Foreward

Well, now :0), this “diary” of verses is about Duffy’s Exponential Adventure (Of course it is. That’s the title of this thing!)

Actually, it is Jed’s adventure, but I entitled it with Duffy’s name since the reason for this marvelous expedition is because of Duffy. For those of you who know me, Duffy is my alter ego – my clown side. Duffy is a co-founder and helps manage our six year old, all-volunteer nonprofit, Caring Clowns International.

Of the many clowning gigs we do, supporting our military personnel and families ranks high on our list. Over the past six years, we have been privileged to perform for all our military services. One, of course, has been for the men and women of our U.S. Navy and their families.

We have performed for members and families of submarines, aircraft carriers and destroyers at homecomings, home portings, picnics and seasonal parties. Among them is the USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier (CVN-72).

Over the years, I have been privileged to get to know John Porter, the Director of Morale, Welfare and Recreation aboard the USS Lincoln. John is responsible to arrange all the social activities onboard the ship as well as in the ports of call the ship visits. He has been responsible for us clowning and traveling on the USS Lincoln on numerous occasions. John does fabulous work!

Last Christmas, at the USS Lincoln’s family party at the Everett Naval Base, John asked me if I would like to be a member of the upcoming USS Lincoln Tiger Cruise. (Truth be told, I casually asked him – uhhh, okay, I guess I pleaded with him to let me go. :0)

A “Tiger” in Navy parlance is a guest of a crew member (normally a relative) who is hosted on the ship for a return-from-station cruise.

Soooo, I am honored to have been included on the USS Lincoln 2008 Tiger Cruise as John’s guest. The options were to travel aboard the USS Lincoln from San Diego to Everett or from Hawaii through San Diego to Everett. And THAT is what took me to Honolulu on September 30 to join the ship at Pearl Harbor for the trans-Pacific voyage home to Everett.

On another note (Indulge me here, please, for a few more brief comments.)

I proudly served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force for five years many years ago. But, my true love was the Navy. Unfortunately, I did not know that when I headed off to college (and compulsory ROTC at that time), that one had to qualify for Navy ROTC in one’s senior year in high school. So, I missed the opportunity then. I loved my brief Air Force career, and will always be proud and grateful to have served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, but the Navy has always been very special to me, too.

Being on a cross-oceanic Tiger Cruise now, and on one of the most amazing floating cities of our U.S. Navy, is full circle for me. It is a dream come true.

I have tried to capture my feelings and observations here, for posterity and for those who might enjoy seeing this journey through my eyes. Enjoy!

One more thing. (Jeez, will he ever get to it! It is always “one more thing” with this clown!)

I apologize up front to those of you who really know what you are talking about when it comes to the U.S. Navy and especially aircraft carrier lingo and activities.

Please allow me some editorial license. Some of the terms, et al here may not be totally accurate. Just have a good laugh and know that I am the clown who tried.

Jed “Duffy” Selter
October 14, 2008


Dedication

To all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces and their families,
past, present and future.

I am indebted to each of you for your service and your sacrifices.

…And to my friend, John Porter, who made this trip of a lifetime a reality for me.


He’s Off! … And Thinking
Sea Tac Airport, September 30, 2008

Up early (hardly slept)
Now walking the airport corridors to the gate…

Thinking – first time traveling solo in years
(Normally with family or a “giggle” of clowns to
some exotic place)

Thinking – the eleven days ahead
At sea with working sailors and their families

Thinking – we’ve clowned for thousands of returning
Service personnel and their families

Thinking – Aside from any political opinions on
“righteous war,” et al,

These people are defenders for us all
They consciously put themselves in harm’s way,
leave their families and a “normal” life,
do their jobs (most, routinely fourteen or more
hours a day)

In no small sense of the word,
Each in his/her own way is a warrior on our behalf

When you next see a Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman/woman,
Coastguardsman/woman, Veteran…

Thank them…

…Go out of your way to thank them


It’s Time
October 2, 2008

At “Hotel Pier,” Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
She is massive!
Seventeen stories
Ten above the water line, seven below
4.5 acres of flight deck- catapults and runways
Five story numerals on her tower “72”
(Her U.S. Navy designation is “CVN-72”)

Home the past seven months to 6,500 sailors in every
function – aviation, electronics, nuclear reactors,
engineering, maintenance of every description,
force protection, ordinance, navigation, food services,
air traffic control, logistics and supply, communications,
intelligence, investigations, mail disbursement and
many more

She is a vast floating city compacted into 1,092 feet
from bow to stern
With her own post office and zip code

Capable of accommodating 85 aircraft

On this deployment
Flyers completing 10,000 sorties in 22,000 flying hours

She is the largest piece of gray you will ever see
in one place
And the fastest ship in the fleet

The USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier (CVN-72)
Majestic in her own right

…And I am about to be with her across the Pacific and
up the West Coast for almost two weeks

Wow!


Serious Stuff
October 2, 2008

Just on board
First thing I see is this poster


You Put the Clown Where??
October 3, 2008

Picked up my room key
Envelope said “MWR” (Morale Welfare and Recreation Director – my sponsor)
Then, just “– Clown”
No “Mr. Selter,”
No “Jed Selter”…
Just “Clown”
Nuttin’ else
But, there was a private corridor door to the room
Sign on it read “Visitors State Rooms”
(I’m getting impressed now)

And then my room plaque read
“Little Pigeon Creek Cabin”
(Three adjacent rooms labeled with much more regal names)

Why would you put the “Clown” in
“Little Pigeon Creek”?
Humph!
Actually, I was honored


Preparing to Leave
October 3, 2008

Brow (gangway) about to be raised

1,700 sailors in perfectly creased, ironed whites
For roll call in hanger bays two and three
Inspection
Preparing to “man the rail” topside

They’ll assemble on the flight deck
Shoulder-to-shoulder as the ship leaves Pearl

As told to me by a Petty Officer First Class,
This tradition goes back one hundred years
First done by Marine “Warriors”

It is a sign of respect and strength
And a thank you to the port being departed

But more, a statement to families…Silently…
We are ready
We are strong
We shall return to you


The USS Arizona
October 3, 2008

On the move, now, slowly
Leaving Pearl
Standing at the massive hangar bay three elevator open door
On our port (left) side,
The USS Arizona Memorial
Bright white, smooth lines
Solemn, silent reminder

She is below, resting place of 1,102 sailors killed on her December 7, 1941
Japanese attack on Pearl

As she comes into view, things go silent in the bay
Faces and bodies turn outward toward her
Sailors come to attention
All crisply salute (You could hear a pin drop)

Salutes held until we reach the USS Missouri
Then salutes dropped, but sailors remain braced at attention

Respect for those gone there

(An emotional moment on this journey)


Decks, Levels and Ladders, Ladders, Ladders
October 3, 2008

Every ship has a “main” deck (level 01)
For us it is the three hangar bays

Above the main deck are “levels (02, 03, 04, etc),
The flight deck is level 03

Below the main deck are “decks”
(Just another point of reference…Are you still reading?)

Getting from one level/deck to the next is by “ladders” (of course)
Roughly twelve rungs each ladder,
Mostly two ladders between levels/decks
(Twenty four rungs then, deck to deck)

This ship has seventeen levels/decks
Count ‘em, that’s 408 rungs

All ladders are at about a 60 degree incline
Both up and down…
(Give me a break, I am just a clown!)

If you are prone to fragility,
This is not the place for you

Shin splints for two days,
Added lung capacity in three

(No wonder most sailors are in good shape)


Replenishment
October 3, 2008

One day out of Pearl

We slow to thirteen knots

Along our starboard (right) side,
The USNS Rainier replenishment ship approaches
Slowly coming almost bow to bow with us

Both ships fight each other’s wake between them
Keeping the distance constant
Maintaining a 170 feet (a mere 15 yards) separation
In rolling seas!!

A “shot” (thin strong red nylon line tied to a large rubber bullet)
fired to the Rainier from the Lincoln

Shot is pulled in
Attached to a “messenger line”
Then to the “span wires” brought back to the Lincoln

Replenishment hoses ride along the span wires
Are brought aboard the Lincoln
Their “probes” inserted into the fuel ports on “Abe”

Over two hours, fuel lines carry and deposit 1.5 million
gallons of JP5 aircraft fuel into Abe’s tanks

As fuel rushes through the hoses, we watch the Rainier
visibly rise in the sea,
Progressively lighter with the loss of fuel

(I watch this from the hangar bay in complete awe
Filming this…
And cannot believe what I am witnessing)

Like clock work at both ends
No room for error
…Nothing but steady calm and precision

“Abe”
“The Penny”
“The USS Abraham Lincoln”
“CVN-72” (Carrier, Fixed Wing Aircraft, Nuclear)
(“V” a World War II designation for aircraft)

Except for aircraft fuel, food and some other supplies,
She is an independent, self sufficient city afloat

Truly amazing!


Somber Reminder
October 4, 2008

On every ship
At each mess
An unused solitary place setting
Mound of salt
Lemon wedge
A single rose in a vase
An inverted glass
An empty chair

Remembering those who are no longer with us
Unaccounted for
But always remembered

The table, set for one, is small
It symbolizes the frailty of one alone against their oppressor

The table cloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms

The single red rose reminds us of the families and loved ones of our shipmates who keep the faith, awaiting their safe return

The crystal vase symbolizes the true core values for which they fought –

Honor, Courage and Commitment

The red ribbon tied prominently to the vase is reminiscent of the bracelet worn on the wrist and the ribbon upon the lapel and breast of thousands who bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand proper accountability for our missing

The slice of lemon to remind us of their bitter fate
The salt poured on the plate symbolic of their families’ tears as they wait

The glass is inverted
They cannot be with us tonight

The chair is empty
They are not here

…Remember

(It is tradition that as one passes this table, one removes his hat in respect)


24/7 Buzz
October 4, 2008

Late evening

Lights dimmed ship-wide
Passageways from bright white to red glow

Soft yellow lights in the hangar bays
deceptively hide the din of precision activity

But, look more closely

Mechanics with wrenches under copter blades
torquing and adjusting things to be just right
Pallets moving slowly and silently atop humming
forklifts from corner to corner- stacks of them
growing
Ordinance specialists concentrating,
checking voltage levels on wire harness bundles
under fighter wings and fuselages

Hourly, the hangar bays reconfigure,
change their features and appearances

Planes move
A temporary post office springs up, packages in rows
Auxiliary power units repositioned
Units of sailors mustering
The silhouettes of boxes of equipment and supplies,
barrels of oil stacked ten feet high become
their own small city landscapes
(If you videoed this, played it back fast forward,
This place would be a bee hive, buzzing
Not haphazard, but finely orchestrated)

Twenty four hours, day and night…
…every day and night – continuously


Sittin’ on the Fantail
October 5, 2008

Aaahh …
My favorite spot!
Extreme aft end of the ship
Beam wide with small decks and nooks
Thirty feet above the water
Just below the flight deck

Sitting on a two foot round, three foot high cylindrical post
(a “chock”) welded to the deck floor
To which shore lines are secured

Looking out to the sea
Salt sea air
Fine mist blanketing my face now and then

Four gigantic props (‘screws”)
Each two-three stories or more in diameter (30 feet or so, I’d guess)
below us
Unseen
Powering us through the sea at twenty five- thirty knots
Creating six-seven foot wake on either side of us

Churning the water into several shades of fluorescent blue
and white froth

This is the place to think about nothing
To think about everything
To ponder one’s life

Looking out at the horizon
Ocean, just ocean

(I am in heaven!)


My Private Offering
October 5, 2008

I am, again, reflecting on this eleven day experience
Not quite half over

Have talked to many sailors and their “Tiger Cruise” families

These sailors are young!
Average age aboard ship is twenty years old

Everyone one of them I see consciously emits pride –
Their posture, their attitude, the tone of their voices,
the words they chose
Professional, vastly more mature than their chronological ages

Ask a question, and you will see!
The polite crisp answer shows it all
The skill and knowledge they possess
Many in complex technical jobs

They make me think about our service men and women
no longer with us…and I grieve their loss
I hurt for them and their families

I want to express my deep felt appreciation
(To those here and now, a hand shake and a
“thank you for your service” seems so inadequate)

Again on the fantail
The powerful sound of churning water rushing
from the massive screws
The salt mist

For some reason, unplanned, spontaneous
I reach into my wallet, take out one of my clown business cards
I write “Thank You” on its face, kiss it
and toss it into the ship’s screaming wake

It takes flight
Flips over and over for a second
Flutters into the boiling sea behind us

It is all I can think to do


John Who?
October 5, 2008

I am here because of the graciousness of
my friend, John Porter, the ship’s Director of
Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR)

John is my Tiger Cruise sponsor

We clowns in Caring Clowns International (CCI) have
supported the USS Abraham Lincoln families at John’s request
at numerous family parties and ship homecomings

I have always liked this guy
Admired his glow for people
His quiet, unpretentious outreach to sailors and their families,
and others – like me

(An indication of his humility- the name on his USS Lincoln ball cap reads
“Just John” – no ceremony, no title, no “Mr. Porter,”
…..Just John)

John is raw energy
All excitement
Never stops moving and doing
And, always (I mean ALWAYS) for others

(I swear he sleeps at 250 miles an hour)

He is a constant blur of what next

“Hey, got those tickets you wanted”
“Your hotel is all set up”
“What can I do for you?”
“Cool, Man, glad I could help!”

John is his own orchestra
He plays every part
He is amazing

Now, understand…
The role of a Tiger’s sponsor is to take his Tiger
around the ship, guide him and be his ship mentor

If I am lucky, I see John on average for five minutes
twice a day
Zipping from one ”I’ll get it for you right now,”
to another “Here, let me handle that for you”

…And, I wouldn’t want it any other way

I’m proud this guy calls me friend

Thank You, John!
For everything


Not Enough Cards
October 6, 2008

I figured I would meet a lot of folks on this voyage
Sailors, other Tigers

So, brought clown business cards
About 100 or so
To be able to stay in touch

Thought they would go to other Tigers
Not so
Most are to nineteen, twenty year old sailors
Sailors I talk to one-on-one and who give
me impromptu tours

Like I’ve said before

These sailors are unbelievably knowledgeable and mature
Many with huge responsibilities
Sharp, sharp young adults!

I cannot help but extend myself to them

”If you ever need anything or want to chat
Call me, email me
Would love to help you out and just stay in touch”
I say over and over

Most of my cards are gone, now
But to the right people


Departures
October 7, 2008 5:10 a.m.

One day out until San Diego
(Five out from Pearl)

Early, a.m.
Flight crews prep for departing the ship

Loud sounds of running cable top side
Ending in wall shuddering loud bangs
called “no loads”
Charging and release of the catapults
Checking steam pressure and water brakes (the bangs)

A distinctive dance of sounds
Repeated several times
Inescapable everywhere on the ship

(If this were a hotel, inconsiderate guests banging
room doors early a.m. would annoy the hell out of me
But not this)

This is the sound of precision movement, professionalism,
capable people and powerful systems in action
With a distinctive and noble purpose

It is one of the signatures of this
floating city

(I love it)

Two by two
Planes wheeled from their overnight hangar bay nests
Guided expertly folded wing-to-folded wing onto the
hangar bay elevators
Silently, in ten seconds, lifted forty feet above to the flight deck

On deck
Pilots and crews hum around their aircraft
Looking here, touching this, checking that
Walk arounds
Mother birds checking and preening their young
for first flight
Ensuring themselves…everything is ready to go – just right

(This is another dance, not quite slow motion
Every move sequential, orderly – exacting
The low deliberate buzz of pre-flight prep)

Some will fly to California
Some to Washington
Others to Virginia
All to home base
Awaiting the next deployment aboard ship

Then it begins in earnest
Engines start
Constant roar now on the flight deck
Hand signals guiding each bird into its place for launching
Behind the first
Blast fence quickly raised
The catapult “spreader” in recessed channel
glides rapidly along the flight deck back to the plane

Deck crewman kneels just forward of the plane’s front wheel
Motions for the spreader’s movement backward in inches
Secures the plane’s launch bar in the spreader

Engine roars
Now, crewmen move away
One signals “ready”
Salutes exchanged –crewman and pilot
“Go” sign given

Catapult steam pressure builds
Just a momentary wait
Pilot braces for the surge forward
In four seconds rocketed down the deck runway
off the ship at full power

(I want to scream “YES!!” at the top of my lungs
But control myself- not to look foolish)

This ballet is repeated every thirty seconds until all are off
and on their way

If the Stars Spangled Banner does not play
between your ears at this sight,
there is something wrong with you


San Diego…
October 8, 2008

Reached San Diego in calm seas
Warm, sunny day

Coming into port is an experience like no other

On the flight deck
Strong wind in my face from our movement

Our size and uniqueness seemingly demanding respect
Moving slowly down the channel

Navy security boats and tugs power toward us
Meet us for escort

Many Tigers will leave the ship here
Their voyage over
Some of us remain and more Tigers process on

Tone on the ship changes
Sailors preparing to go in to town ready to party for a night

A few of us off to dinner
Then, as sailors do
“Hit” a local tavern

Too much beer
But great camaraderie

Get in late
But safe and sound

(Cannot talk out of school, here
Sorry
But it was great fun,
Trust me on that)


…And Off Again
October 9, 2008

We pull the brow at noon
And off back through the channel

Again, on the flight deck
Empty, with aircraft gone

Crew has removed the catapult launch
cylinders for maintenance
Blast fences raised for maintenance, too

Going up the coast soon
Expecting rollers by mid evening

Then, we hit it
Rollers
She is big and stable
But feeling some roll and pitching
Agitated seas and howling winds

Am told we have changed course to avoid storms
Still expecting twenty foot seas in about an hour

(I am off to bed to get rocked to sleep)


The California Coast and North
October 10, 2008

Rocked and rolled all night and into today
Access to the fantail is restricted
Hangar bay doors are closed

Seas are up to thirty feet
Into the wind at nineteen knots
Flight deck winds reaching almost sixty knots

This is not big weather for “Abe’
But enough to batten us down
(Probably more for the Tigers’ safety than anything)


Almost Home
October 11, 2008

Hangar bays essentially empty
Save for some sailor’s autos being
transported back to Everett
And pockets of crates and pallets, small tractors and
APU’s (auxiliary power units- “portable” electric
power for jet)

Small games of football, rugby and soccer break out
An impromptu invisible joggers’ track surfaces

Much less formal activity with the air wing gone

One senses the excitement of arriving
home soon

One day and a wake up to home port in Everett

Emotions are building, soon to be with families and friends after
seven months away

The mood is intoxicating – almost palpable


Homecoming
October 13, 2008

We are five days from San Diego- our first stop mainland
Then another four to Everett

Even now, excitement builds among the crew
Anticipation of embracing loved ones

I have been on the other side of this
On the pier several times
Watching the ship come in, inching toward the dock

Being there at the water’s edge
Clowning with excited families
Wives
Children
Parents
Grand parents
Cousins
Girl-boy friends

Even some close friends and former coaches
who’ve traveled cross-country
to welcome home returning single sailors

On the deck, sailors “man the rail”
Stand should-to-shoulder at parade rest
Staring straight ahead,
(but I think dying to show some emotion)
Trying to catch a glimpse of loved ones from the corner of their eye

They see huge posters of themselves with mom and the kids,
T-shirt of the same
Big “We Love You Daddy” and “Welcome Home Joe” signs
Balloons
Kids on Grampy’s shoulders

She comes in ever so slowly
Nudged to the pier by attending tugs
Lines are thrown
The ship secured
The brow in place

A loud horn sounds
Signaling the ship is securely in
This is also a signal for jubilant release
On deck, sailors break ranks
Hats go high into the air
Cell phones ring everywhere

First, one-by-one
Newly expectant dads leave the ship
Roses in hand

They reach the brow staircase
Turn and salute Old Glory on the tower as they leave
Then run into the arms of their wives and children

Others follow

The celebration of homecoming has begun
Joyful
Amazing
Heart warming

Always an emotional sight


Reprise

When you next see a Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman/woman,
Coastguardsman/woman, Veteran…

Thank them…

…Go out of your way to thank them


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