Monday, October 31, 2011

Guarding trash

This is the dumpster watch. For 3 hours on my duty day I stand in this booth and am the Trash King. My job is to make sure people throw trash in the right dumpsters. Cardboard has it's very own bin, and so does metal.
"Take that TV right back up to the ship because it can't go in any of these dumpsters. Turn it in at Shop 99 please, and quit giving me dirty looks." -MC Nobody Slaughter

Sent from my Samsung Epic™ 4G

Proud to know this guy

My friend and top contributor to the blog, MC3 Marty Carey, has returned safely from his deployment overseas.  He tells me he wasn't quite ready to come back, if you can believe it.  He must have some kind of weird love for scorpions....

I don't normally post on the comings and goings of my friends, simply because it's such a common occurrence.  The life of an active duty service member is filled with travel. So why am I taking the time to report on this guy?

Because he represents everything you and I should strive for.  It's that simple.

Every once in a while you run across a Sailor who's just meant to be in the Navy.  Marty's one of those guys.  He's been a force of nature since 'A' school.  His positive attitude and dedication to military journalism has been a beacon to many of us.

While your level of service isn't always recognized, I'm confident you will continue to serve your country in a capacity that is the example for everyone who follows in your footsteps.

 I will always be behind you, never stop leading.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Training video

We just hosted a team of maintenance trainers from Big Navy, and it was our job to shoot video of the visit. For almost an entire day, we recorded the teams at different stations throughout the ship. The final product will be a training video to be shown throughout the fleet.
The photo above is at the electrical team's station, where safety was a big part of the presentation.
Sent from my Samsung Epic™ 4G

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Seattle Shootoff

I'm at the first annual Seattle Shootoff, where pro photographers from all over are sharing their knowledge with eager students. It's also a competition, and our Nimitz group has already taken the top awards.

Here Andrew Geraci critiques my shots. He's a former MC and now works at the Washington Times. He's also a time lapse legend. He popped up in one of my earlier posts, when MC2 Logico named him as his source of inspiration.

It's pretty amazing to have the opportunity to be around people like him and the other artists. Thanks Navy!

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Video - Strike a pose

On the Nimitz, the MCs are split into three departments.  The photo department, print shop, and video.  MC3 Wray, MC3 Berumen, and I work in video.  Our base of operations is upstairs in the TV studio.  Next door is the control room where we run the tv channels on the ship.

One exception to this separation of jobs is studio photography.  Sailors, enlisted and officer, all need to have their photos taken from time to time for various reasons.  The crew member in this video needed a shot for his department's roster board.  This is basically a photo spread on a wall showing what senior members are working there.

Video just took this over, and because Berumen came to video from photo, she's the one who gets the jobs right now.  Wray and I have only worked video, but we will eventually be moved to other departments.  A good command rotates its MCs to ensure they are all well-rounded.

It'll be a sad day for me when I'm kicked out of the TV studio.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

She floats!

Tugboats push USS Nimitz from the dry dock to the pier.  U.S. Navy photo by MCSA Derek Volland.

I just watched a massive cavern fill with water, and now a massive aircraft carrier is floating away on that water.

That may not be the exact technical terminology, but it's all I could think when the dry dock flooded and Nimitz was maneuvered, pushed, and pulled over to the pier where we first arrived.  Yep, it's been almost a year already.

This was an all-day event for the MCs.  We deployed photo and video teams on docks, piers, barges, tugboats, stairways, and rooftops.  I arrived at my shooting location, smack dab in front of USS Nimitz at about 1000. 

Then I sat there for two hours when the flooding was delayed.

At roughly 1600 the ship was floating and free, being moved up the street to Pier Delta.  I had thrown a wireless microphone on one of the Nimitz line handlers and followed the action as he and others helped to steer the carrier out of the dry dock.

Keep an eye out for the footage in an upcoming Dry Dock episode!

USS Nimitz concludes shifting piers from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility’s Dry Dock 6 to Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton.   U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Nichelle N. Whitfield.

I'm going to try and get some stuff up showing MCs at work.  I know many of you enjoy learning about what our jobs entail.  It'll be a bit easier, now that I can have my camera phone at work.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hell in the Sky (part 3)

"Guys, just so you know, I may throw up."

Photos by MCSN Andy Jandik

Berumen's knee was bloody and swollen, and her attempts at bending her leg or putting weight on it resulted in severe pain. She wouldn't cry, but throwing up was not out of the question. All attempts to help her walk had failed. The steep terrain meant we couldn't keep her upright without losing our own balance.

Looking down at her, a thought crept up on me. The night before, a park ranger had told us about a rescue that had just occurred on Helens. A woman had become separated from her family in blizzard-like conditions, and was forced to spend the night up here, alone.

With no other options, Berumen began to butt scoot down the rocks. It was a brutally slow process, and a heavy fog was making it difficult to find the correct path back down. If we cleared the rocks at the wrong point at the treeline, we'd never find the trail back through the forest.

Berumen inches along while we figure out the best way down.

Chief Mike Jones went ahead to scout the way down, while the rest of us did what little we could to help our injured shipmate.

The rocks wouldn't end. 

Every ridge we cleared opened up to two more. Hours passed and the sun began to make its exit. The temperature was dropping fast.

Wind-blown ice formation on a trail marker.

Some good news came when, at Master Chief's direction, Jandik made a splint from one of the walking poles, using bandages from our first aid kit. When the terrain gave us brief respite, Berumen could walk a bit with our support.

Despite the situation, morale was good. Our team was strong, and Berumen's determination was nothing short of inspiring.  Then the fog cleared.

A trail marker can be seen to the right.

The beauty of what we saw was stunning. And it made our hearts sink. We had so far to go to the treeline.


It was about 5:30pm when I looked up to see Master Chief McMillan standing on top of a nearby ridge. He was trying to radio for help, with no luck on any channel.

We were making tactical decisions, steering Berumen around hundreds of rocks. Master Chief was thinking strategically. The big picture was...there was a good chance we wouldn't make it to the trees before the sun set.

Shouting across the rocks, Master Chief coordinated his contingency plan. Chief Jones and Petty Officer Thomas Siniff would get down to camp, grab two tents, and haul ass back up. He then asked for volunteers to stay with Berumen overnight, while the rest of the team went for help.

Berumen clearly did not like the idea of staying on the volcano overnight. For the first time since her fall, she was about to cry.

"Don't worry about it Ashley, let's get to those trees."

Master Chief assesses the situation, and takes steps to keep his Sailors safe.

We kept moving.  Berumen was covered in mud, and her arms burned from the exertion of sliding herself along.

"My butt's getting really beat up by these rocks!"
"Yeah but how many people can say they scooted down Helens?"

At 6:30pm, we were closing in on the trees. Up at the treeline, Master Chief was radioing me:

Master Chief: "Chief has to verify this is the right trail."
me: "It's not the right trail?" ....
Master Chief: "We're good to go, head towards me."
me: "Thank God. Let's get off these damn rocks."

Petty Officer Ashley Berumen, frozen hair and all.
I can't describe how good it felt to put my hand on a tree again. We joked that now Berumen had hundreds of friends to lean on while she hobbled along.

But we weren't in the clear. Sunset was on top of us.

Trees that had shielded us from rain that morning now blocked the sunlight. The trail rose and fell. Roots snaked across the path, threatening to take Berumen off her feet. It was obvious she was running out of steam. The temporary adrenaline rush of getting off the rocks was fading as fast as the light.

The forest was silent, an occasional bird call floated above.

With Chief and Siniff waiting at camp, Master Chief took over supporting Berumen. Timberlake and I went ahead, to get warm clothes in preparation for Berumen's arrival.

Thirty minutes later, I began to worry. Timberlake and I were moving fast, but still hadn't reached camp.

"I don't remember this trail being so long.
If it's taking us this long, how much worse will it be for Berumen?"

Finally, we rounded a corner and saw the parking lot. The journey was over for four of us. Timberlake went to change into dry clothes. I kept thinking about Jandik, Master Chief, and Berumen struggling along in the dark, with two flashlights to lead the way.

So I did the only thing I could think of to help them. I pulled my Jeep up to the trail head, rolled the windows down, and turned the radio up as loud as it would go. Standing in the rain, I watched the trees as the music penetrated the darkness.

Seaman Andy Jandik, who had the wits to keep taking pictures.

Thirty minutes passed, and they didn't appear. Chief told me to stay out of the woods.  Adding more people to a dark, narrow path was too risky.  Finally, on the radio:

Master Chief: "We can hear music."

At 8:30pm, after 12 hours on Mount St. Helens, Berumen emerged safely from the most harrowing experience of her life.  We met her with cheers to wake a volcano.

You may be safe in front of that TV, but are you making these kinds of memories? 
Chief Mike Jones.
Chief made it look easy.

MC3 Thomas Siniff.

Siniff, first guy to climb Helens in the snow while wearing jeans.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hell in the Sky (part 2)

No turning back now.


Photos by MCSN Andy Jandik

The last leg of our journey up Mount Saint Helens began at 6500', and several members of the party were already showing signs of exhaustion. Our column was struggling to stay together, as climbers fell more and more behind. Jandik and I were in the rear, trying to give encouragement, while Master Chief Jon McMillan, the senior member, took the lead.

An hour later, at 7300', we were within an hour from the summit. The team regrouped and assessed everyone's condition. Timberlake was in bad shape. Her feet were made of lead, and she was running on pure determination. Helens gave us no respite. Her cold took hold of us within minutes, and we had to keep moving.

The final hour was straight out of a bad dream.

Everything simplified. Thoughts. Movements. Reactions. Step. Step. Step. Step. Rest for 10 seconds. Step. Step. Step. Step. Rest for 10 seconds. Timberlake and I were alone, the group had disappeared into the clouds above us. Whenever she paused in her step/stop rhythm, I tried to say the words to help give her strength to take more steps.

Timberlake takes it one step at a time.

"This is gonna be a huge personal victory.  Every step is one closer."

Then I got a call on my two-way radio.

"Slaughter, Master Chief."
"Go for Slaughter."
"Slaughter, we're below summit. What's your status?"
"Timberlake and I will be there in 20 minutes."

Suddenly the sun broke through the clouds. A blue sky appeared and I could see our group huddled together above use. THEY'RE SO CLOSE.

"Timberlake, look! We can see our shadows! Can you feel the warmth?"

"Yeah, that's really sweet."

What the sun had revealed to me was our team, standing 50' below the summit. What I couldn't know was what they were talking about. The conditions would change drastically in the next few minutes, and it would affect everyone...

Master Chief maps out serious danger at the summit.

At 2pm, at an elevation of over 8300', Timberlake and I were steps away from the other team members. I brought my Sony A1U up and began filming in anticipation of the victory.

Two things happened then. The most brutal wind I've ever felt slammed into me. Unbelievable, 50mph blasts of frigid air stabbed into every part of my body. And that's when I heard the shouts.

Jandik: "Turn around Slaughter!"
me: "What?! No way man, I've got to film the damn summit!"
Jandik: "Seriously turn the f-k around!"
I was within 20 feet of the literal summit, and my team was blocking my way up. I wanted a shot of the crater, even though I knew the visibility was too poor to see down that far.

What I didn't know was one member had just been lifted up by the gusts and almost blown down into that crater. The drop off behind Master Chief is the drop to the crater, thousands of feet below. The lines he was drawing showed where new snowfall had created a soft, deadly trap. Several feet further and anyone could have plunged to their deaths when the snow gave out.

me: "Get the hell out of the way so I can get my shot!"
Master Chief: "Slaughter, we need to get out of here, now."
me: "Roger, moving."

Attempting to shield the A1U from wind and snow.

We had been climbing for 6 hours, in some of worst conditions possible. Our group turned around and began to slowly walk back down from hell in the sky. I felt great to have made it up, even if my final shot was filled with people yelling at me.

Timberlake was now in the lead with me close behind. We had taken about 10 steps when I realized how bad our situation was.

The wind was freezing my eyelashes, making it hard to keep my eyes open. 

Ahead of me I saw Timberlake stop, wobble, and start to fall backwards. She had nothing left. To the left and right of us the volcano sloped down, and to fall to either side would mean a quick trip to the bottom.

Frozen eyelashes, frozen water tube.

I lurched forward, grabbing her jacket.

"Are you ok?!"
[barely audible] "Yeah I'm good."
80% of accidents on Mount St. Helens happen on the way down. This is because folks spend everything getting up, with no reserves to get back. Timberlake and several others had given their all, and now alarm bells were going off in my head. What the hell have we done? Was this worth it?

This continued for about an hour. We reached the lava flow and rested for a couple of minutes. The team began to feel a little better, but we were still pretty frozen. The magnitude of what we had just done was sinking in. We felt good.

And then disaster struck.

Descending the treacherous rocks, cold and totally fatigued, Berumen lost her footing and fell downwards, bouncing off several rocks.

Beginning the descent.  Berumen would fall minutes later, changing everything.
With sunset approaching, and thousands of feet up on this unforgiving volcano, we now had a shipmate that couldn't walk.

Hell in the Sky (part 1)


 Photos by MCSN Andy Jandik

Our group of seven hit the trail head at 7:40am with a cold, steady rain on our backs. We were five males and two females. It was a group made entirely of U.S. Navy journalists. The sister team from Oregon hadn't been able to make it, but the Sailors had to continue anyway.

We weren't exactly a volcano climbing all-star team. One guy was wearing jeans, one gal was sick with an almost constant cough, and only two of us had any experience attempting to summit Helens.  (We both fell short on the other attempt.)

We cleared the treeline at 4600' and immediately lost what little cover the trees had offered us. The slow dread of a cold drenching began to set in. Rising up to meet us was an old lava flow from the 1980 eruption. A steep, slippery slope of rocks rose into the clouds.

Two hours into the rock scramble, petty officer Amara Timberlake told us she was losing feeling in her hands.

The rain had stopped only to be replaced by a bitter wind.  Petty Officer Andy Jandik and I had her take her soaked gloves off, and put her hands inside our jackets. Our body temperatures dropped but she gained feeling and flexibility after about 15 minutes.

We continued on and cleared the lava flow, but the worst was yet to come.  Mount Saint Helens would push every one of us to our limits.

Attacking the lava flow. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Mama sent me a little pillow.  Photo by MC3 Ashley Berumen.

I opened my mail this morning to find this. My mom doesn't like it when I go too long without calling.

Sent from my Samsung Epic™ 4G

Monday, October 10, 2011

Swim with the fishes

Harper Pier in Port Orchard, Wa.  Photo by MC3 Devin Wray.

Last Sunday, Wray and I and completed the basic NAUI scuba course.  We're now certified to dive at depths of up to 60 feet.  How do I feel?  OUTSTANDING.  I'm sure most of you have things you've always wanted to try...things you're pretty sure you'd love.  That's scuba diving to me.

The lead instructor shot a video of me performing a diver rescue on Wray.   Watch the video here.    I'm searching for his air pressure gauge, which has become stuck under his tank.  Checking to see if the unconscious diver has any air left is the first step.  The next step is to kick off the bottom, propelling both divers to the surface.

Adrian before our epic 20ft dive at Point Whitney, Wa.  Photo by me.

The classes are taught by a local dive shop, Sound Dive Center in Bremerton.  They go through MWR, so we get a discount on the 3-week course.  Cost for a civilian is $300, for military it's $275.  Because they're used to teaching Navy folks, the instructors were willing to adapt to our sometimes-complicated work schedules.

Adrian was our instructor, and our group of six was very happy with him.  I'd say he's just the right mix of stern expertise and love for the sport.  He was always on point when it came to the safety of each diver.

Bea gives EM3 Johnathan Villalobos a shot of no-fog liquid for their masks.  Photo by me.

 The course schedule goes like this:

Three weeks of classes/pool time, on Monday and Wednesday.
The final week, two open-water dives on Saturday, and two on Sunday.

The first was at Point Whitney, across the water from Bangor Trident Base.  Standing on the shore, I realized kiddy pool time was over.  This was the real thing.

Bea was the assistant instructor, and kept a close eye on everyone.  She made sure no one did anything stupid, like shoot to the surface too fast and explode their lungs.
Wray was SUPER psyched to be there.  Photo by EM3 Jonathan Villalobos.

If you look at the photo of Bea, you'll see she's wearing a different suit than us.  It's a dry suit, which requires additional training to use.  If you're wearing it, no water ever touches you.  Wray and I are wearing wetsuits.  When you get in the water, it's supposed to leak in, to be warmed by your body heat.

Are you getting an idea of how horrible it is to inch into that frigid water?

DRY suit  =  good
WET suit =  bad

I squealed like a little girl as the water trickled down my back.

Warm and happy.  Photo by Bea.

In between the first and second dives, I was glued to my jeep.  The engines's on and the heat's blasting.  I spent 5 years in South Florida, you know? 

Adrian tosses Wray his t-shirt.  Photo by me.

After demonstrating the necessary skills, including rescuing an unconscious diver, Wray and I graduated!  The Harper Pier dive took us to about 30ft depth.  Back at Sound Dive Center, Adrian held a debriefing with the group.  Each diver was given an assessment of his performance.  Then we got t-shirts!

I was born to wear a diver t-shirt.  Photo by MCSN Andy Jandik.

I've signed up for the advanced course, which means diving to depths of 100+ feet, night diving, and training in underwater navigation.  I'm looking forward to working with Adrian again.

Pilot's license is next.