October 31, 2018

As I wrote in my previous post, San Francisco's Fleet Week has provided me with some wonderful research opportunities.

This year I went in with the primary goal of taking one of the ship tours because the draft of my current book, WAR: Retaliation, has a pivotal scene on a cargo ship. Unfortunately, the military cargo ship available to tour was too far from the rest of the activities to be easily accessible by foot. So I figured the combat ship the USS Manchester would be a good substitute.

Unfortunately, a LOT of other people also wanted that tour. The line was as long as one you'd see for the most popular amusement park rides. After ten minutes enviously watching the lucky civilians walking around the deck of the ship, I'd maybe advanced ten feet in line. I figured it was going to take me over an hour to get onto the ship. Since I also wanted to make it over to the Humanitarian Village, I gave up on getting a tour. 🙁

I did take a nice photo of the outside of the ship, though.

The USS Manchester at San Francisco

Since in 2016 I spent most of my time in the Humanitarian Village talking to the medical personnel, this year I focused on the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) guys.

First, I visited the Marines. As with my excursion in 2016, I ended up talking the longest with the senior soldier. I continue to be humbled by how willing they've all been to answer my questions. However, the EOD guys did tell me several times that they couldn't answer a specific question for security reasons. Even more surprising was that they were willing to answer personal questions, such as whether EOD has a high incidence of divorce.

Answer? Yes. Although the Marine I talked to claimed this was more a consequence of their frequent absences rather than wives being unable to cope with the danger inherent in their jobs.

At one point, I got to try on one of the EOD protective suit helmets. Dang, but it's heavy! They said it's about seventeen pounds. I only had it on for a couple of minutes and could already feel the strain on my neck. I can't imagine wearing it for hours!

Check out the headlights above the visor in the below photo.

Here's a surprising fact: The suits don't include protective boots. The men just wear their regular combat boots. And most of them go without gloves for the tactile advantage.

Vanessa Kier wearing an EOD helmet

The below photo shows the part of the EOD suit that covers the neck and rises up to enclose the bottom of the helmet.

Neck section of EOD suit

After talking to the Marines, I went over to talk to the Navy divers, some of which were also EOD trained.

Unfortunately, when I ran a plot point by them about dropping a certain type of weapon into the ocean, I was told that the scenario I have in my current book won't work. Drat!

However, they did say that if I invented some new technologies, I could probably get people to believe that my scenario would happen. Yes!

One of the coolest moments came when a mother asked if the Navy accepted girls because her daughter was interested in being a diver. The daughter smiled with such joy when the guy told her that yes, they do accept girls. Hmm...maybe someday I'll write a heroine who's a Navy diver.

Once again, at the end of the day I had tons of notes and aching feet! I estimate that I walked six miles to and from the BART station and was on my feet for five hours straight. No wonder I was exhausted by the time I got home!

As for next year? I'm setting myself a reminder to arrive earlier in the day so that I'm not asking questions when the Blue Angels are flying overhead. It's too distracting. Not to mention the noise! LOL

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