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Getting a Different Perspective on a U.S. Navy Embark

October 23, 2014 - 0 Comments

Approaching the iconic Golden Gate Bridge from the deck of the U.S.S. Kidd.

Fleet Week in San Francisco. It’s when the ships come to town and the focus moves to the waterfront.

For many on the civilian side, the highlight may be the air show and the Blue Angels. But more important to the U.S. Navy is the opportunity for the general public to learn about what U.S. naval forces are all about. Meet people, dispell myths, and show off some big ships.

For me, the highlight was closer to sea level and the learning opportunity was a unique one. Actually, it was precisely at sea level. I was privileged to participate as a social media ambassador in an embark upon the U.S.S. Kidd, an Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer.

I gladly found my way to the San Francisco waterfront at o’dark-thirty (that’s military time for really darn early). Our small contingent included a mix of people from the technology and nonprofit communities. We boarded and gathered in the officer’s dining room, where several of the ship’s officers and the commanding officer, Commander T.J. Zerr, greeted us.


Commander T.J. Zerr, U.S. Navy

Zerr gave us an overview of the U.S.S. Kidd itself and the role it plays in overall Navy operations. The Navy (thankfully) doesn’t exist in a constant state of conflict. All ships and crew train to work in a multi-ship construct during conflict situations, but a lot of their typical assignments are more aligned to humanitarian and disaster-relief missions.

Much of the U.S.S. Kidd’s activities are all about being in the right place at the right time. It’s about presence, such as being accessible to provide humanitarian aid following the tsunami in Japan or earthquakes in Haiti. Earlier this year, while in Southeast Asia, the U.S.S. Kidd assisted in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Gulf of Thailand.


The U.S.S. Kidd, approaching San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz, in the Parade of Ships for Fleet Week 2014.

Sometimes that presence is about visibility, which can help to deter conflict, reassure allies, and allow smaller countries to participate in international trade. Look at it this way: The big kid on the playground doesn’t have to take action, but the bullies are less likely to cause trouble knowing that there’s someone paying attention.

As big kids go, the Kidd isn’t all that big. At roughly 500 feet long and 60 feet wide, the USS Kidd is relatively small and pretty agile. But this is what allows it to go to places like Timor, without being an overwhelming, intimidating presence. (Compare it to the newly commissioned U.S.S. America amphibious assault ship.)

Personally, it was a privilege to have the opportunity to participate in the embark. And it was particularly interesting that my embark was with the U.S.S. Kidd given that my dad and uncle served on destroyers during the Korean War.

From land it looks like a big ship, but once you’re on board and realize how many people (nearly 300) and how much equipment (a lot) are combined into that space for months at a time, you realize what “close quarters” really means.

And close quarters requires good collaboration — on many levels. Stay tuned for an upcoming post…

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