return to normal before the VIPs arrived, like the
last time, The next series of 1MC announcements
shattered that wish.
All repair division and damage control
personnel not on watch muster abreast elevator
two, announced the 1MC. Everyone in the public
affairs office froze and strained to catch every word.
Medical emergency, medical emergency in
compartment. . . away the medical team away,
shouted the 1MC. All engineering personnel not
on watch muster abreast elevator two.
Right away, the butterfly in my stomach stood
up. My gut feeling told me something was wrong,
very wrong or else damage control central would
not muster all engineering personnel. JO3 Greg
Traweek, who was working on the mess decks, burst
into the office and reported an explosion. Bautch
immediately called up the prepared adverse news
release format in the computer.
I decided to gather first-hand information.
Unable to reach the scene of the explosion because
of fire boundaries, I went aft toward the medical
department. Before reaching medical, I found the
aft mess deck lined with burned crewmen and
corpsmen racing to attend the injured.
I knew I had to take quick decisive action.
Remembering my PA Regs training, I had one hour
to send the initial press release. I realized the clock
was ticking and the VIPs were still inbound.
The C-23 carrying the VIPs escorted by Cmdr.
Mark Stun, the Commander Naval Forces Japan
PAO, landed. Receiving the VIPs and improvising
a new plan for them in flag country diverted my
attention. The initial press release was still waiting
The Midway public affairs staff pieced together
the first press release from various sources. JOC Jim
OLeary phoned in after talking to damage control
personnel near the scene. Traweek relayed the status
of the injured from the aft mess deck. I located
Midway's position in relation to Yokosuka from the
flag watch officer and Bautch strung all the pieces
The crisis management marathon was just
beginning. As soon as the initial press release was
out, Bautch and I began preparing for the follow-up
releases. We wanted to determine the number of
injured and the status of the fire. But again, the VIPs
onboard prevented me from concentrating on the
While the office was buzzing with activity,
OLeary directed JO3 Kevin Stephens and JOSN
Lee Gobin to videotape the mass casualties on the
mess deck, the medical evacuation of injured
crewmen and the transport of deceased crew
members to a helicopter. The footage was used by
Navy News This Week and will also be used as a
training aid for Navy medical personnel.
Bautch and I continued to hunt down new
information for follow-up releases. By this time, we
learned to compare notes with the intelligence
officers who were writing the OPREP-3s. Bautch
also established direct contact with the chief
engineer and damage control assistant to streamline
information gathering. In between follow-up
releases, we drafted the opening statement and
composed a list of questions and answers for the
About 10:30 a.m. the second day, Cdr. Mark
Newhart, the Seventh Fleet PAO, arrived by
helicopter about four hours before the ship returned
to Yokosuka. The task at hand was to organize the
When Midway entered Yokosuka Harbor, 12
Japanese media helicopters flew in circles and
hovered about 150 feet above the flight deck. Three
bus loads of reporters were waiting on the pier.
About 30 minutes after Midway cast its first line,
more than 100 international print and electronic
journalists charged over the brow to cover the media
availability of COMCARGRUFIVE and the CO.
A major challenge for the PAO handling an
emergency is getting accurate information quickly.
Rumors abound amid confusion. I always gathered
or double-checked information with the experts.
The PAO onboard an aircraft carrier is like a reporter
in a city under an airport. The fire department and
hospital will not call the reporter in an emergency.
The reporter has to go to the fire department and
hospital. While being the inquisitive reporter, I also
thought about how to gather the facts without
impeding the fire-fighting and lifesaving activities.
Another major challenge was running press
releases up and down the chop chain in a timely
fashion. The geographic separation between the
bridge (CO and XO) and flag country (admiral and
chief of staff) made this process time consuming.
The highly perishable information quickly becomes