14 October 2007

The Early, more happier years aboard a Ship.

I arrived at Tokyo Narita Japan Airport the late afternoon of 14 July 2004. Bright eyed and bushy tailed… well… more like, jet lagged and anxious… I found my way through customs and got to the arrival area to meet my new Chief and HM3. They greeted me at the gate and helped me get my baggage into the rental car and so began my wondrous journey in the Land of the Rising Sun.

I remember a feeling of wonder and awe the first time I saw my first ship. It looked almost majestic as it sat on Harbor Master Pier West at Fleet Activities Yokosuka. The Hull Number was 62 and the bridge wing had many unit awards and letters painted on it. A huge gold E stood out more than the rest. It was explained to me that my ships was one of the best in the Fleet… 5 time
Battle Efficiency Award Recipient and most senior on the water front. We pulled up next to the ship, and they helped me with my bags as I made my way aboard for the very first time.

I had never stepped foot on a Naval Ship before. Everything was new and exciting… it was a whole new world. We stepped into my office and I was introduced to what would be my world for the next three plus years. I was excited and amazed at my little Medical Department. It wasn’t much looking back at it… it was actually quite small and out of the ordinary. A medical table was in the middle; the kind you see in a doctors office. There was a small 2 bed inpatient ward off to the side, two small computer desks and a countertop. But I was so motivated and just happy to be somewhere new that it didn’t matter.

I was extremely compassionate and accommodating my first few months onboard. I would stop what I was doing to help someone if they asked… it didn’t matter what time of day or night it was… I was Corpsman on the Spot. Since I had to live onboard at the time, I was the most accessible. I would be woken up at 3:00AM for Tylenol because someone ha a little headache and I was fine with that. When my Chief and HM3’s found out, they were a little concerned. They warned me that if I kept being too accommodating, that I would be taken advantage of. And for the most part, they were right. My crew was using and abusing me because I was new and eager.

My motivation was actually pretty long-lived. I lived to work. I would come in an hour before the other corpsman would come onboard just to learn about my job, and to play with the Medical Database that we used to keep track of patients. And I would leave mid evening two or three hours after everyone else had left. I was determined to learn my job and excel at it. My determination would end up paying off later on in my tour… but with positives come negatives….

I watched as the HM3’s interacted with the crew. And I saw a lack of compassion and blasé attitude towards the job. I struggled to understand how any Hospital Corpsman could be so jaded and so uncompassionate. When confronted, they told me that after a while, every corpsman gets burned out with this job, and that one day, I too would be the way they were. I found it hard to believe; but I took there words for what they were.

I loved my new life and job. It was a refreshing change from the bureaucracy of a hospital; and I have never been more at peace than when I am out to sea. I would go topside every night to watch the sunset on the horizon. The water, which was always a deep shade of blue would be silver, calm, and smooth like glass as my ship silently cut through the waves, and the sky would look as if it were on fire. You have never really seen a sunset until you have seen one at sea. A lyric from a song that I would always hear came to mind… “A sailor’s life is a life for me…”

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