USS Midway

By: Kevin

One of the most highly ranked attractions around San Diego, the USS Midway, also known as CVN-41, is one of the first slant-deck aircraft carriers in the US Navy. Since its decommissioning in 1992 it has been moored in the San Diego Bay. The ship offers daily tours to the public which are sure to give the visitor a glimpse into the life aboard an aircraft carrier. This floating city was home to around 4,500 personnel while underway. While we were not rushing through it, it still took us around 3.5 hours to complete the majority of the tour. We opted not to stand in line for the superstructure tour because Miss Kicky Feet is not tall enough to attend that portion of the tour, and there was a line waiting to get in that portion of the ship. The tour led us through the hanger deck, flight deck, mess deck, berthing spaces, engineering, laundry, portions of Officer Country, and the brig just to name a few. There were mannequins positioned around some of the spaces acting as crew members, and one moving & talking mannequin who explained part of the Midway story. The tour is self-paced and self-guided, however there is a free audio tour that is initiated in the different areas of the ship by tapping the loaned audio device on pads located around the ship. This method allows the visitor to visit compartments of the ship in any order they wish without disrupting the audio tour play list.

How much soup does it take to feed a floating city? These kettles may give you some idea of the scale on which food was prepared aboard the carrier.

This is part of Officer Country, specifically the berthing spaces for officers. Had this been an enlisted berthing compartment there would have been 3-4 racks in the same space as these two. While there are certain luxuries that are extended to officers, it doesn’t mean that the officers don’t take part in their fair share of work.

The senior officers’ mess or dining room. While enlisted typically ate off metal trays and drank from plastic or metal cups, officers had the luxury of real china plates and true glassware for their meals.

Sick Bay onboard. Comparing this with what I saw onboard an active vessel I recently toured, there are some things that really have not changed much since WW2. The stokes basket in the center of the picture could very easily be taken down and used today without anyone even questioning it, as ones like that are still in service today.

Miss Kicky Feet enjoyed playing with the “spinner” on the front of the bombs located under the wing of an aircraft on the flight deck. The “spinner” is actually part of the arming device on that type of bomb.

This is Bug in the TCC (I believe it stood for Tactical Combat Center) sitting in front of one of the radar stations. When underway this space would be secured by a Marine guard to ensure only authorized personnel were allowed access due to the sensitive information within. Notice the overhead lighting is shaded blue instead of white.

This is just one view of the massive panel of radios aboard the ship. While as a tech nerd I was in my element, there were a LOT of knobs and buttons, and keeping them all running properly would have been a daunting task.

This is topside on the flight deck. One can see a few of the planes on display on the far end of the ship, and the city skyline behind them. The day we visited it was sunny and warm, which is pretty typical for San Diego, but made the day all the more enjoyable. We sat and listened to a lecture by a volunteer which detailed the challenges of landing on a carrier at sea, including the unique challenges of landing at night.

The staff and volunteers aboard the ship are comprised in part by veterans who served aboard the Midway or other comparable vessels/aircraft. This added an extra element of expertise to their talks and explanations of how things worked aboard the ship.

If you are in the San Diego area, I would recommend making a visit to the USS Midway, and if you have active duty ID, your ticket is free.

Life in a Military Hospital

By: Kevin

medical-caduceus

After working in civilian hospitals for the past 5 years, I thought it would be interesting to note the differences as I start working in a Military Treatment Facility (MTF). There are many similarities between civilian hospitals and MTFs, like the fact that MTFs are accredited by The Joint Commission and other civilian accreditation organizations. They are, after all, a hospital at the core. That said, there are many differences between civilian hospitals and MTFs. This starts with the very fact that in addition to being a hospital, they are a military command. This means that there is a very specific and traceable chain of command at any level. You can very easily determine who you report to and who reports to you. There are also specific jobs assigned to people in key positions. That means if someone is responsible for a task, such as the unit schedule, the other department leadership will defer to that person instead of “making this change for them” and “letting them know”. This actually does help communication because there is one specific person for certain tasks and things don’t get lost in the shuffle between multiple managers.

One obvious aspect of a military command is the defined hierarchy and rank structure. I am currently an Ensign in the Navy, so I am a junior officer. That affords me certain rights as well as responsibilities as an Naval officer. One of these is the time-honored tradition of saluting. All enlisted members of the military salute officers of any rank. As an officer, I outrank around 90% of the Navy, even though I have not even completed my orientation yet. That also means the Command Master Chief, a seasoned veteran with around 20 years in the military, many more ribbons on his or her uniform, the senior enlisted person at the command, and his picture posted on the wall in various places around the MTF salutes me…a junior officer that has been in the military for a few weeks. This is the way the military operates, but makes me take a moment of pause, as in any other setting, (while I may not be saluting) I would be the one giving respect to the more experienced person. It reminds me what responsibility I have to live up to the respect my position as an officer holds within the military and society in general.

Another aspect of a military hospital versus civilian is that in the military, (with very few exceptions) no department is ever really “closed”. There is always someone on-call, on recall, or on duty that can be contacted if someone needs assistance from that department. That is a big difference from some civilian facilities that departments simply do not function for any reason between 5pm on Friday and 8am on Monday morning. I have tested this fact, and was pleased by the availability of the on-duty personnel.

 

I am also enjoying working at such a large facility. The MTF is big! Like really big. Here are a few statistics to help quantify how large of a facility at which I work.

STAFFING:

  • More than 250,000 are eligible for care
  • Nearly 100,000 beneficiaries enrolled
  • Staff is comprised of more than 6,500 military, civilian, contractor and volunteer personnel
  • Personnel proudly deploy to support US Military Hospital Kuwait, the I & III Marine Expeditionary Forces, numerous humanitarian missions afloat and ashore and as individual augmentees.
  • Personnel deploy to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Djibouti, and aboard the USNS Mercy
  • The staff has been recognized for excellence by such organizations as the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Athena International.

FACILITIES:

  • A 272-bed multi-specialty hospital and ambulatory complex
  • 1.2 million square feet located on 78.4 acres
  • 2 libraries
  • 18 operating rooms
  • Full Blood Bank collecting 15,000 units per year
  • 11 primary care clinics offering active duty and family care
  • 10 Dental Clinics caring for active duty
  • Helicopter Landing Pad for Medevacs
  • Medical and Surgical Simulation Center
  • Virtual Reality Lab for PTSD treatment
  • Recreational facilities on-site include: 2 gyms, 2 pools, volleyball and basketball courts and softball field

SERVING OUR NATION:

  • 24 Graduate Medical and Dental Programs, of which 97 percent of graduates become board certificated
  • Affiliated with 19 civilian nursing schools, training more than 400 students per year in their clinical rotations
  • Only DoD site for Prosthetic student training

AVERAGE DAY:

  • 6,500 prescriptions filled
  • 4,000 outpatient Medical/Dental visits
  • 1,000 immunizations distributed
  • 170 Emergency Department Visits
  • 150 pairs of glasses made
  • 50 Operating Room cases
  • 45 new patients admitted
  • 10 babies delivered

 

Note: All of the statistics and specific numbers were obtained from the hospital’s public website.

Officer Development School

By: Kevin

The past five weeks have been anything from ordinary in the Ready household. First off, we were once again a household divided. Heather and the kids remained behind while I traveled to Rhode Island to complete Officer Development School for the US Navy.

This five week course helps to prepare new Navy staff corps officers to meet the expectations of both the Navy and the American public. It involves classroom instruction, physical conditioning, technical training, and ethical & moral development. We lived, ate, and learned together as a group, which fostered both unit cohesiveness and personal accountability to each other. At first the time seemed to creep by, but by the end of the five weeks we all couldn’t believe we were already at the completion of the course. The culmination of the five weeks entailed a very professional graduation ceremony complete with a guest speaker. The graduation ceremony was especially enjoyable for me since my father, a retired Navy First Class Petty Officer, was able to attend the graduation in uniform and render the first salute from an enlisted sailor to a commissioned officer who has completed this training.

During these five weeks, Heather and the kids were having an adventure of their own. They spent some of the time in Daytona Beach, Florida, the location of my last travel nursing contract before my departure for training. They then traveled to Kentucky to visit the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, which boasts a 1:1 scale replica of Noah’s ark. They then headed North to Ohio for some quality time with Heather’s mom, sisters, and grandparents. After this visit, Heather and the kids, in addition to Heather’s mom and grandparents, all made the drive to Rhode Island to attend my graduation as well. Of course this drive would not have been complete without them driving straight into a Nor’easter snow storm which reduced their travel from freeway speeds to a crawl across ice and snow-covered roadways.

As I write this we are rolling down the interstate in transit from Rhode Island back to Florida, to once again reunite with the RV we have called home for the past three years. After some rearranging and a decent night of sleep, we will be pulling out, with the RV in tow, and heading west to face our new adventure as a military family. Stay tuned for further updates as we traverse the United States enroute to our new duty station.

navy blue to Navy Gold

RN to Ensign

by: Kevin

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Today was a big day for us. We joined the United States Navy! While this may sound like a complete change of course for us, it is really just an adjustment in the direction in which my career is going. I will still be serving as a nurse; however the next three years will be served at the naval hospital in sunny San Diego, CA.

Today a year of paperwork and preparation has come to a close. I have been working for some time now to lose weight and build stamina in an effort to meet the physical fitness requirements of the US Navy. As my current travel nursing assignment schedule is from 3pm-3am, this has entailed running (sometimes up to 3.1 miles) at 4am after returning home from work. I run during the day or in the evening on my days off as well, but sometimes you just need to take a 4am run to keep in shape. I have passed their physical fitness requirements.

I have also done TONS of paperwork over the past months including multiple interviews, background checks, degree audits, nursing license audits, and both peer and management reviews. I have passed all these requirements. I have received two thumbs up from the selection board as well as the Secretary of the Navy.

It has now come time to sign on the line and raise my right hand. Today, with my wife and children present, I completed the final steps of the process and have been commissioned as an Ensign, a US Navy Officer.

The next step is for me to attend a training program that will teach me the ‘Navy way’ of doing things and better prepare me to serve as a Navy officer. I have received many questions about this, and I can tell you, No…this is not boot camp, this is officer school.

Heather and I are very excited about what the near future will bring as I start active duty. We still plan to RV and explore, so fear not faithful followers. Our travels are not ending, but rather just beginning.

“Flying” trip to San Jose, CA

[Written by Kevin on May 25th, 2017]

Since October of 2016 I have been talking with a Navy officer recruiter about the possibility of joining the Navy Nurse Corps. I first learned about the program via Facebook on which a fellow travel nurse made the conversion to Navy nursing along the same path as I am currently pursuing. I have sent many emails back and forth, scanned and sent documentation and certifications to her, and filled out online questionnaires for security clearances. However, some things you just cannot do over long distances. I had come to that part of the process and needed to fly to California to complete the physical exam and processing as I prepare for entry to the US Navy. At this point, I have not yet shared my plans with the majority of my friends and family, so this trip would be covert in nature. I found a gap in my work schedule and booked the flights. The only people that knew that I was making the trip were my kids and my wife, and since my kids are elementary school aged, censoring electronic communications proved pretty easy.

I drove from my current assignment in San Angelo, TX to Dallas to reduce the cost of airfare, then flew direct to San Jose, CA. I spent the night in a hotel (courtesy of the federal government) and arrived at the processing center at an early 5:45am local time. I then spent the next 8 hours being examined, tested, and giving samples for analysis. After successful completion of the medical exam I ventured upstairs to complete the remaining paperwork which I needed to sign in-person. And then I was done! Everything had been completed, and was now just waiting on the selection board to approve or deny my application packet.

I returned to the hotel to waste a few hours in the lounge before heading back to the airport for the short flight from San Jose to Los Angeles, and then a longer overnight flight from Los Angeles to Dallas. Upon arriving in Dallas I retrieved the van and started back to San Angelo. From the time I left Dallas to the time I returned to Dallas, only 40 hours had elapsed, and I was tired! Along the way to San Angelo I stopped at a Waffle House for breakfast, where the staff commented on my very tired appearance and offered me a LARGE coffee instead of a standard mug. They exchanged small talk with me over my meal and gave me a 25% discount since I told them I was in California for military processing. I did not request this discount, nor did I show them any military ID, but I appreciated the gesture none the less.

I found it rather interesting that I took a trip to a city 1,500 miles away and only 2 other adults knew that I was making the trip. During the trip I sent and received text messages with family who assumed I was still in Texas, while in reality I was in a different state and time zone than they thought.

On a side note, I realized that I really enjoy flying. I love watching the scenery scrolling by underneath me. I like the thrill and thrust of take-off and landing. These are a few pictures I was able to take during my trip to California.

I also found this at the LAX airport. I found it surprising that in such a liberal area of the nation that even the water fountains were segregated ;-P

[In actuality, the bathrooms were on either side of the frame of the photo, but the positioning made me laugh]