Doing My Job – part 1

Doing my job – part 1
I was assigned to USS OKINAWA, a helicopter assault ship, to be the assistant CiC officer. The idea was to have an officer with experience in a surface ship (me) to balance the CIC Officer (my boss) who was an aviator doing his first tour on board a ship. In this particular case the CIC Officer had excellent control of surface ship operations, and I was a sort of fifth wheel. The next senior up the chain of command was the Operations Officer. He saw that there was not much for me to do, so he moved me into his own office as an administrative assistant. It was not an official billet, but it did provide some challenges.
A few months later, the Operations Officer was promoted to the job of Executive Officer, second in command of the ship. By then he knew me pretty well, and he transferred me to another unofficial job as administrative assistant for the entire ship. When the OKINAWA set off to the Far East and participation in the war in Vietnam the Captain directed that only three of the more experienced officers would be assigned as Officer of the Deck when underway in the war zone. I was one of the three.
This story took place during my watch when we were operating off the Vietnamese coast near Danang. Our embarked marines had been delivered ashore to carry out a sweep of a section of the territory inland. OKINAWA waited off shore along with 2 other ships that together carried an entire Marine Battalion and supporting forces. OKINAWA also had a fully equipped hospital and a special surgical team embarked to treat casualties evacuated from the field when necessary. While waiting, our own helicopter (assigned to the ship, and not the embarked marine transport squadron) made trips to the Danang airfield. The helicopter returned with mail for the entire 3 ship force. The other two ships closed in so that we could sort the mail and bring their mail to them. Our helo made the deliveries.
I was the Officer of the Deck. We were just about finished with this evolution when one of our tactical radios came alive.
“This is Medevac 1. I’m en route to you with a casualty. “
I picked up the handset for that circuit and responded. “Roger, let me know when you are feet wet”
That meant inform me when he passed the shore line and was over the water.
“I’m already feet wet.”
I looked toward the shore and saw the medical evacuation helicopter in the distance, obviously heading towards my ship.
The first order of business was to turn into the wind and leave a clear spot on the fantail for the helo to touch down. I took the handset for our task group tactical radio circuit and warned the other ships.
“I’m turning right to head into the wind. Get clear of me! Now!” The other two ships immediately began to speed up and turn away.
I ordered the helm put over and told my junior officer of the deck to make sure we made a safe turn without colliding with anyone.
Next order of business was to alert the surgical team. I did that with an internal sound powered telephone. The alert team was to go up to the after elevator and wait for the incoming injured man. At the same time, the on call surgeons prepared the operating room.
Once all those preparations were under way I notified the incoming helicopter pilot to land on spot 9 on the fantail. The flight deck crew put a signalman on the spot to help direct the pilot if necessary. Then I notified the captain that we had a casualty inbound. He responded that he would come to the bridge shortly.
When the Captain arrived, he asked “Where’s our inbound medevac?”
I answered that the helicopter was resting on deck on spot 9, aft. The wounded man had been debrided (all his ammunition, grenades, bullets, etc. had been taken and thrown into the sea) and he was already on the operating table.
Our own helicopter resumed transferring mail, and we returned to a normal routine.
It was just an example of knowing what needed to be done save a wounded marine, and doing it. I didn’t wait for the Captain to guide me through it. His only comment was “Very well”.

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