Deployment 5

February 28, 2017
By , Renton, WA

It was late afternoon at Apra Harbor, the tropical breeze stirred the palms in the evening sunlight. Master at Arms Second Class Adams walked along the pier taking in the scenery. Clad in his blue and grey Naval Working Uniform, or NWUs as the Navy called them, he wandered aimlessly. He had been at Naval Base Guam for about two weeks now. His ship, the U.S.S. Gridley, is moored at the pier awaiting some last minute additions to the crew to replace a couple unexpected injuries. Why they decided it was a good idea to try to move cargo that way we’ll never know. But a broken ankle, sprained wrist, and damaged back later, two replacements are on the way from the U.S.
Once the sun starts to set, Adams started sauntering back to the ship. 1830, almost time for his shift standing watch at the quarterdeck. He found the hulking grey mass of a ship right where he left it, Pier 2A. As the long-standing custom requires, he walked halfway up the gangplank, stopped, turned, then saluted the flag, then continues on up. Upon reaching the top, he steps onto the flight deck of the destroyer and salutes the petty officer standing behind the podium-like desk stationed at the quarterdeck, the only way on or off the ship. 1845, fifteen minutes early for his 1900 watch. He approaches the petty officer of the watch and salutes again.
“I’m here to relieve you”
the petty officer returns the salute “I stand relieved”
“Is there anything I need to know?”
“nah, it’s been quiet and nothing is planned”
The MA2 (Master-at-Arms Second Class) had the rather unexciting task of standing behind the desk at the quarterdeck waiting to document anyone that came aboard or went ashore. It’s 1900, the work day ended at 1600, people don’t have to report back aboard until 2355, nobody is coming or going, if they were gonna go ashore they’d already be there and they aren’t coming back for a while. The only thing to do is look off into the distance and watch the sun slowly disappear behind the horizon.
Adams pulled out his beaten, well-worn, leather wallet and from there he gingerly removed a slightly faded photograph. It was a picture of him and his girlfriend they had taken almost a year ago. She didn’t understand why he stayed in the Navy, why he couldn’t just find a job back home. He was gone often. Seven or so months out of the year, this time around, it has only been three weeks and they are already feeling the strain starting to come back. He hopes they can last until he comes home. It took roughly a week to sail from Naval Station Everett to Guam, and we’ve been here for two weeks. So unless they extend our deployment again, three weeks down, about twenty five or so to go.
Adams sets down the photo on the desk and opens his right breast pocket and out emerges a small black notepad and pen. He flips carefully to the back page and starts a new section. He scratches three tick marks into the paper and stares at it for a few seconds, they feel like years as he then moves to replace them in his shirt pocket. His gaze returns to the photo sitting crooked on the desk in front of him, she’s full of smiles and doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. It was during his two weeks off after his last deployment. He can’t help but miss those days.
He glances behind and to the right of him at the clock mounted on the hangar wall, the grey helicopter, rotors and tail folded as if curled up for an evening snooze, sat idly by. The time read 2140, his relief would be there any minute. He didn’t even realize how quickly time had gone by; he stood there like a ghost, an empty uniformed body consumed in reflection.
2145, here comes the relief. He salutes, then begins the same repetition, always the same procedure. There’s not much to do, nothing is going on aboard the ship, all the entertainment is on shore, but Adams doesn’t care, he just wants the day to be over.
Due to some exchange of personnel in the squadron, Adams was the senior MA onboard, therefore he got his own room, his office actually, but he had a bed and privacy. He stepped through the hatch and latched it behind him, sealing himself into his own little world almost.
He sits down on the bed, moves his hand down on his thigh to the familiar feeling of the cold steel of his service weapon, his M9. He hit the catch on the hard plastic holster and removes it from its place, then holds it in his hands as he leans over with his elbows on his knees. His eyes brush smoothly over the matte black metal; they see every detail right down to the little scratches from a scuffle he got into a while back. The sailor pressed on the small round button behind the trigger and the magazine began sliding out. It fell right into his hand and he left it next to him. Then he pulled back the slide on the weapon and caught the bullet that was chambered and reloaded it into the magazine. The weapon and ammo went into his desk drawer waiting for when they would be needed next. It had been a long, dull day. It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep laying there on his rack once he leaned back and his head hit the pillow.
0500, they haul in the lines and slip their mooring at Naval Base Guam, away slowly drifts the comforts of the exchange, base theater, the chow hall. Such is the nature of the job.
At 0600 Adams roused himself, noticing that he fell asleep in his uniform, he quickly changed into the plain navy blue coveralls that everyone has to wear when at sea. As is part of his daily routine, he cinches his belt, straps the holster onto the same spot on his leg where it always resides. The man then eases over to his desk and from the drawer emerges that familiar friend, tool, weapon. The magazine slides into the handle with ease and he racks the slide, chambering a round. Then he gingerly lets the hammer forward, careful to be gentle as to not discharge the pistol. It glides smoothly into the holster and from there, the day begins.
Go to the armory, inventory the weapons, all clean, none loaded, all ammo accounted for, everything securely in place, lock armory. Tour the ship, everything in order, chow, go to the galley, eat some hot lunch, put away the trays, tour the ship, all good as normal. Find a few pointless tasks to accomplish, done, chow. Food is consumed, walk about topside, aimlessly wander, sunset, go to office. Stow handgun, change into shorts and a t-shirt, sleep, repeat.
Then again, repeat… repeat… repeat.
Begin cycle, begin cycle, cycle again.
Days go by of the same thing again, and again, and again.
The monoughtony is only broken by a port call here, a port call there, a port call way the hell over there. Ports were just places where Adams had to worry about security, he was happy for the other sailors that went off and had fun. He liked seeing that shine in their eyes when they pulled into a new port and they got to go see sights unseen, food not yet tried.
He recognized that shine, it had been in his own eyes before. Except for when Adams pulled security on the ship he usually just kinda hung around on board. He didn’t wanna go into the cities, he had no reason to. He used to go aboard to borrow a phone, find a phone booth, anything. Then about two years ago he just bit the bullet and bought a satellite telephone, or satphone. It’s great, you can call anyone from anywhere. Adams can even call Taylor from sea. Usually at least once a week, he goes out on the bow and stands under the bridge and calls her. This week she didn’t pick up.
One begins to question many things when their calls get ducked for a week, has she met someone new? Are things over? Did I do the right thing staying with the Navy? There’s no real end to the torment. Just an internal mental struggle, hell. It’s getting late, the once blue sky has gone dark, sailors one by one return to the Gridley. MA2 has down time, again. All this means is his mind is occupied, with the ringing, endless ringing, the same electronic voice of the answering machine. Suddenly his thought process is interrupted. Ring ring, ring ring. Adams jumps for the phone.
“Hey, is everything alright? You haven’t been answering.”
Taylor cautiously replies, “Yeah, I’ve just been busy with work, and thinking about some things.”
Adams’s expression goes bleak. “Oh, what about?” he replies nervously.
“Ya know, things, you, the Navy, how long you’re gone.”
“That’s all you have to say? Oh? Okay then”
“Well I don’t know what to say to all that, I literally heard it 5 seconds ago and it’s exactly what I was afraid of.”
“Well fine then, if you wanna make the call about this, I’m gone. Bye”
“Really? You call for not even 2 minutes and you’re already gone after you say you’re thinking about leaving?”
“I said bye.” click
“Well that’s not how I wanted my call home to go” Adams muttered aloud. A few days went by, ring ring, ring ring. Finally they both got what they needed off their chests. Everything went back to normal for the next six months, the daily routine, the grind, over and over and over. Then everything slowly winds down, he sees a sight that he hasn’t in a long, long time. Pier 11, Naval Base Everett. Waiting in the crowd at the end of the gangway somewhere is Taylor.

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