As I write this, ODS is over, and I am at the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center at Ft. Jackson, but I wanted to give everybody a brief overview of week 5 of ODS. Week 5 was basically a laid back week that consisted of wrapping things up. The best day of the week was “Track Day” where we were able to meet with our class officer at Chaplaincy School. He came in and gave a great message about being a Naval Chaplain. We are the bearers of God’s presence to the men and women God has called us to serve. It was a great reminder of the calling God has place on my life, and encouraged me in that calling. I was ready to head to chaplaincy school on Wednesday! While at ODS, that purpose and calling got lost in the shuffle of inspections, briefs, and all the rest. All of us were brought back to the reason we joined the Navy. It was completely refreshing!
Beside track day, I still had 3 major exercises that needed to complete. The first was damage control on the USS Buttercup. If you don’t know, the Buttercup simulates the sinking of a ship. Most of the morning was spent in briefs on the proper procedures for damage control on a sinking ship. After the brief, it was time to suit up and head out to the Buttercup. The drill started off with the call to battle stations, and a torpedo strike on the port side. After that, the damage control team went into action. Investigators went below deck to determine the damage, and then individual response teams were sent in to repair it. I was on the team responsible for installing an “H” style shoring on a tear in the hull. It was kind of intimidating at first as the ship was filling with cold water, water was spraying from pipes above, and we had never built “H” style shoring before. We eventually overcame and I stood watch on the bracing until we received word that the Buttercup was saved.
The next major exercise was an abandon ship drill in the combat pool. For this drill, the lights were turned out, a “storm” was turned on (strobe lights, thunder on CD, and instructors with garden hoses), and the pool was filled with “sharks” (instructors who hunted any students who strayed from the group). We abandoned ship, swam 200 yards as a group who remained connected the whole time, and then entered a life raft for instruction. It was tiring! We had to help the weak swimmers, and rescue a “dummy” along the way. Even entering the raft was difficult as I was beat from the swim, and volunteered to hold the ramp as people entered the raft. I was one of the last ones in. The brief inside the raft was very informative, and gave us a general idea of what needs to be done in case we ever need to abandon ship.
The final exercise was firefighting. This was really cool! Another morning spent in briefs, and then we donned full firefighting gear (respirators and all) and started putting out fires. We put out a weapons fire, Bravo Fire (combustible liquids) in a simulated deep fat fryer, an Alpha Fire (ordinary combustibles) in a ship’s space. It was fun, and I was a little intimidated. I never felt in danger, but it was a little creepy walking into a dark room in full gear with a fire blazing. There was smoke, and heat, and very little visibility. We had to trust the man in front of us as we went in, and the man behind us as we exited the room. I came away with a new appreciation for the men and women who do this on a daily basis. It is nothing like the movies. There is very little visibility in the room, and on top of that my mask kept fogging up. All in in all, it was a great experience!
Friday was graduation, and then Amy and I spent the weekend in New England. We stayed in Newport, but traveled to Boston for a day in the City. I loved going to Boston, walking the Freedom Trail, and standing in the same buildings our founding fathers stood in as they contemplated and planned the revolution. We walked through the site of the Boston Massacre, the Old North Church, Paul Revere’s house, King’s Chapel, several graveyards, the USS Constitution, the USS Cassian Young, and finished the day off with a trip to the Bunker Hill battle ground. I walked all 294 steps to the top and caught a great view of the city. Amy made it to step 125 and headed back down! We took a water taxi back toward Boston Common, visited Cheers (not that impressive), and then headed back to Newport for one last night together. It was a great weekend with my bride! I can’t wait until she visits me at Chaplaincy School in a few weeks!
After leaving ODS, I can say that the experience has truly changed me! For one, I have become a coffee drinker (my mother-in-law cheers)! It’s pretty good if you add a little creamer, and plenty of sweetener! I have a cup almost every morning, now. Secondly, it has given me a foundation to build my military career upon. I don’t have all the military bearing, knowledge, or experience I need, but I do have something to build on. I am trying to build upon what I learned at ODS every day as I strive for excellence in the United States Navy.
ODS has also given me a new love of the scriptures. As I mentioned in a previous post, ODS was a famine for me when it came to God’s word. I was still in it, but not like I was beforehand, and not like I needed to be. After the famine, I have gained a deeper appreciation and love for the scriptures. Passages that used to seem mundane to me jump off the page with meaning. I often find myself deeply impacted by the truth of God’s word, and I am regularly moved to tears as I consider the meaning of the passages I’m reading, or being taught from. I am reminded of Nehemiah 8:1-9 when the people gathered to hear Ezra read the Law. The Bible says the people understood what was being read, and they wept as they heard Ezra read. That is where I am at right now. Scripture has new meaning, God has given me a greater understanding, and when I read it, it is so meaningful to me that it often brings tears to my eyes! Finally, this experience has changed my relationship with God. Like I said, I didn’t read the scriptures like I should have, I didn’t pray like I should have, and my mind was often more focused on the Plan of the Day than on heavenly things, BUT, there was still a sense of closeness to God. Not the closeness you experience in your quiet time, but the closeness of his presence. I knew he was still there, I knew I was doing his will, and as ODS drug on I had extreme confidence that God was right there with me. He wouldn’t let me falter, he wouldn’t let me fail, He was holding my hand as I followed Him into this new adventure! It was like nothing I have ever experience before. I talked with one of the other chaplains there who said he experienced the exact same thing! We serve an amazing God! He loves us, and he’s with us wherever we go!
God bless you,