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E-mail From The Front

Danielle Helpap
Photo: U.S. Navy

Danielle Helpap, 25

Born and raised: Delanco, New Jersey
Graduate of: Riverside High School
Has taken college courses at: Rutgers University, Pima College and the University of Arizona

Petty Officer Helpap is an electronic warfare specialist, responsible for intercepting, analyzing and evaluating the electromagnetic spectrum to provide tactical support and defense for USS KEARSARGE (LHD 3).

Petty Officer Helpap joined the Navy because she believes serving her country is an honor. Her deceased father served for eight years in the Navy as a corpsman during the Vietnam War.

Her goals are to serve with a cryptologic support center in Europe and finish her degree in evolutionary biology.




  Faces From The Front: See More U.S. Soldiers
04.07.2003

Hello Everyone,

Thank you for your letters of encouragement and kind words. It feels good to be appreciated.

It's getting really hot here and we have been doing a lot of work outside lately and so my tan is coming along nicely. Nothing really new or exciting to report besides a port visit to Bahrain. I finally got a chance to relax and do some shopping and eat some good food. I wish we would have had the chance to shop out in the town of Bahrain, but because of the war, we were only allowed to visit the base. I feel really bad because while I am out on liberty, our Marines are in the middle of trying to take Baghdad. Liberty is great, but it's not the same as being home and getting to do what you want. You have a certain dress code, have to sign out and back in with your liberty buddy (taking full responsibility for each other), have a curfew and have certain places you can and cannot go to. I would rather have a bunch of rules, however, than be stuck on the ship, and so I stick to them and that way I don't get into trouble. If you don't follow the rules, you don't go out next time and instead get to see the captain and talk to him about why you got in trouble out in town and I don't think that sounds very fun.

I stopped complaining about little things a while ago when I saw what our soldiers are doing out there and what they must be going through. The story about Jessica Lynch really hit home to everyone and we are all talking about it quite a bit on the ship. The biggest topic of discussion is, of course, when we are going home. The rumors are everywhere and some are more far-fetched than others, but we all agree that it depends on how well everything goes ashore. I think it is going well, but I know we have a while to go and so I am trying not to think about it too much because it makes me homesick. Mail and supplies have been getting to us faster than usual, making morale higher in addition to liberty because I am glad to hear my family is doing alright.

Well, better go eat some of that fine Navy chow they have and cool off for a bit. Hope to hear from everyone and take care!

Danielle





03.23.2003

Hello Again,

It's been a very long, stressful week out here and even though we have made a lot of progress in the war effort, we have a long road ahead and there is no telling when it will end. We've been out here over 70 days and we only had a very brief 36 hours in port (Bahrain). I think it is starting to wear a little on the crew. The fear of the unknown, the homesickness and the boredom is making everyone a little unnerved.

I am starting to get frustrated at little things that usually don't bother me. To counteract the stress, I started going to the gym every day instead of every once in a while and I think it's helping. I'm getting especially tired of waiting in line for everything (chow, ship's store, laundry) and sleeping in a little rack in which I bang my elbows and head every night when I turn over. The mattress is about two inches thick and my pillow is like a pancake. However, when I think of the things that bother me on the ship, I tell myself that I am lucky because our Marines that rode out with us are ashore and are actually in the line of fire and they must be scared and have much worse living conditions.

I'm sure you've heard about some of the accidents and friendly-fire incidents from the news and we are all really sad for the personnel that were lost and for their families. Accidents happen in a war. I know that on the ship our lives are in each other's hands, so not only do we need to be careful for ourselves but also for the sake of our shipmates. One little accident and the whole ship is in danger. As much as we depend on each other to prevent accidents, we depend on each other to help save the ship and our lives if something were to happen. We are not just each other's friends, co-workers and second family, we have to be each other's guardians and heroes.

I got a lot of really nice responses this week and would like to thank all of you who are supporting us out here. I watched the news and saw the protests in New York City and was rather upset by it. I would like to remind those who protested that most of the firefighters, rescue workers and others that helped out after the terrorist attacks in your same city were either active duty military or former military and despite what you think of the war, we are out here risking our lives. Navy ships came up in a heartbeat to help protect and help out New York after September 11th and we would do it again if we had to because we would never turn our back on America, just wish some Americans wouldn't turn their back on what we are doing. While 100,000 protested, millions of New Yorkers stood by, watched and said nothing on our behalf.

Hasn't history taught us the lessons of standing by and doing nothing? The Nazis marched thousands of people into death camps and the people just stood there. We are the country that helped stop Hitler's evil regime and we are going to stop Saddam. Why would someone think it's not our business that millions of people in Iraq are oppressed and women are beheaded in the streets, just because it's not our country?

I am out here as well as my shipmates ensuring that the world will be free. Myself and my shipmates are disheartened that our own people in the city that represents our nation could treat us in this manner.

Danielle



03.10.2003

Hello again,

Thanks to all who wrote me already! Your letters were awesome and really cheered me up after a long week of work.

The past few days have been busy with drills, drills, drills. We practice all the time for potential emergencies that could happen to the ship such as fire, flooding, chemical and biological attack (CBR drills). The CBR drills are the longest and the most difficult ones because we have to wear gas masks, which we affectionately call "sucking rubber." It is harder than you think to breathe while wearing the masks and they make your face all itchy. We have to practice all of the drills often so our responses become routine. Reaction time in an emergency is critical!

I had a couple of viewers write me and ask about what it's like to be a woman in the Navy. It's no different, really, than being a woman at any other workplace. You have to deal with some people that don't think women belong in the military or those who think that you can get your way by "batting your eyelashes," but ignorant people are everywhere and I just prove them wrong by working harder and doing a better job. That's all you can do, really. Sexual harassment is not tolerated by the Navy or any branch of the military and there are workshops every year that the whole ship attends to reiterate that fact. The uniforms are not very complimentary to the female form and if you have long hair, it is a pain to have to tame it into a bun or braid every day. These kinds of things you eventually get used to and you learn to bring any beauty products or smelly lotions with you onboard because they don't exactly have a Bath and Body Works in the ship's store. They try to sell some "girly" things but the selection is limited. Thank God for my sister who sends the most awesome care packages with my favorite shampoos, soaps and other goodies.

Another viewer asked if we have heard about the anti-war protests and the answer is yes. Some of us are upset that the same people who cried when the USS Cole was attacked or when Sept. 11 happened are now turning their backs on us who are trying to ensure that such tragic events do not occur again. We may very well experience another attack if we cower at terrorism or allow weapons of mass destruction not to be accounted for. A lot of progress has been made in that Iraq has complied more with the U.N. in the past month than has been done in the past decade for the simple fact that we are showing our military presence and that we are not backing down. I hope this all ends peacefully, only time will tell. Instead of protesting, people should be brainstorming for a solution to this mess. Marching in the streets and holding up signs does not solve anything, doing something about it does and that is why we are out here.

Well, have to get back to work. I hope you all continue to write me and tell me what you are thinking or to ask more questions. Thank you for giving me something to look forward to every day.

Danielle



03.04.2003

Hello Everyone,

I'm very excited to be writing you all and I hope that I help give you insight on what it is like to be a sailor and to be on a deployment aboard USS KEARSARGE (LHD 3). 

I've been in the Navy for two years and this is my second six-month overseas deployment; this one is much different from my first because in 2001 we made a lot of port visits to sunny spots in the Mediterranean. There is a lot of uncertainty about what is going to happen in the next few months and we all have our theories about what we think will happen, but only time will tell. Regardless of our opinions and political affiliations, we all worry more for our families at home and want to go home as soon as possible.

I am an Electronic Warfare Specialist and I work in the Combat Information Center (CIC). Essentially I operate a big radar detector that helps me find ships, aircraft, subs — pretty much anything that has a radar on it. My work is essential in tactical situations where we would need to fight the ship, and at times my job can be really stressful, but I get bored easily if there are no contacts to track. I work in a dark room with blue lights and we all kid around about how those lights can cure the most severe insomnia. I stand watch for eight hours each day, and spend the rest of my work day in my shop and helping out with cleaning the passageways and doing maintenance on our equipment. When I finish my work, I'm free to do whatever I want.

There are plenty of things to do on USS KEARSARGE (LHD 3) when I'm not working. I like to check my e-mail the most because I love getting letters and funny jokes from my family and friends. I try to work out at least three times a week in our gym, which has pretty much every type of machine you can imagine, as well as free weights.

If I'm being lazy, I can watch a movie. We have TVs all over the ship where movies are played day and night, and they take requests! Before I go to bed, I usually write in my journal and then read some of my trashy romance novels that my mom sent me in the mail. If berthing (where we sleep) is a little noisy, which oftentimes it is with over a hundred chatty women sleeping in a little space, I put on my headphones and listen to music. Music keeps you going out here. I love listening to the Dave Matthews Band and Morrissey the most, but I have a very eclectic collection of CDs. I like anything from the Gypsy Kings to Ani DiFranco.

Well, better get ready to go on watch. I hope you all write to me and ask lots of questions. I will answer them the best I can and hopefully you will better understand what it's like to be out here on a ship and you'll probably get a laugh out of some of the stuff I write too because sailors work hard but we know how to have fun too!

Danielle

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