We were invited to a reception on the US warship, USS ESSEX after the big meeting, which Obama attended in Bali last November 2011. I’ve been in a party in a Spanish ship docked in Manila Bay before, but never on warship. How exciting! I was so excited that I forgot to asked if it was docked or in the middle of the sea! I did manage to ask if they recommend flat or heels though. =P (Their answer “low heels recommended,” but the CORRECT answer should be: “wedges or flats only please”) Get ready for some photos by a very dizzy DiploWife!
I don’t know what it is with uniforms and women, but I was tickled to my toes when we got to the entrance of the pier, when these uniformed men where receiving us. Trust me, no woman is immune – respectably married or not. =P
There were different boats taking guests to USS ESSEX at 30 minute intervals. We ended up in a smaller boat for some reason and the top portion filled up quickly and we had to sit in the lower enclosed area – NOT a good idea for someone who gets sea-sick easily! (Guilty, eep!) Our host and his wife charmed us with conversation and I was able to hold on. The only time it really hit me hard was when we were near USS ESSEX and we couldn’t get out of the boat!
The sea was SO choppy and the boat couldn’t get close enough to the platform (from which we would climb stairs to the warship). Finally a coast guard inflatable boat came (with an intimidatingly massive American soldier sitting in the center) to push the boat closer. There I was with my head out the window intently staring at the horizon trying not to puke, when this boat with the biggest machine gun I’ve ever seen in my life (in person) pointed straight at me and began to ram our boat towards the platform. If I wasn’t in the brink of puking, I would have taken out my camera to take a picture of that gun! =P
It is REALLY tricky to board a warship in heels I tell you. I think invitations to warships should say “wedge heels or flats recommended for women!” Haha! As prescribed I wore low heels, but they were still skinny heels that didn’t have much traction for all the STEEP climbing/slipping we did! Plus there are times when instead of a floor, you step onto grills. You either eff up your stilettos or you’re fantastic on your tippy-toes in rolling conditions! =D With the assistance of TD I was able to climb (Phew!) and great the Captain by the entrance. But my vision was like this…
I drank anti-nausea medicine on the boat, but by then it was too late hehe. Mental note: Drink nausea meds before stepping off of dry land.
It was really all quite impressive and the crew were awesome because they were able to decorate, prepare the food and create such a festive atmosphere on a warship. They did a tremendous job with what they had. They even had scented scented candle centerpieces (usually a pleasant thing for me, but at that time it was wreaking havoc with stomach! =P)
Captain giving a welcome speech and singing of national anthems with the parade of colors.I could barely talk to anyone, and for the first time in my life I wasn’t talking too much! Haha! Aaaaaand I was drinking water at a party – I figured nausea/hyperacidity would not go well with alcohol. =P But being typically Pinoy, when a camera is in sight it’s my natural instinct to SMILE!!! Thank goodness – the photos still came out okay! (I do look slightly bit queasy)
We missed the tour around the warship because of our quest for the toilet. (They showed them the galley and the hospital – whoa!) But we did meet some interesting people while waiting for each other. This has to be the most sparse toilet ever – isn’t it so sweet they even made an effort to make it pretty with some “greens?”
They assigned these awesome pilots to tell us about what the helicopters were for, what they did in the warship, etc. It was really eye-opening. How awesome is that lady pilot beside me? Badass. They are so well trained and are a wealth of information. We learned so much about what they do, etc.!
Check me out!
Somehow despite my seasickness we still manage to be the last civilians off the ship. Talk about party animals. Now THIS was the hard part. Going down is so much scarier than going up.
- The 2 storey stairs is much steeper that your usual stairs
- The steps aren’t really a steps coz it’s only a few inches wide so not much traction
- And the stairs are MOVING around the platform, especially when warship lurches whenever a big Bali wave set rolls by (did I mention that Bali is world famous for it’s enormous waves?)
- When you get to the bottom, 2 soldiers have to assist you to jump off to the side of the stairs. It is a no-no to jump right infront of the stairs because if the stairs move forward, it can injure you or, God forbid, push you off to the cold black sea.
I took off my shoes – better to be barefoot, rather than sliding and falling to my death. I suspect it would be even more mortifying if I flashed everyone and survived! (How I wish I had Butterfly Twists with me at this party!)
Once you are on the platform, you must wait until the boat is near enough to jump on. Again you have two soldiers holding you, and they basically swing you over to the other side where another burly soldier is there to catch you. So timing must be right or you can jump right into the icy Bali waters! (I kept seeing myself getting squished between the boat and the platform – EGAD!)When it was my turn and the two soldiers were about to throw me over to the boat, the gap opened wide and they had to hit the breaks on throwing me. (EEEEP that was a close call!) They were so reassuring though: “Dontcha worry! We’ve got you darlin!” We waited for the space to get smaller and I got tossed onto the waiting boat – barefoot and all. I really admire this fabulous woman for keeping her 4/5 inch stiletto shoes on the whole time and not slipping! (My blackened feet were put to shame.) It was a pity though that the grills ruined her fabulous heels. =( Respect to her for keeping her composure the entire time!As USS ESSEX faded away and we once again jumped onto solid land (hurrah!) we were met by the sight of soldiers coming back from their stay in Bali. The men and women getting off the boat with us were also headed to the island for a 2 day pass. I’m sure Bali was rocking with all their parties and they made a lot of ladies happy. =P We were actually invited to their party at Hard Rock the next evening but had to decline because we were exhausted and just wanted to relax in Sanur. (More on this in future posts!)This is definitely an unforgettable experience for me. Something that we would not have been able to experience if not for TD’s job. I would never have imagine how massive and awe-inspiring these ships (and the men and women on them) are from seeing them in the movies. It made me realize how much the US Army men and women sacrifice to protect their country and how they help people all over the world. Essex was there to provide assistance during typhoons in the Philippines and the Tsunami in Japan (not sure if below is complete but we were told by our host about the various ways the Essex has help us here in the Pacific).And I am so thankful to our hosts for giving us this opportunity!
DID YOU KNOW?
USS Essex (LHD-2) is a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship built at what is now Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and commissioned on 17 October 1992 while moored at North Island NAS. It is the fifth ship named for Essex County, Massachusetts. Essex is currently serving as the command ship for Expeditionary Strike Group Seven led by the Commander, Task Force 76.
During October 21–23, the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group provided humanitarian assistance/disaster relief to the Philippines after the Super Typhoon Juan (international name Megi) caused extensive destruction to municipalities along the eastern coast of the Province of Isabela. Despite the effort of the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group, 31st MEU, and elements of the 3rd MEB and Marine Air Group 36, no Humanitarian Service Medal and/or Philippine Presidential Unit Citation were awarded.
On the request for assistance from the Japanese government, the Navy directed the Essex to be deployed off the northeastern coast of Honshu after the massive 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The ship was involved in relief activities in the Sea of Japan off Akita Prefecture. Helicopters from the ship helped deliver relief supplies to quake and tsunami survivors along the northeast coast of Tohoku.
Interesting info sheet we got on USS ESSEX (which I scanned) gave info on the wings aboard USS ESSEX (i.e. harriers, knighthawks, hueys, etc), the hospital facilities they have capable of providing medical assistance during humanitarian missions, and statistics like the diameter of it’s 2 propellers, number of aircrafts on board, how much water they produce each day, how many eggs/sodas/meals are served each day. WOW. Some seriously interesting stuff even for non-military buffs like me. Click on the images below to enlarge & find out more!