At Sea - For many on the crew of the USS CURTS this was the first Fourth of July that was spent at sea to ensure the freedoms that were secured almost 236 years ago would continue to go undeterred for generations to come. The morning was greeted with rain showers that were unrelenting and audacious. Impervious to Mother Nature’s version of a fresh-water wash down. The Fire Controlman assembled on the foc’sle to inflate what would affectionately become known as “Naranja De Muerte” or “Killer Tomato”. As time progressed, and the task at hand was completed, the reverberations of the Boatswain pipe signaled the commencement of flight quarters to launch Red Stinger 107, An SH-60B Helicopter. As gunnery stations were manned and communication checks completed the roar of the Red Stinger resonated through the open waters. Red Deck. Amber Deck. Green deck, and away it went, awaiting its order of batteries release on the soon to be infamous “Naranja De Muerte”. While final preparations were made in the pilothouse and Combat Information Center, the crew assembled on the 02 level just forward of the flag bags. The smell of good old fashioned barbeque from the freshly minted smoker the 38 Special Chief’s Mess christened with brisket and ribs the night before, enticed our sense of smell and awakened our appetites for what was to come. Familiar smells thousands of miles away from home have a special and sometimes profound impact on the morale of a group of men deployed to foreign waters to conduct their nation’s business. The Commanding Officer, Commander Espinoza, took his place on the port bridge wing and where you could hear the excitement in his voice regarding the fine American tradition taking place just one deck below. “There is nothing like the smell of gun powder in the morning and smoked ribs in the afternoon” he declared. The hickory smoke found its way to every crevice and opened space on the ship. That smell coupled with the 38 Special fireworks show soon to come had an entire crew eager to see what it means to put “hot metal on target!”
The CURTS came about and was now in final position to engage the “Naranja De Muerte”. Round after round of 7.62mm from an M-240B machine gun mounted inside Red Stinger slashed through the open waters consistently engaging the target, all the while her flight commander LT. Gutierrez continued to maneuver to give his gunner the best possible shot.
Our Executive Officer, Commander Pezzato, who was also celebrating his birthday in conjunction with our great nation, took to the 1MC to give the crew another sensory opportunity detailing our engagement with “Naranja De Muerte” and the efficiency of the air crew. In CIC a green board was achieved using the Weapons Control Console via the MK92 radar. Two high explosive variable time (HE-VT) 76mm rounds were rapidly ejected for spot and eight more rounds followed for effect, somehow the target survived but soon it would meet rounds from all available crew served weapons. The Conning Officer, Chief Petty Officer Elliot, ordered a left full rudder to position the target off our starboard bow. The Tactical Actions Officer, LT. Long, ordered batteries release to our .50 caliber machine gun from the 03 level, M-240B from the O2 level, and the powerful 25mm chain gun on the main deck. Red tracer rounds illuminated the horizon, White smoke from the barrels of the weapons being employed enveloped the air and Blue waters kept the CURTS crew in good spirits as we enjoyed our version of an American tradition of live fire works. This time one didn’t have to look into the night’s sky but rather just down range. Towards the end of any fire works show the finale is where everything left goes and more often than not it is at the same time. In true CURTS fashion we did not disappoint. As the PHALANX CLOSE IN WEAPON SYSTEM (CIWS) acquired its track of the “Naranja De Muerte” anyone standing outside the safety rings would proclaim to see such a powerful machine constantly adjusting its 6 barrels up, down, side to side as the ship maneuvered into position was truly an intimidating sight to behold. In about a second 100 rounds were down range and the magnitude of the burst could be felt by anyone standing topside. Another 100 rounds quickly followed and before you could turn your head all rounds destroyed what was left of the “Naranja De Muerte”. All hands, from the bridge watch team to the operators and controllers in CIC, to the Gunners Mates and their unrelenting dedication to performing all required pre-fire checks ensured a fitting beginning to a memorable and subsequently the last celebration of our nations achievements onboard the CURTS through out its illustrious 29 year career.
As our Commanding Officer always says “we work hard and we play hard.” In true CURTS fashion we heeded the words of our Captain and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon participating in various events that were intended to give an avenue of relaxation and reflection of our achievements and our great nation’s accomplishments. Whether you decided to take advantage of a swim call in 86 degree water or admire an inspiring and touching version of our nations anthem by our very own SN Cranford followed by a deserving and fitting 21 gun salute. This Fourth of July we were brothers not only in arms, but also in tradition and great pride of the values that have been essential to our way of life, and our right to proclaim we are the greatest nation in the history of man. We carry our families and friends in our hearts and minds each and every day and we sacrifice a great deal to ensure they can enjoy the simple freedoms and truths sometimes taken for granted by others unfamiliar with the struggles military personnel and those who support them experience and overcome day in and day out. We come from many walks of life and we are united by dedication, devotion, duty to our nation, family, friends, and most importantly to each other. Especially in times of great stress and pressure. We succeed because of the love and support of those we continue to hold in our hearts and minds and the great camaraderie we continue to build amongst each other. What was accomplished today will always be ingrained in the hearts and souls of the crew of 38 Special. We continue the mission of being a “global force for good” whether it is in our home port or traveling our planet’s vast oceans countering transnational organized crime, counter piracy, disaster relief, or humanitarian efforts. We are proud to serve our families, each other, and our great nation. Happy Fourth of July CURTS!!!