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November 17, 2014 / iDriveWarships

USS Fort Worth Departs on Maiden Deployment to Singapore

USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) departs on maiden deployment.

USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) left San Diego today for a 16-month rotational deployment to Singapore in support of the Navy’s strategic rebalance to the Pacific.

Building on the achievements of USS Freedom’s (LCS 1) maiden 10-month deployment to Southeast Asia from March to December 2013; Fort Worth will visit more ports, engage more regional navies during exercises like Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) and expand littoral combat ship (LCS) capabilities, including embarking and utilizing the MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV).

With LCS crew 104 embarked, Fort Worth recently completed its deployment certifications during Task Group Exercise off the coast of Southern California. Many members of the crew have been onboard since the ship’s construction, so this deployment is the culmination of all their preparations.

After departing San Diego, Fort Worth will visit ports in Hawaii and Guam before arriving in its maintenance and logistics hub of Singapore.

As the Navy’s second LCS to embark on an overseas deployment, Fort Worth is the first LCS to deploy under the 3-2-1 manning concept, swapping fully trained crews roughly every four months. This concept will allow Fort Worth to deploy six months longer than Freedom, which swapped crews once in 10 months, extending LCS’ forward presence and reducing crew fatigue for the 16-month deployment. The concept is named for the three rotational crews supporting two LCS ships to maintain one deployed ship.

Like Freedom, Fort Worth will employ the surface warfare mission package for the entire deployment, to include two 30 mm guns, two 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boats and two 8-member maritime security boarding teams.

For the first time, Fort Worth will deploy with an aviation detachment from the “Magicians” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM-35), the Navy’s first composite expeditionary helicopter squadron. The aviation detachment will consist of one MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and one MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned autonomous helicopter. The Fire Scout will complement the MH-60R by extending range and endurance, enhancing overall maritime domain awareness.

November 12, 2014 / iDriveWarships

Saying Farewell to USS Ingraham

CDR StraubBy Cmdr. Daniel Straub, Commanding Officer of USS Ingraham (FFG 61)

Ingraham’s motto is the “Last and the Finest.” As the last frigate built for the U.S. Navy, Ingraham embodied the best of what it was to be a multi-mission warship capable of rapidly responding and operating forward in support of our nation’s tasking.

This ship remained ready to respond for the country for 25 years. In 1991, it was a humanitarian mission undertaken after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Republic of the Philippines. As Gay Lynn O’Hara, one of the personnel evacuated with her two children wrote in a letter to me, “Ingraham evacuated two sets of approximately 400 dependents.” She also wrote, “The ship truly was ‘A Global Force for Good,’” as it has been ever since.

Ingraham has remained that Global Force for Good, and during her 25 years of service to the nation Ingraham has answered America’s call.

As I walk the deckplates, I see how much work has gone into making Ingraham the great warship that she is today. I see the care that was put in every day to her maintenance and operation. Material readiness, operational readiness, mission readiness, combat readiness—all of these have two things in common. The first is readiness; readiness to do the nation’s tasking. Ingraham has always been ready, willing and able to fulfill her mission requirements. The second thing is Ingraham’s crew; they are the ones who forged all of Ingraham’s successes. This is a crew who has proven time and again that they care about their ship and about each other.

One of the things that make frigates unique is that their crews are smaller than most; each person has to rely on one another for everything, from knowing how to fight fires and perform damage control to getting along and finding ways to reconcile differences. We have to see each other every day, so we figured out quickly that getting along makes things a whole lot easier! Ingraham Sailors take ownership—they do their jobs well and they do not cut corners, even when no one is looking. They follow procedures and they know that if they don’t—either they or someone they know will have to pay for their shortcut or complacency. They do these things because they know that on a frigate you have to be self-sufficient and self-reliant—you have to keep your gear in top operational condition because no one else is going to fix it for you. The redundancy found on other ships, whether it be personnel or equipment, is just not there on a frigate. The bench is not deep; the bench is us.

I know there is some sense of idealization now that Ingraham is coming to the end of her operational life, so I also want to emphasize that the journey has not been easy. Ingraham’s Sailors have mixed their sweat, labor and sacrifice with her success. As a testament to her lifelong relentless efforts and robust schedule, the past couple of years have been rigorous and demanding of the crew. While away from her homeport in Everett, Wash. in 2013, Ingraham spent months conducting basic phase training, two months conducting maintenance in San Diego, and an additional two months in San Diego for a Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) Material Inspection. This year, Ingraham spent all of January conducting work-ups prior to deployment, then in March the ship departed for a seven-and-a-half month Combating Transnational Organized Crime deployment to the 4th Fleet area of operations.

Although it was challenging, all the training and material preparations paid off when Ingraham and her embarked Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments proved her mettle through the disruption and interdiction of 11.9 metric tons of cocaine—more than 26,000 pounds!—valued at more than $561 million. Over the course of her deployment, 32 suspected illicit trafficking personnel were detained for extended periods of time. On top of that, Ingraham also captured a fully-loaded self-propelled semi-submersible vessel (SPSS) in the Eastern Pacific.

The seizure of such SPSS vessel was a significant feat for U.S. and multinational forces that conduct year-round counter illicit trafficking operations in the waters off Latin America and the Caribbean.

Semi-submersibles are commonly used by illicit traffickers to move large amounts of drugs and other contraband because the vessel’s low profile makes it extremely difficult to detect at sea. U.S. and regional partner nation law enforcement agencies rarely spot a semi-submersible on the high seas. And when they do, capturing them is very difficult since the crews often attempt to scuttle and sink the craft to dispose of evidence.

As a final test to their impressive efforts, USS Ingraham’s crew successfully embarked to Peru to participate in UNITAS 55-2014 with 14 partner nations. After UNITAS, Ingraham participated in the silent forces exercise (SIFOREX) alongside three Peruvian diesel submarines and two Peruvian Frigates. Wrapping up the deployment, Ingraham participated in Peru’s Navy Day parade, with more than 30 Sailors marching in their annual parade.

Ingraham performed all of this without missing one operational commitment and without a mid-deployment maintenance availability, which is a testament to the sheer ingenuity, perseverance and will of this crew.

As the Navy’s most recently commissioned warship, USS America (LHA 6) begins her journey as USS Ingraham officially ends her legacy in the fleet. All the incredible men and women who have served our country on this great warship have earned my deepest gratitude and that of this nation.

November 7, 2014 / iDriveWarships

USS John Paul Jones Proves Most Capable Surface Ship in the Fleet

Earlier this week the recently modernized USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) made Surface Navy history.

For the first time, a single ship shot down a ballistic missile in the upper atmosphere and simultaneously fired defensive anti-ship missiles. Sitting 400 miles off Kauai’s Pacific Missile Range Facility, John Paul Jones epitomized ‘Warfighting First’ by engineering and executing this mission so successfully. This was incredibly complex and proved the value of the Navy’s modernization program.

When John Paul Jones’ keel was laid 24 years ago, this technology was not yet in existence. Through effective modernizations and valuable investments in the fleet, today John Paul Jones represents the most advanced, capable ship in the Surface force.

This is huge deal and historic for the Surface Navy!

Modernization programs are not new. During the 1980s, WWII battleships were taken out of mothballs, reactivated and refitted with new electronics and new capabilities. In addition to those big guns they had, they were updated with technology that wasn’t even imagined when the battleships were first built.

This is playing out with John Paul Jones today. This joint effort between the Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Pacific Command, test proves the continued relevance of John Paul Jones and other Surface combatants.

This successful test is a game changer for the Surface Navy—not just in capability—but in expanding operational options. With a single ship we can engage multiple threats without deploying a second.

John Paul Jones is the MOST CAPABLE ship sailing the ocean today. Hats off to the Sailors and civilians who epitomize ‘Warfighting First’ by engineering and executing this mission so successfully.

November 7, 2014 / iDriveWarships

CARAT Cambodia 2014: Exercise in Review

By Lt. Lauryn Dempsey, Destroyer Squadron 7 Public Affairs Officer

The fifth convening of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Cambodia exercise took place in and around Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Oct. 27-31.

Julie Chung, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Vice Adm. Robert Thomas, commander, 7th Fleet gave remarks during an opening ceremony held at Ream Naval Base Oct. 27.

“To say that the great seas literally link Cambodia and the United States is no exaggeration,” said Chung. “With $2.8 billion worth of goods traveling from Cambodia to the U.S. in 2013, ocean-going trade is a critical part of our relationship that employment and helps to grow both of our economies. In a similar way, much of what makes Southeast Asia a vibrant center of growth comes from the region’s access to the abundant resources and maritime mobility that long shorelines, thousands of islands, and the waters connecting them all provide.”

Thomas echoed Chung’s remarks, and touched upon the progress our two countries have made together since the Royal Cambodian Navy joined the CARAT exercise series in 2010.

“We’ve made steady progress in just a few years, growing CARAT from a basic port visit to a series of training events on Ream Naval Base and culminating this year in a two-day sea phase in the Gulf of Thailand,” said Thomas. “Maritime security challenges in this region are real… No one nation can address these challenges alone, which is why exercises like CARAT are critical to promoting regional stability.”

CARAT provides a credible venue for regional navies to share best practices and foster maritime security cooperation. This year’s exercise included ashore and at-sea training opportunities.

Sailors onboard guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) trained with the Royal Cambodian Navy counterparts during Visit, Board, Search and Seizure exercises, and also exchanged damage control and navigation best practices.

During the closing ceremony, Kacher reflected on the week-long exercise.

“This year’s CARAT with the Royal Cambodian Navy was our most advanced exercise together yet. We have proven our ability to operate underway together safely and will build upon this confidence as we prepare for CARAT 2015.”

October 31, 2014 / iDriveWarships

International Mine Countermeasures Exercise Underway in Arabian Gulf

Clearance divers from Fleet Diving Unit 3 assigned to Task Group 523.3, along with divers from the Royal Naval Force of Jordan, conduct a search dive as part of IMCMEX.

The world’s largest naval exercise, the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX), kicked off this week in Manama, Bahrain with 44 participating nations from six continents.

Organized and led by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet, IMCMEX began with the Maritime Infrastructure Protection Symposium on Oct. 27.

IMCMEX is an opportunity for more than 6,500 personnel from navies around the world to execute the intricate defensive techniques necessary to search for and dispose of mines, which represent a threat to all nations worldwide.

The initial stages of IMCMEX will take place ashore, allowing participating nations to ensure they can communicate with each other. Representatives will then have an opportunity to plan operations and maneuvers together. Once the task group sails, the ships will practice at-sea mine countermeasure operations, as well as maritime infrastructure protection and maritime security operations.

The exercise runs through Nov. 13 and will end with an opportunity to discuss best practices and lessons learned for future exercises.

October 21, 2014 / iDriveWarships

USS Michael Murphy Departs on Maiden Deployment

Sailors aboard USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) stand by as the ship departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for an independent deployment to the western Pacific Ocean.

This week the guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) left Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on the ship’s first operational forward deployment to the Western Pacific Ocean.

During the independent deployment, the ship and crew of more than 300 Sailors are scheduled to conduct goodwill activities with partner nations, along with various presence operations including Oceania Maritime Security Initiative (OMSI).

The crew was also joined by a law enforcement detachment from U.S. Coast Guard District 14, who embarked on the ship to participate in OMSI. The detachment is scheduled to conduct maritime law enforcement operations from the ship to administer U.S. and Pacific Island Nations fisheries laws and suppress illicit activities. OMSI is a joint Department of Defense (Navy), Department of Homeland Security (USCG) and Department of Commerce (NOAA) program.

Michael Murphy is a multi-mission ship with anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare surface combatants capabilities, and is designed to operate independently or with an associated strike group. The ship is homeported in Hawaii, and is part of Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific and U.S. 3rd Fleet.

USS Michael Murphy is named for Lt. (SEAL) Michael P. Murphy who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in 2005 during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan. Murphy was the first person awarded the medal for actions in Afghanistan, and the first member of the U.S. Navy to receive the award since the Vietnam War.

October 11, 2014 / iDriveWarships

Bringing USS America to Life

Capt. Hall speaks during media day onboard USS America

By Capt. Robert A. Hall, Jr., Commanding Officer of USS America (LHA 6)

The commissioning journey for the newest amphibious assault ship in the fleet, USS America (LHA 6), has been challenging, rewarding and everything the first commanding officer of a new warship could ask for. I am so proud to bring this ship to life today in San Francisco alongside my crew, loved ones and the American public. When USS America’s keel was laid in July 2009, the anticipation started to build. Then the christening happened in Oct. 2012, crew marched aboard in April 2014 and the ship’s maiden transit just two-months ago in July. Today is the day—Commissioning Day—that I have been looking forward to since I received my orders to command USS America.

I want to emphasize that the journey has not been easy. All the training, personnel processing, late nights at the office, watchstanding requirements, and just learning to operate a new ship, has kept my crew of over 1,100 plankowners very busy.

To attest to the crew’s impressive efforts, USS America’s crew and embarked units successfully completed the ship’s maiden transit, “America Visits the Americas” only a couple weeks ago prior to coming up from her homeport in San Diego to San Francisco for commissioning. The embarked flag staff from Expeditionary Strike Group 3, roughly 300 Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) South, and pilots from both the “Argonauts” of Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 22 and the “Blackjacks” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, were essential in the ship’s momentous South American transit.

As a pre-commissioning ship and crew, we visited and hosted distinguished visitors from Cartagena, Colombia; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Valparaiso, Chile; and Callao, Peru. We also hosted distinguished visitors at sea from Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and El Salvador. When the ship transited the southernmost point of South America, through the Strait of Magellan, we had the honor to have the Secretary of the Navy embark USS America and hold an all-hands call in the ship’s hangar bay. This transit was a once in a lifetime experience and one that very few, if any, pre-commissioning ships have an opportunity to accomplish.

As our ship’s motto states, “Bello Vel Pace Paratus,” meaning, “Prepared in War or in Peace,” this ship is ready and prepared to respond for the country. Whether it is a humanitarian mission, embassy evacuation or a need for air assault, USS America is waiting to answer the call.

USS America officially begins her legacy in the fleet today and I want to thank all the incredible men and women serving our country, on this great warship. To everyone who has had a role in breathing life into USS America, thank you for your support, and for the vision you created for this aviation-centric platform. This ship has already made history, now the Navy and Marine Corps team must continue to learn more about all the capabilities, and endless possibilities, this new class of ship will provide amphibious warfare well into the future.

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