Well. Here I am. Standing in a brand new, newly minted sickbay , in a newly minted ship.
And it’s mine. Mine.
Excited don’t cover it.
It’s like that scene from “Star Trek The Motion Picture”. There’s “Dockys” everywhere , wires hanging, the smell of paint.
A butterfly, awaiting to emerge from a chrysalis.
A dragon, from its egg.
The first in her line, the first Type 25.
Below me, Rolls Royce engines throb into life.
The engineers will be on the upper deck. Looking at the funnel. Awaiting smoke. This helps them assess the performance of the engines, but some comedian always makes Pope election jokes.
Everywhere the Warfare department are bringing on ropes, cleaning, painting. People in my branch sometimes scorn them. These seamen. For their “lack of intellect”, their brawn. Not. Me. I was one, once. Another lifetime ago.
Without them we’d be a ferry.
An eighteen year old seaman straight out of the box may be the one who detects an inbound missile and saves us all. Her. Or him.
This is a Type 25. The most powerful frigate on the planet. But without these men and women, little more than kids, half of them, it would be nothing more than a beautiful shell.
Okay. The next few months will be a trial. Literally. Once she’s fully at sea, fully signed off, it starts.
We’ll be going to war, weekly, on a Thursday .
Every week. For at least six weeks.
This is AFTER the sea trials. This is the big one. Her first BOST.
Flag Officer Sea Training, or rather it’s staff, the “Fostys”, will infest the ship.
They’ll be in every book, every store , every messdeck, every bed. Every bootlocker.
They’d pick apart absolutely everything that a warship is. And play games with her.
Testing her routines.
Testing her engines.
Her radars, sonars, weapons. Those seamen. Those kids.
They’l be driven to exhaustion. And then some.
They’ll be writing the book, the reference from which all Type 25s will draw.
My bit’s relatively easier than that. I have to have a spotless sickbay. All the correct drugs and equipment, properly maintained, in date, and stored correctly.
My “Class As” secure.
My documentation has to be perfect. My records. My sick list.
I have to make sure my first aid stations are well maintained, my first aid teams drilled within an inch.
So that on Thursday’s war they live. The casualties.
It’s going to be stress central but that’s okay. I got this.
(That’s not just fingers I’m crossing)
But hey. What’s after? She’s a beautiful, powerful new ship. First in her line. The government will be keen to show her off. For sales. So, hopefully, we’ll be deployed on a global. Show her off. She’s a debutant after all.
The sickbay door slides open.
Stood there is a Surgeon Lieutenant Commander.
I’ve known him for years. We’re good friends.
But what’s he doing here?
Curious I suppose.
Nope. Apparently not. There’s to be a “Clear Lower Deck” in an hour, in HMS Nelson’s main theatre. All of us from the CO down. All two hundred and eighty or so crew.
This. Is. Big.
I’m not stupid. I don’t get a doctor to babysit unless something’s “going off”.
Normally, unless the deployment’s outside Europe, or long, I’m the ship’s Medical Officer. Me. An NCO. A paramedic. Well, that and more.
That Red Cross on my arm don’t just mean first aid.
I’ve three hundred crew mates who are simultaneously my closest friends and yet also my patients. From the captain down and including the Padre, or “Bish” , if borne.
If not , that’s me. I’m the person who hears things they’d never admit to their mothers. Or confess to a priest.
When I passed out of training, all those years ago, my classmates and I were blessed, by one such. A priest.
He’d prayed we’d find courage, intellect, and humility in the “ministry” of healing.
Only one hardened atheist scoffed. And then , probably, out of youthful bravado.
Those words stayed with me. Whatever my affiliations, whatever my faith.
Grown men will come to me as a first and last resort. They’ll cry over the stress of divorce. Young sailors. With all the usual bumps and dings. With stress. With depression. With family and relationship problems. Pregnancies, wanted or unwanted.
And they’ll trust me. Darkest thoughts. Bodies. Lives.
These things. All mine.
If that’s not ministry then what is?
So. After a hundred years of war, we face peace. And I have a new ship to play with. So I thought.
A superpower is bullying a newly fledged state. Invaded. To “stabilise”. Yeh really
Heard that before. So has the UN.
And the UN has decided to call their bluff.
“OK, says the UN, let us help…. Like it or not we’re sending troops”.
And a newly minted frigate.
So I and the Surgeon Lieutenant Commander have barely weeks, not months , to set up and run a sickbay. For war.
Must. Not. Panic.
Weirdly. Not panicking.
As I’ve said in every promotion course, before every exam, and during every exercise.
“Too late now to worry.”
It’s a microcosm of the whole ship. Her preparations.
There isn’t even a “Scale of Stores” for a Type 25. It’s still in the writing.
But hey. There’s what? Three hundred souls on board? About the same as a Type 22 or 42.
I’ll speak to The Institute Of Naval Medicine. FOST. Use a scale from one of those. Adapt one of those.
We’re given any resource we want.
We got this.
And bonus, we’re getting a Bish. I get him to put in a word.
Well. There it is. A little short story .
Hope you like.