Because most naval ships were busy during this time, the Harrier logistics support held a pretty low priority. At my level, I can only conjecture what was happening but it seemed to me that our leaders were scrambling to find a ride over to the mix. Much like the action movie where the hero's sidekick shows up in a hulking beast to chase the bad guy after being told to get some transportation, we showed up at the docks to see the
The USNS Curtiss is a merchant marine ship which means it is not exactly a naval ship. A merchant marine ship is manned by merchant marines (duh!) who are civilians. They are basically hired hands running a ship used for transporting supplies and we were their latest cargo. The Curtiss was a ship that was seized during a 1970's drug raid. It was caught trying to sneak drugs into the US and was confiscated. The Navy put it in moth balls and was eventually sold to the merchant marine fleet. It was used off and on but had been in mothballs again for a number of years when it was called to duty for the war. Needless to say, it was not a luxury liner.
The crew was something to see. It looked like a scene right out of a bad movie. Every crewman looked like he was running from a bad past and I fully expected to see one with a hook for a hand. They really did not converse with any of us very much and we obliged. There was one female deck hand but believe me when I say that she was more than safe on a boat-full of young, virile Marines. If you ever get a chance to see Kingpin with Woody Harrelson, this woman was the landlord he had to sleep with. The word here is "Ugh!"
We loaded the maintenance vans on this tub and shortly, we were out to sea. I think it is ironic that the Marine Corps put, in essence, all of here eggs in one basket and this basket was a toilet with an engine. There were millions of dollars of electronic equipment, half of the avionics support the Marine Corps had for Harriers, on this stinking little bucket. Amazing.
It was the first time I had been out to sea. And what an introduction! About a week out in the middle of the Pacific, one of the two boilers blew up. The boilers created steam which ran the turbines, providing power for the ship. With only one left, things got bad. We had to limp to the nearest port which happened to be Adak, Alaska. Because of the lack of power, the central air did not work which made the interior of the ship very hot and very muggy. The toilets only worked intermittently and we ate off paper plates and plastic forks because there was not enough hot water to clean dishes. At the time, this seemed rough but it was nothing compared to what was to come.
Our daily life was pretty boring. We would power up the computers every day because if you didn't, they there would be a hell of a fix waiting for you after letting them sit for weeks. But we did not have anything to fix, we did not even have the planes with us. There was a helo pad on the top deck and we would run in circles for exercise, trying not to fall off the unguarded side as the ship dipped and swayed. Our daily routine centered around food. We awoke to go the chow, fired up the computers and waited for noon chow. Then we PT'd and killed time until night chow. Then we killed time until going to sleep and then awaken to start it over again.
On August 28th, we pulled into Adak for repairs. Adak is a small naval base where most people try NOT to get stationed. But to us, it meant only one thing: LIBERTY AND ALCOHOL!!! The base had a club and we all rejoiced. Another chance to drink because we all knew that alcohol was going to be banned in Saudi. The next four days were going to be one long binge. Looking back, I would not have changed a thing.