CGC Healy – What do mustaches, bingo and darkness have in common?

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Answer: crew morale. 

Over the past month, we have been keeping you up-to-date on the CGC Healy’s Summer science deployment to the Arctic. One of the posts on July 3, Science on Ice, sparked a conversation on the Coast Guard’s Facebook page about what the crew does for fun when the cutter has down time. <As you read, I promise you I tried to get pictures of the mustaches… they were not available to protect the innocent…>

In this post, Ensign Emily Kehrt, the cutter’s Public Affairs Officer, tells us more about the creative and entertaining ways the crew blows off steam while underway in the ice.

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ARCTIC OCEAN – MK2 Camille Gavaldon and a member of the science party participate in a recent morale Casino night while ENS Nick Custer looks on. Although the chips have no value, players compete for prizes (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

During the Arctic summer, the sun never sets so this last month and a half has literally been one long day. And while we work hard to accomplish our science mission, the morale committee also works hard, coming up with creative ways to break up the long day for the crew and science party members alike.

Every Saturday a different group, from the officers to the science party to the cadets, cooks dinner. We follow dinner with bingo and then a movie in the hangar. The morale committee provides popcorn and soda, but it’s up to crew members to bring extra fleeces and blankets. The hangar gets pretty chilly in the Arctic.

While our Saturday night entertainment is a regular occurrence when underway, we’ve also had some more unusual morale events…

Mustaches are a part of the CGC Healy’s history as Captain Michael A. Healy, the cutter’s namesake, also had one.

At the beginning of the trip, the Mustache Growing Competition was announced. Although it is a male focused competition, it entertains the entire crew as the itchy and caterpillar-like hair overtakes their shipmate’s face.

Contestants could enter either the Varsity or the Junior Varsity (JV) division. Varsity was reserved for serious mustache-growers, those who were confident in their facial hair growing abilities. These contestants were required to shave at the beginning of the competition. JV was for those who had already begun to grow a mustache and who might be discouraged to enter the competition at the thought of having to shave whatever little progress they had made. While the Varsity players were judged on overall length and breadth, JV players were judged on a “before and after” basis.

ARCTIC OCEAN – FS3 Zachary Young sets up a ping pong shot. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The judges were members of the crew and the science party who, in the words of the morale committee, “have, by their actions, demonstrated a commitment to mustache excellence.” We just had the final judging a few nights ago (much to the relief of many competitors, who seemed unwilling to go out in public with their new mustaches during our Seward, Alaska, port call). MST2 Dan Jarrett won the varsity division, while MKC Doug Lambert won JV.

We’ve had two 3-on-3 basketball tournaments, played in fairly close quarters under the basketball net in our hangar. Impromptu ping-pong matches became suddenly immensely popular towards the end of the trip, with some of the scientists giving crewmembers a serious run for their money.

ARCTIC OCEAN – Scientists and Healy crewmembers play soccer during ice liberty. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

A final morale highlight was ice liberty. After finishing an on-ice science deployment one day, almost the entire crew piled onto the ice. Looking down at the ice from the bridge, it looked like recess back in grade school days. There were soccer balls, volleyballs, and a huge green inflatable ball. People had snowball fights and a group of scientists tried (semi-successfully) to make a human pyramid.

As we head into Seward, Alaska, we finally encounter night. After 35 days of only daylight, darkness is a morale lifter on its own.

The NASA science mission is drawing to a close, and the crew is ready to enjoy a week in Seward before heading back north for more ice, more science, and certainly more morale.

Till next time,
Ensign Emily Kehrt

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