VENTURA, California - Just as they do when they're cleaning a runway or the deck of an aircraft carrier, 120 crewmembers of a Navy ship visiting Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Port Hueneme, formed a Field of Debris (FOD) Line and scoured Ventura's Harbor Cove Beach for an Earth Day community relations event April 20.
Together with about 50 Sailors from NBVC, the crew hauled in a couple of hundred pounds of trash.
"We would have stayed longer and done more, but there was no more trash to pick up," Religious Programming Specialist 3rd Class Teresa Bomba said of the two-hour cleanup she helped organize.
The USS Pinckney (DDG-91) was in town undergoing systems testing at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division. Capt. Benjamin Nicholson said he wanted the crew to take part in a community relations event for Earth Day, so they joined in with the cleanup already being organized by NBVC's Religious Ministries Team in conjunction with the City of Ventura.
The city's volunteer coordinator had planned to have the Navy join the rest of the community in cleaning Surfers Knoll at Ventura Harbor, but when she found out how many volunteers the Navy was bringing, she reassigned them to their very own beach about a mile away.
"We really appreciate them coming out and giving back to a community they're only visiting," the coordinator, Rosie Ornelas, said of the Pinckney crew. "I'm so proud of our military."
The crewmembers arrived about 8 a.m. and formed a Field of Debris (FOD) Line at one end of the beach. They marched down the sand, picking up every little piece of garbage and wood they could find. Only dead animals - and there were several seagulls - were left behind.
They had some extra incentive: Nicholson had promised 96 hours of liberty to the three-person team whose garbage bag weighed the most at the end of the cleanup.
Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate Aircraft Handling Michael Panaccione walked backwards in the sand, calling the line forward. He quickly noticed the difference between leading a FOD Line on a flight deck and one on the beach.
"It definitely gave the calves a workout," he said afterwards. "But I love helping out and doing my part."
Once the crewmembers got to the end of the beach, they turned around and did it again.
"We use a FOD Line to find every little bit of stuff on an aircraft carrier that can fly up and damage an aircraft," Nicholson explained. "This is the same concept. We walked all the way down and all the way back and picked up quite a bit of trash."
Once they were done, Nicholson had his executive officer look through the bags to make sure they were filled with legitimate garbage - "I don't want any rocks or sand in there," he said - then held them up to determine which one weighed the most. He decided there was a three-way tie and gave nine Sailors 96 hours of liberty.
Among them were Gas Turbine System Technician Mechanical Fireman Maria Castro and Gas Turbine System Mechanical 3rd Class Katie Jenkins. They both planned to go home - Castro is from San Diego and Jenkins is from Riverside.
Bomba was pleased with the day's results.
"We had a great turnout, and it was a fun day," she said. "And it was beautiful weather for this."