Pacific Partnership 2012 – civil service mariner musings aboard hospital ship USNS Mercy: Part II, Boatswain Cory Clark

Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departed Naval Station San Diego May 3, beginning Pacific Partnership 2012, a four-and-a-half month humanitarian and civic assistance mission that took medical, dental, veterinary, engineering and civic assistance projects to Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia. Mercy is crewed by 70 civil service mariners, or CIVMARs, working for MSC who operate and navigate the ship while Navy planners and medical personnel plan and execute the mission. Throughout the mission, which concludes in mid-September, a number of CIVMARs, including Boatswain Cory Clark, chronicled their experiences aboard the great, white ship for the Navy’s Pacific Partnership blog. We will post these entries in a multi-part blog series the next few weeks.
 -Compiled by Meghan Patrick, MSC Public Affairs

From May 23, 2012: 
        A “bosun” (a derivative of the word boatswain) is responsible for a ship’s rigging, anchors, cables, sails, cargo rigging, winch operations, deck maintenance, working aloft, small boat operations and all other deck-related items. The bosun is considered to be the foreman of the ship’s crew, because he or she issues orders to the deck crew.
        The boatswain is also responsible for the regular inspection of a vessel’s material condition and performs a variety of routine, skilled, and semi-skilled duties to maintain all areas of the ship not maintained by the engineering department.  These duties include cleaning, painting, and maintaining the vessel’s hull, superstructure and deck equipment, as well as executing a formal preventive maintenance program.
        Hi, I’m Cory Clark, Boatswain of the USNS Mercy for Pacific Partnership 2012 and this is my story.

Let’s see here… A little bit about me before I get to what people really want to hear. I am a Military Sealift Command civil service mariner with about 12-years of experience. This is my fourth mission with Pacific Partnership and I love what I do as the ship’s boatswain. I couldn’t be more excited about what this mission is going to bring. I’ve been on a variety of MSC ships on both U.S. coasts, but the Mercy has been my favorite platform. They usually bring me on board two or three months before PP12 to take care of a lot of the maintenance and restoration work. During that time, I also take care of a lot of the pre-checks and things that need to get done before everyone gets on to make sure their spaces are safe. It also becomes my job to make sure that my guys get the equipment and gear they need to do their jobs, as well as make sure that gear is operational. Sometimes my job feels like I’m trying to put together a 1,000-piece puzzle in a couple of minutes. It might not always be pretty, but I seem to manage to put the pieces in the right place, otherwise I don’t think they would keep bringing me back to the Mercy for Pacific Partnership.

         Being one of the two ship’s boatswains, I have to make sure a lot of stuff gets done to make sure the crew and patients are safe. Mother Ocean can be very dangerous and preventative measures must be taken; that is where I come in. I not only work with the damage control officers to make sure the crew is trained in damage control, but I also ensure the maintenance of all the small boats on the ship. On top of that, it is my job to make sure spaces on the ship are secured for sea, and to be responsible for the general safety of the crew. My favorite part of the job is being one of the boat drivers that carries crew, supplies and patients to and from the countries. Between these boats, we carry 80-90% of patients and supplies to and from shore.
        As a small boat captain, I am usually one of the first and last people that some of the patients see. The gratitude these people show is one of the most rewarding things in my life. On one occasion, I was transporting a group from Cambodia back to shore from the ship, and one of the men I was taking wouldn’t stop shaking my hand. He wasn’t even one of the people we treated, yet he showed an incredible amount of appreciation for what we were doing for his countrymen. It is moments like that that make me believe we are truly making a difference.
        I like to think of this as me giving back for things I partook in my life that may not have been proper or right for humanity. We help a lot of poor and indigent countries and people on this mission. To say that I was a part of that is a huge deal for me.
        I take satisfaction in knowing that we are giving more than 100% in this mission to help as many people as we possibly can.
        At this point in the mission [May 2012], we are ramping up for our first mission port in Indonesia. Deck department has been working long hours making sure everything goes off without a hitch.
I am happy to be a part of this mission. I love interacting with the patients as I bring them to the ship, I love being the “go to” guy with the fast-rescue boat, and I love knowing that I help keep things safe. I get a good feeling when I do my job. And to me, that makes all of the sacrifices of the life of a mariner worthwhile.

Read more about Cory Clark’s past Pacific Partnership missions


About mpatrick