Saturday, November 23, 2013

MC Perspective: I work on a time machine

MC2 Peter Melkus interviews a passenger aboard USS Constitution during the ship's annual 4th of July turnaround cruise.

 "I had to overcome any fear of heights that I may have had.  
Balancing on a line hanging from a yardarm 
100 feet in the air will do the trick." -Pete Melkus

I don't think I'd want to be a Sailor in the 1800s.  Life was a bit... rough for those guys.  MC2 Peter Melkus is one of a small number of Sailors that can tell you a little bit about what it's like.

That's because he works on the most badass ship in American history.

Launched in 1797, the USS Constitution basically sailed around and beat the brakes off of every British ship that got in its way.  The frigate was so hard to take down it earned a special nickname.

I talked with MC2 about what life is like on "Old Ironsides".


What the heck does the Navy do on a ship that old?

  Constitution has a crew of roughly 75 Sailors, and our primary mission is to protect, promote and preserve both the ship itself and her long-standing naval traditions. We give tours of the ship to the public, receiving about 500,000 visitors each year, and we also clean and perform maintenance on the ship. Our crew also has a great presence throughout the Boston community, as we have one of the Navy's largest volunteer programs and participate in various color guards and honor guards throughout Massachusetts (I was just on field with one of our color guards at Game 1 of the World Series last week - great time.)

"...we actually climb the masts and rigging and learn how to 
set and furl sails like they did in the 1700s."

Working on rigging.  Probably not any safety harnesses back then though.  Photo courtesy of Lance H. Beebe.
   Our MC shop at Constitution is very small - it consists of myself (PAO), an MC3 who is deputy PAO, and a Sonar Technician who is the ship's volunteer coordinator and helps us cover events here and there. We primarily take photos, as we don't have professional video equipment here, but we shoot some video with our DSLRs when we can. We also have a Xerox that we print ship brochures and programs on.

 "...our ship is one of Boston's largest tourist attractions
 and is always attracting attention for something..."

Our Sailors are almost always participating in high-visibility events throughout Boston, like color guards and parades, so we keep quite busy covering those events and sharing them on our Facebook page ( I also deal with the local media quite frequently, as our ship is one of Boston's largest tourist attractions and is always attracting attention for something, it seems, especially when we get underway in Boston Harbor in the spring and summertime.
MC2 Melkus (far right) assists Constitution Sailors with transporting one of the ship's sails from a storage warehouse to the ship where it will be attached for the summer. Constitution has 11 sails today, but used to have as many as 46 in her war fighting years.

How do you like it?  What are the challenges?
  Since our crew is so small, we always have to do a lot with less. We bounce between having a 3 and 4 duty section rotation, and often stand overnight security watches on the ship as well. Though working here consists of many long-hour days (especially during the peak of our visitor season in summer), I must say I'm really enjoying my time here.
"Working at Constitution is not what some Sailors 
in the fleet would think of a typical 
walk-in-the-park shore duty command."

This command is full of many unique opportunities (i.e. World Series) and though I've only been here since February, I've already had a great deal of unique experiences that I'd probably never get to have anywhere else.  The Boston area is great (with the exception of traffic), and I've really enjoyed exploring New England with my girlfriend Samantha.

MC2 Melkus, left, ascends the mizzenmast aboard USS Constitution while Gunner's Mate 1st Class Thomas Endress supervises. Constitution Sailors participate in bi-weekly sail training sessions during spring and summer months to familiarize themselves with seamanship techniques utilized aboard 'Old Ironsides' since the 1790s.
There have been numerous challenges:

- We are required to memorize A LOT about the ship's extensive history and have to take tests and pass boards to become a tour guide for the ship (similar to studying for our warfare qualifications)

- I've had to overcome my fear of heights.  Balancing on a line hanging from a yardarm 100 feet in the air will do the trick.

- I needed to get over a fear of public speaking.  Giving 1/2-hour tours of the ship to groups of 80 to 100 people at a time helps.

- I battle Boston traffic to and from work. It always seems to be rush hour here.

Despite the challenges, our crew is a good group and we work well together to get the job done and keep the proud heritage of our ship alive each and every day!

OLD IRONSIDES.  Photo by Hunter Stires.

Thanks Melkus! 

Petty Officer Second Class Peter Melkus, spokesperson for the United States Navy.  Prime example of how any one of us can be called to stand in the limelight, regardless of rank.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Syracuse U: Face time

The Sailors freeze as Hayes asks me what I'm doing.
For the last 2 years only the Navy has sent students to Syracuse. This means lots of face time for us with our instructors. In this photo professor Dona Hayes is teaching us broadcast writing.  She's tough wrapped in tiny.   I seriously can't hear news leads on the radio or TV without thinking about all I've learned in this class.

Sent from my Samsung Epic™ 4G Touch

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Syracuse U: Learning to be a reporter

This is our "event" reporting assignment.  I am showing you this because I believe it's valuable information for prospective Sailor-students, not because I think it's very good.  I haven't figured out this news thing, and I'm trying to detach from my documentary mentality.

My shooting partner is MC1 Sean Spratt, one of the four video students I am studying with.  We change partners every week, as per instructor orders.

Smiling as he says:  "What the hell are you doing?"

Speaking of.... this is our news reporting instructor.  His name is John Nicholson, he's worked with ESPN, USA Network, and much more.  Also, for better or worse, his personality is as big as it looks in the photo.  His class is laid back, but full of nuggets of solid gold. (interview techniques is huge!)

SURVIVAL TIP:  Listen when he tells his anecdotes, there's usually a lesson in there.

Here's a sample of his work:  WSTM Channel 3 News