By Damage Controlman 2nd Class Chris Kellogg
USS Vella Gulf (CG 72)
Damage Controlman 2nd Class Chris Kellogg, of Prescott, Ariz., followed in the footsteps of his father and sister when he joined the Navy in 2010. He was drawn to the Navy because he wanted serve his country and be part of something bigger. After completing bootcamp and Damage Controlman training, Kellogg was stationed in USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), where he completed deployments to Central America, the Arabian Gulf, and the Mediterranean Sea.
Kellogg is currently deployed aboard USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Here, he gives us a look at what a typical day is like for him as a deployed U.S. Navy Sailor:
My day starts at 6am and like any day back home I wake up, get dressed, make my bed, or rack as we call it on the ship, and take care of morning hygiene. Showers on the ship are not glamorous, but they get the job done. Instead of going to my kitchen to find breakfast, I go to the mess deck to get whatever the galley prepared; unfortunately there are another 200 Sailors with the same idea, so some days it takes a little while to get through the line. Breakfast on the ship is always the same; cereal, eggs (the omelets are great), bacon and sausage, waffles, pancakes, or French toast.
After breakfast, if I have a little extra time, I try to check my email. Being away from home for so long is hard, but hearing from my family can make the distance feel just a little bit less. Phone calls are a rare treat during deployment, so email is the primary means of communication with my family.
Every morning at 7:15, we gather for Quarters. This is a daily meeting with our Division Chief and Division Officer that provides an opportunity to go over the day’s work assignments and any announcements from the chain of command (the big bosses).
Following Quarters, we clean the ship. Besides looking good, a clean ship helps prevent illness. Before getting started on my work for the day, I take a minute to start a load of laundry; some things never change even though we aren’t home.
The workday starts with ship preservation; it’s a constant battle to keep the saltwater from damaging the ship. We start by authorizing personnel to make repairs in different areas on the ship; this is the way we keep track of which systems are being worked on in case there is a problem.
Sometimes, our commanding officer will walk through the ship and talk to the Sailors as they work. It’s encouraging to have a Captain who will take the time to talk to his Sailors. There are many different styles of leadership, but I like a leader who really knows their people. There are good bosses and bad bosses, I’m just happy we have a good one.
Everyday, we conduct emergency drills. In the middle of the ocean, we can’t call 911 in an emergency; our survival depends on each other and our training so we practice responding to all different types of situations. These drills often turn into a friendly competition between the different emergency response teams on the ship, each competing for the best time.
As a Damage Controlman, I spend a lot of time on the flight deck while we conduct helicopter operations. The Navy maintains a presence on, under, and over the sea; helicopters are vital in maintaining this versatility. Ticonderoga-class cruisers can support smaller helicopters, such as the SH-60B Seahawk. During flight quarters (when the helos are landing or taking off), we have teams on standby to direct and refuel the helicopter and to respond to an emergency, such as a fuel spill or fire.
By lunch, a break is definitely welcome. After getting some food, it’s nice to relax while I check my email again and watch part of a movie. The Navy provides ships with a number of recently released movies during deployment; of course with a limited supply, we often end up watching the same movie several times in a row.
After lunch, it’s back to work continuing daily maintenance or learning something new. Whether it’s formal classroom training or hands-on training from our leadership; in the Navy, we are always learning.
Being underway week after week gets tedious and makes me homesick, but I also get to do and see things that I just don’t see at home. On nice days, I go out on the open-air decks at the front and back of the ship, commonly known as the fo’c’sle and fantail, and watch dolphins play in the ship’s wake. I’ve had the opportunity to visit countries I would never otherwise see like Dubai, Guatemala, Albania, and Romania. Besides sight seeing in these ports, I’ve also participated in a lot of community relations projects: rebuilding schools and orphanages, volunteering at soup kitchens, and spending time with senior citizens; projects like these are always rewarding and a nice change of pace.
Every month, pilots must complete a certain amount of hours flying as well as take-offs and landings on ships’ flight decks to remain qualified. We often do flight quarters in the evening to allow the pilots to get experience in different lighting.
As Sailors, we are required to maintain a standard level of fitness. There’s not a lot of extra space on the ship but we do have a dedicated gym area with basic weights and cardio equipment. Still, it’s not all work on the ship. We have a small library of books, movies and DVDs for Sailors to check out.
All around the world Sailors are on watch 24 hours a day. Watchstanders are responsible for making sure the ship’s systems are operating correctly. Typically, Sailors are on watch for a four-hour shift. As a Damage Controlman, when I stand watch, I am responsible for monitoring the ship’s auxiliary systems, including fresh water manufacture, air conditioning, and electronics.
The long hours can be hard, but the Navy has provided me with some incredible opportunities. How many 25-year olds can say they supported our NATO allies in the Black Sea, or conducted training in the middle of the ocean, or performed emergency repairs to a ship in the middle of the night? For me, it is just another day in the Navy.