USS San Diego
"Always Watchful"
 
1/22/2016
One Year Aboard
USS San Diego

Like many people, I tend to reflect at the end of the year. This year, however, I focused almost solely on my time aboard my new ship.

On Aug. 14, 2014, I received orders to detach from Submarine Learning Center (SLC) Detachment San Diego and report to the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22).

I was excited about my new orders for a number of reasons; I was able to stay in San Diego, a city I have grown to love; I was going back to sea to tell the Navy story; and I was doing it on a new class of ship that I had never been on before.

I was ordered to report to the San Diego no later than Dec. 15, 2014. As the date grew closer, a familiar feeling began to set in - the fear of the unknown. In my almost 15 years in the Navy I had been permanently stationed at five different commands, deployed or trained on six different ships, and been through too many schools and classes to count. I can honestly say that I had never been this apprehensive before I reported to any them.

I would be filling an independent duty billet aboard San Diego. This meant I’d be the only photojournalist and public affairs specialist aboard the ship. It wasn’t necessarily new to me; I had done it briefly in 2011 aboard USS Comstock (LSD 45) and at SLC for the last two years, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t nervous.

On Nov. 17, I parted ways with friends at the learning center and prepared to join my new command while it was on its maiden deployment. After a few weeks of leave and a short stay at the transient personnel unit in San Diego, my travel orders came through to fly to Djibouti on Jan. 6, 2015 to meet my new ship.

After three days of stop and go traveling, a group of my new shipmates and I touched down on the flight deck of USS San Diego in a pair of MV-22 Ospreys.

At this point, I wasn’t thinking about much except getting something to eat and a good night’s sleep; I’d deal with everything else in the morning.

During my first day of work aboard the ship I took care of the important stuff, I started learning my way around the ship, meeting the people in my division and my department, and getting settled into my office on the ship.

After a couple of weeks of getting to know the San Diego crew and becoming part of the team, a few things became very noticeable. The first thing was the “team first” attitude that everyone had.

 

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I really felt that I had been accepted into the crew and I noticed that the people who flew in with me seemed to feel the same way.

By this time, I was fully into doing my job aboard the ship, taking pictures and writing articles, my work was being noticed and appreciated. It wasn’t just me who was fitting in, either; the junior Sailors I had flown out with to their first ship were working hard and were being recognized for it.

By February, San Diego and its crew could see the finish line of the ship’s maiden deployment. The apprehension I had felt just a couple months before was completely gone.

We returned to our homeport of San Diego on Feb. 25, but the work wasn’t finished yet. We still had to complete our ammunition offload at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach in April and eventually transit to BAE Systems San Diego Shipyard for an extended maintenance period in May. Both would require long days and a continued team first attitude.

Before we left for Seal Beach the ship was recognized with its second straight Battle Effectiveness (Battle “E”) Award, highlighting all of the work it had done in 2014.

San Diego and her crew would continue to be recognized and rewarded for their hard work. During the shipyard maintenance period, I photographed multiple awards ceremonies recognizing individuals for their accomplishments and perseverance, as well as promotion and advancement ceremonies.

I would be lying if I said everyday on San Diego has been an adventure or even just a good day, however, I’ve had a lot more good days than bad days.

No job is perfect, but I’ve been impressed with this crew almost every day I’ve been on board. I’ve seen shipmates take care of each other, sacrifice for each other and lend each other a hand on a regular basis. They haven’t always been happy about working late, but they’ve done it because it’s their job.

Since I’ve checked on board I’ve had two commanding officers, two executive officers, two command master chiefs, two department heads, two division officers, two public affairs officers, a lot of chiefs and too many new shipmates to count. I feel that all of them have appreciated the work that I, and the rest of the crew, have done.

As my first year aboard this ship comes to a close I can truly say I’m happy I took these orders and I’m proud to be part of team San Diego. Surface Warfare Magazine

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