a ship, whether it be just keeping the crew caffeinated to stay awake for the long watches. … Something as simple as having a soda really does mean a lot to the crewmember,” she said.
The challenge for officers and chiefs is to connect sailors with the mission and occasionally break up the monotony of weeks at sea, Command Master Chief Jon Lonsdale said.
“It’s important that every time we get a new check-in, we say, ‘Look, this is what the ship’s designed to do, this is our main mission. However, here’s how you fit into it,’ ” he said. “We always try to work that to them.”
There was little time for reflection and plenty of work to be done as the ship neared Rota. The exterior paint needed to be touched up, the bunting hung. Preparations would soon begin for the Carney’s first patrol.
Everyone was excited to see their new home, Bronson said. They were also ready for a break. “To be honest, by the end of the day most people are just going to find somewhere to crash,” he said. “They will eventually get out into Rota, but it will probably be in the next couple of days.”