This is a drill. This is a drill.

 Five of the scariest words a sailor can ever hear when at sea are “This is not a drill,” followed by “General quarters. General quarters all hands man your battle stations.”

 That only happened once to me during the year I spent on board a destroyer in the Western and Southern Pacific. We were somewhere out in the middle of the WestPac during the early evening. I was sitting on the mess decks watching some movie when I began hearing this weak, persistent sound.

 I told some guy sitting next to me: “That sounds like the general alarm.” Sure enough it was. The alarm sounded and those scary words were followed by an even scarier scene. My battle station was a couple of decks aloft in Combat Information Center. As I made it to the main deck I could see thick, black smoke coming from below decks in the engine spaces.

 We weren’t in combat conditions nor were we headed into such a scenario. I knew from the smoke that there was fire — hey, think I discovered something that day? — and that was the reason for GQ. My buddies in the Hull Technician gang,  the main damage control guys, quickly extinguished the fire and all was soon well again. But that little incident showed it is good to be trained for emergencies and know what is and what isn’t an emergency.

 I bring up this anecdote as I think of the drill that apparently scared some folks Schickless last week in Washington. By now most of you have heard about what turned out to be a Coast Guard drill on the Potomac River just about the time President Obama was to have given his remarks on Sept. 11, 2009, honoring those who were killed in the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 exactly eight years before at the Pentagon.

 The story about the Coast Guard drill in a nutshell is that, well, they were drilling with small boats on the Potomac. Some radio traffic became mixed up with the reality of what was going on. Some of the media — most notably CNN — went with what little they had and apparently caused a bit of hysteria. Then everyone began running with both hands on their asses for cover.

 I am not a big fan of CNN these days. My falling out with the cable network has nothing to do with politics as much as it does with their falling standards of excellence. They have lost many good news people. Some of the people whom I used to like have joined the “Let’s do melodrama” bandwagon which is running news into the ground.

 I have also mostly stayed quiet about the Obama administration until now. Specifically, I think Obama needs to send some of the people who run his communication shop off to somewhere less visible, like perhaps Antarctica. I would include among them Chief of Staff, Mr. Personality Himself, Rahm Emmanuel and that teddy-bear-of-a-guy Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

 While Emmanuel did nothing in particular that I know of in this specific debacle with the Coast Guard, Gibbs came out in a snit that day blaming the entire shebang on the media and specifically CNN.

 From my experience in both public safety and as a journalist, I cannot find any major mistake made by CNN. They jumped ahead on something that could have been major, but they were handed the opportunity on a brass serving platter by the Coast Guard.

 What was the Coast Guard thinking? Or, what were they thinking that particular day and time? Or, what were they not thinking?

 News people have to perform all kind of balancing acts, but in this particular instance I think the ones who erred on the side of something major  that was given to them by the Coast Guard came out all even. In other words, CNN. 

 The Coasties who came up the idea to run a drill when they did where they did perhaps have been inside the Beltway too long. Perhaps a nice cruise somewhere will clear their heads.