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August 18, 2017 / iDriveWarships

SURFPAC Surface Line Week 2017


SURFPAC Surface Line Week 2017 Overall 1st Place, Large Command, USS Boxer

There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to get the blood flowing and lift moral among shipmates. The Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S Pacific Fleet hosted Surface Line Week (SLW) has offered that for 36 years.

SLW gives San Diego area Sailors, Marines, and Department of the Navy civilian employees an opportunity to come together to compete in both athletic and professional events and build camaraderie within the Surface community and along the waterfront each summer.


SAN DIEGO (Aug. 17, 2017) Sailors participate in a damage control competition as part of the 36th annual Surface Line Week (SLW) in San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Phil Ladouceur)

“It’s always great to see the friendly competition,” said Lt. Amanda Towey, this year’s SLW coordinator. “These team sports really have an incredible level of camaraderie and all around fun.”

Commands compete in large, medium and small unit categories, accumulating points for each event they participate in throughout the week to identify the top command in each category. The week culminated with an award presentation where Vice Admiral Tom Rowden, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S Pacific Fleet announced many SLW winners including:

Overall 1st Place, Large command: USS Boxer (LHD 4)

Overall 1st Place, Medium command: USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26)

Overall 1st Place, Small command: Transient Personnel Unit

SMWDC Particpates in Surface Line Week 2017

San Diego, Calif. (Aug. 16, 2017) Lt. Ben Olivas, a Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) assigned to Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), competes in a swimming event as part of Surface Line Week (SLW) 2017 on board Naval Base San Diego, Aug. 15. (U.S. Navy Photo by Lt. Matthew Stroup/Released)

Commands participated in professional skills challenges such as sailing, photography, cake decorating, lathe work, marksmanship, medical diagnosis, rescue swimmer, ship handling, valve packing, visual communications, maneuvering board (MoBoard), seamanship, and welding and cutting. They also competed in a damage control marathon, a stretcher bearer race, and a rigid-hulled inflatable boat race. This year’s SLW also featured athletic tournaments such as golf, softball, basketball, bowling, dodge ball, flag football, tennis, volleyball, soccer, and racquetball, as well as weightlifting, billiards, a 5k run, swimming, push-up and pull-up endurance challenges and functional fitness competitions.

Congratulations to all of the winners and everyone who participated! The coveted award of overall winner, which comes with the most bragging rights, will be announced at the annual Surface Warrior Ball August 26.


For more information on SURFPAC’s Surface Line Week 2017, click here or visit their Surface Line Week Facebook page here.



August 11, 2017 / iDriveWarships

75 Years Later: The Raid on Makin Island


Sgt. Walter Carroll and Pfc. Dean Winters of the 2nd Marine Raiders Battalion – “Carlson’s Raiders” – prepare to debark from the submarine USS Nautilus before the Makin Raid. The strike was designed to divert Japanese attention from the U.S. landings on Guadalcanal and boost American morale. National Archives photo

In honor of the 75th anniversary of the raid on Makin Island we bring you the inspiring story of grit and determination of the strike. This World War II battle became not only the stuff of legend, but the namesake of several of U.S. Navy ships.

The coral atoll in the Pacific’s Gilbert Island chain known as Makin Island (though it’s real name is Makin Atoll) became the site of American troops’ first amphibious attack made from submarines. The raid on Makin Island began August 17, 1942 when 222 Marines from two companies of the 2nd Raider Battalion launched from submarines USS Argonaut (APS 1) and USS Nautilus (SS 168).

The Raiders’ mission was to destroy the Japanese installations, gain intelligence on the area, take prisoners, and divert Japanese attention and reinforcements from Guadalcanal and Tulagi, where American Marines had landed earlier in the month.

Marine Lt. Col. Evans F. Carlson led the men ashore under the cover of night. Notable amongst his troops was his executive officer, Maj. James Roosevelt, the son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, things didn’t exactly go as planned.


Makin Atoll, aka Makin Island

Once topside the men, known as “Carlson’s Raiders,” were met with gale force winds and rough seas. While making their way to the beach many of their small boat engines were drowned out by the bad weather, and the men had to paddle them to shore. As the Raiders arrived, they spotted a small boat and a large transport ship in the waters nearby. Using only radios to relay communications and compass readings from Carlson, Nautilus fired her 6-inch guns into the night and was able to sink both vessels.

Despite all this, the men were able to remain undetected until landing on the beach. Shortly after landing, an accidental burst of gunfire from one of the men’s rifles announced their arrival. Within 20 minutes the fighting began. As the mission unfolded, the men faced-off against everything from heavy sniper fire, tanks, and machine guns, to flamethrowers and aerial bombing from at least 12 aircraft. But they were able to evade the threat and eliminate the enemy.

After several attempts the men were able to pass the breakers August 18 and make their way aboard the submarines, which immediately steamed to Pearl Harbor. An accurate account of the men couldn’t be made until they reached Hawaii. There it was revealed 30 of Carlson’s Raider’s hadn’t returned.


Marine Raiders and Sailors crowd the deck of USS Argonaut as she is warped into the dock at Pearl Harbor after the Makin Island raid. National Archives photo

It was eventually determined that seven drowned, 14 were killed by Japanese forces, and nine were unaccounted for. It was later discovered those nine were somehow marooned on the island. With help from sympathetic locals they evaded Japanese forces for some time but were eventually caught and taken to Kwajalein where they were beheaded.

While there has been some debate about the success of the mission objectives, it was at the time considered both a success and a morale raiser for the troops, as well as a sign to the world that the U.S. was gaining control of the war.

The will and determination of Carlson’s Raiders left a lasting impression and less than two years later the Casablanca-class escort carrier USS Makin Island (CVE 93) was commissioned. Although the original Makin Island was decommissioned in 1946, the gritty, fighting spirit of her namesake Raiders is carried on in the present USS Makin Island (LHD 8), an amphibious assault ship.

USS Makin Island is home ported in San Diego where the crew is now enjoying some time ashore after returning from a seven-month deployment in July.

August 4, 2017 / iDriveWarships

From Training to Real Life Success: Driving an LCS

In The Bridge

OOD Lieutenant Natalie Schimelpfenig, right, and JOOD Lieutenant Junior Grade Travyn Mapes, left

Guest Blog By: Lieutenant Natalie Schimelpfenig, USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) Navigator

Officer of the Deck (OOD) is the most coveted underway watchstations for a young ensign on board a U.S Navy warship. This position gives junior officers a great amount of authority because while standing the watch they act as a direct representative of the ship’s captain and are responsible for the navigation and safety of the vessel. Although OODs are assisted by other navigation watchstanders on the bridge team, it’s an intense role to fill.

I originally attended OOD training en route to my first ship, USS Lake Erie (CG 70). It consisted of several hours in a virtual reality headset simulator under the close watch of experienced officers. While driving in this virtual environment, I practiced giving steering commands, driving through various weather and traffic conditions, and performing mooring evolutions. I felt the training gave me more than enough preparation to drive my newly assigned ship. After standing bridge watches during workups and a 7th Fleet deployment on board Lake Erie, I was even more confident in my ship driving ability and ready to finally take the deck.

Later, when I received orders to Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Crew 101, I was surprised to see that I would be attending three more months of OOD training before joining the command. As it turns out, the high speed OOD School in Newport, Rhode Island was the best school I’ve attended in my four years of naval service.

In the Bridge

OOD Lieutenant Natalie Schimelpfenig, right, and JOOD Lieutenant Junior Grade Travyn Mapes, left

The two major differences for an OOD on an LCS, vice standing the watch on a conventional ship, are the hands on approach to ship driving and the increased amount of responsibility. While conventional ships have watch teams of about ten Sailors to handle all bridge responsibilities, the LCS relies on the OOD and JOOD. In addition to assisting the OOD with radar operation and voice communications, the JOOD takes on the responsibilities of the traditional Quartermaster of the Watch, who performs navigation duties and maintains the deck log, and the Boatswains Mate of the Watch, who makes all shipboard loudspeaker announcements via the 1MC. The OOD is primarily tasked with driving. Using two handles called “combinators” that control the ship’s four water jets, the OOD can use the jets to direct the ship in twists that can shift the ship port or starboard while keeping the ship on its original heading.

After more than 100 hours of simulator time spent mastering high speed operations and precision ship handling, I was given the opportunity to drive a real LCS for the first time in April while we were underway for a weekend of refresher training. Our commanding officer, Commander Spencer Austin, decided to perform an anchorage just off the coast of San Diego. Once the order was given, seeing the bridge and anchoring teams spring into action and conduct a safe evolution with such ease was incredible. Performing a precision anchorage involves driving to a chosen anchoring location and stopping the ship within 25 yards of that location. With unexpected traffic and the fading light of the day, my team expertly supported my driving and I gave the command to “let go the anchor” within seven yards of our intended spot.

In the Bridge

OOD Lieutenant Natalie Schimelpfenig, right, and JOOD Lieutenant Junior Grade Travyn Mapes, left

Less than 24 hours later I checked off another ship driving first. In the simulators, every junior officer practices pier work without tugboat assistance. However, most OODs will never get to put those skills to the test in the fleet. That wasn’t the case for me. My captain has such confidence in his Sailors’ abilities that he allows all of his OODs to attempt to moor without help from the tugboats. So, the next morning after our successful anchoring, my JOOD and I pulled into port. With my captain’s trust, and many hours of intensely realistic simulator training, I successfully moored without tugs for our weapons offload. It was an amazing moment in my career.

From my first experiences on USS Lake Erie, to my most recent on USS Fort Worth, I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been afforded and earned in the Navy. It’s rewarding to know that hard work will continue to pay off!

July 28, 2017 / iDriveWarships

5 Things to Know about Future USS Rafael Peralta

As the U.S. Navy grows more highly capable warships are being added to the fleet’s Surface Forces. One such ship, the future USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), will be commissioned into active duty naval service in a ceremony at Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, California tomorrow, July 29. With due pomp and circumstance, the guided missile destroyer named in honor of the late U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael Peralta will be brought to life. Once the ship is commissioned it will serve the nation for several decades and surely, just as its namesake was, USS Rafael Peralta and its crew will live up to the ships’ motto of, “Fortis Ad Finem,” and be “Courageous to the End.”

The ship’s namesake was killed November 15, 2004 during the Second Battle of Fallujah, when Peralta used his own body to cover a live grenade, saving the lives of his squad members. He was 25 years old. In recognition of his selfless actions, Peralta was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Ribbon. He’s buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

July 14, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Get to Know USS John Finn (DDG 113)

The U.S. Navy‘s newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the future USS John Finn (DDG 113), is set to be commissioned in a ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii Saturday, July 15. Before the ship named for an American hero joins the fleet on active duty, get to know a little about the ship and it’s namesake, Medal of Honor recipient John Finn. Live video from the commissioning is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. EDT/ 10 a.m. HST and is available by clicking here or visiting

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 3.51.28 PM

USS John Finn (DDG 113), welcome to the fleet!


July 7, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Destroyers: “Tin Can” Legacy Forged of Lethal Steel


PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 23, 2014) Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers assigned to the George Washington and Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Groups are underway in formation at the conclusion of Valiant Shield 2014. Valiant Shield is a U.S.-only exercise integrating Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps assets, offering real-world joint operational experience to develop capabilities that provide a full range of options to defend U.S. interests and those of its allies and partners. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Trevor Welsh/Released)

Destroyers, a.k.a., “Tin Cans”-the legendary Greyhounds of the Sea, have patrolled the world’s oceans with domineering force since 1902. Over the last 116 years, these U.S. Navy warships have made their name as the most unique and capable surface combatants.

This month will see the addition of two of the most lethal and advanced destroyers to ever cut through the seas. Of the Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) class of destroyers, PCU John Finn (DDG 113) will be commissioned July 15th at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; and PCU Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) will be commissioned July 29th at Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, California. Both will be homeported at Naval Base San Diego following their commissioning ceremonies.


PACIFIC OCEAN (June 19, 2014) The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) launches a Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) during a live-fire test of the ship’s aegis weapons system. Over the course of three days, the crew of John Paul Jones successfully engaged six targets, firing a total of five missiles that included four SM-6 models and one Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) model. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

These two ships will serve to advance the well-established stature of the Arleigh Burke destroyers which have been in service since 1991. Logging an incredible amount of water under their collective keels, a robust amount of time is spanned between the oldest and newest ships in the class. To bring continuity of capability across the class, the Navy has implemented programs to modernize the warships as they age, allowing the crews of both older and newer destroyers to monitor, detect and respond to any threat using the same modern Aegis combat system. In this case, the latest upgrade of Aegis, called Baseline 9, brings enhanced ability to the anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense capabilities to the ships.

Arleigh Burke Class: 1991-Present

Named for Adm. Arleigh Burke, the most famous American destroyer officer of WW II, and later Chief of Naval Operations, these guided-missile destroyers are multi-mission surface combatants capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and anti-surface warfare. The class leader, USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51), was commissioned in 1991, during Burke’s lifetime. Like most modern U.S. surface combatants, the DDG 51 class is powered by gas turbine propulsion. They employ four gas turbines to produce 100,000 horsepower through two propellers. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers can achieve more than 30 knots in open seas, while crewed by various sized crew complements.

These ships have been dominating the seas since 1991, and with combat system upgrades, shall continue their reputation of durability and flexibility for years to come. The Aegis software allows for streamline integration – the state-of-the-art system creates an environment for extreme and rapid use of technology, without extreme and rising cost to the Navy. As a result, when the older, modified Arleigh Burke crews put to sea, they won’t be relying on combat systems originated in the Cold War era – they’ll use the same, advanced and evolving systems available to sailors on the newly commissioned USS John Finn and USS Rafael Peralta.

Bonhomme Richard Conducts Fueling at Sea with USS John S. McCain (DDG 56)

PHILIPPINE SEA (June 14, 2017) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) maneuvers alongside the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) for a refueling-at-sea. Bonhomme Richard is the flagship of its expeditionary strike group, operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to serve as a forward-capability for any type of contingency. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gavin Shields/Released)

Through the years, destroyers have evolved from small and agile close-quarter combatants to ships capable of a multitude of mission sets in both the offensive and defensive arenas. These ships operate independently, as part of a surface action group or as escorts within a carrier strike group. While the heritage is undeniable, of the 33 classes of destroyers, none can argue the versatility, lethality and dominance of the Arleigh Burke class since its introduction to the fleet.

These advanced guided-missile destroyers have been ensuring safety, stability and freedom of the seas around the world for decades. They have a proven track-record of being vital surface warriors, capable of sea control, power projection, and offensive and defensive battle group support over land, air and sea. Their contribution to the Navy team has been invaluable and irreplaceable. It is fitting that the destroyer’s remarkable 116-year legacy of service to the Navy will continue on with this month’s addition of USS John Finn (DDG 113) and USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115).

Caption: U.S. Navy History and Heritage Command’s “Evolution of the Destroyer” infographic.

June 30, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Team Navy Participates in DOD Warrior Games

Warrior Games

CHICAGO (June 29, 2017) Team Navy registers for the 2017 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games at Under Armour Brand House in Chicago, Ill. The DoD Warrior Games are an annual event allowing wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans to compete in Paralympic-style sports including archery, cycling, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and wheelchair basketball. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Presley/Released) 170629-N-FA913-003

Every service member is intimately familiar with what it’s like to be part of a team; part of something bigger than oneself. Being part of a team can sometimes make the hard times easy and the impossible, possible.

Being on a sports team and participating in sporting events like the Department of Defense (DOD) Warrior Games can offer wounded, ill, or injured service members a place to find support, understanding, and that feeling of camaraderie.

Team Navy, composed of U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard service members and veterans, is set to compete in the 2017 Department of Defense (DOD) Warrior Games starting today (June 30) and running until July 8 in Chicago, Illinois.


CHICAGO (June 30, 2017) Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Emmanuel Gonzalez, from Rialto, Calif., practices before participating in the archery portion for Team Navy during the 2017 Warrior Games at McCormick Place in Chicago. Team Navy is comprised of athletes from Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor, the Navy’s sole organization for coordinating the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill, and injured Sailors and Coast Guard members, providing resources and support to their families. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Schumaker/Released) 170630-N-UK306-072

The Warrior Games were established in 2010 as a way to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors and to expose them to adaptive sports (athletic activities that are modified to meet the abilities of injured or ill individuals) which are often seen as an essential part of the recuperation of wounded warriors. The proven and lasting benefits of adaptive sports and reconditioning activities include higher self-esteem, lower stress levels and fewer secondary medical conditions.

Participating teams include active-duty service members and veterans with upper-body, lower-body and spinal cord injuries; serious illnesses; traumatic brain injuries (TBI); amputations; visual impairment; and post-traumatic stress disorder competing in archery, cycling, sitting volleyball, shooting, swimming, wheelchair basketball, and track and field events.

Whether they’re representing the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, U.S. Special Operations Command, the United Kingdom Armed Forces, or even the Australian Defence Force, friendly competition amongst the Warrior Games’ 265 participants will be fierce as they showcase their fighting spirits.


Be sure to follow the DOD Warrior Games website and learn about the personal stories of some Team Navy Sailors at All Hands Magazine.

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