by: Ariel Kohane
Recently, Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts invited four Girl Scouts (who recently bridged from Ambassador to Adult) down to Boston Harbor to take a tour of the USS Whidbey Island, which is a dock landing ship. It helps transport land and sea vehicles, as well as a Black Hawk helicopter. Our guide was a female lieutenant who serves as navigator aboard the ship. We also met female and male officers of all ranks, including the Captain!
Our guide showed us the pilot house, where we got to sit in the Captain’s chair, the decks, and the helicopter. The USS Whidbey Island was commissioned in 1985. The navigators use old-fashioned paper rather than GPS, which means that they are some of the most skilled navigators in the US Navy. The crew communicates via a series of tubes which run throughout the ship and old rotary phones.
We spoke with some of the Stewards of the Sea officers who taught us about how the ship tries to preserve marine life and how they manage and reduce waste out at sea. Some us got to hold machine guns and grenade launchers when we went into the well deck. We got to go aboard the various amphibious vehicles inside the well deck (which is flooded in order to bring small boats and other forms of transportation aboard) and got to sit in the drivers’ seats!
The tour ended with lunch in the ward room, which is where all of the higher-ranking officers eat their meals. We were joined by four female marines who shared their experiences with us. The crew told us about how food is stored on board for freshness and how they purify water through “reverse osmosis” in order to make it safe to drink. We also learned how the crew navigates on the ship. They use a “bullseye,” which tells them their exact location by using the deck number, and what side of the ship they are on. The bullseyes glow in the dark in case of power-outages.
Like so much of what we’ve been able to do as Girl Scouts, getting to tour the ship was an unforgettable and fun experience!