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April 23, 2015 / iDriveWarships

SURFPAC Announces 2014 SWO of the Year


Congratulations to the 2014 Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC) Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) of the Year, LCDR Matthew Johnson, Weapons Officer on USS Dewey (DDG 105)!

This award recognizes the SWO who best personifies the ideals of SWO pride, to include excellence in warfighting, leadership and mission accomplishment through superior professionalism and personal example.

Everyone nominated for this elite award is to be commended for their dedication and demonstrated superior performance. This year’s nominees include:

LCDR David Garrett, USS America (LHA 6)
LCDR Jamie Diaz, LCS Crew 103 (LCS 3)
LCDR Katie Jacobson, USS Preble (DDG 88)
LCDR Marcus Seeger, USS John S. McCain (DDG 56)
LCDR Robert Neuerman, USS Makin Island (LHA 5)
LCDR Ryan Hernandez, USS Chancellorsville (CG 62)
LCDR William Fensterer, USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112)
LT Adrienne Roseti, USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108)
LT Christopher Descovich, USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53)
LT David Smith, USS Germantown (LSD 42)
LT Joseph Bubulka, USS Dextrous (MCM 14)
LT Kathleen Ball, USS Mobile Bay (CG 53)
LT Tammi Ballinger, USS Green Bay (LPD 20)

April 17, 2015 / iDriveWarships

Last West Coast Frigate Returns from Final Deployment

USS Gary arrives at Naval Base San Diego

Today, Navy frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) returned to Naval Base San Diego from its final deployment prior to decommissioning, marking the final deployment of a frigate in the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

During the seven-month deployment, Gary operated in U.S. 3rd Fleet and U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations with the embarked “Scorpions” of Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) 49 Detachment 4, and a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment (LEDET). The team played an integral role in Operation Martillo.

Operation Martillo is a U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nation effort launched in January 2012 targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. Partner nations work together to counter the spread of transnational criminal organizations, and to protect citizens in Central America from the violence, harm and exploitation created by these criminal groups.

The team successfully interdicted 13,921 kilograms of cocaine with a wholesale value of $278.4 million, and 18 pounds of marijuana valued at $17,100.

A decommissioning ceremony for Gary is scheduled for this summer. Following the ceremony, the ship is slated for foreign military sales.

HSM-49 Detachment 4 flew more than 700 hours of flight operations throughout the deployment, and their return to Naval Air Station North Island yesterday marks the last active-duty deployment of the SH-60B Seahawk. The sundown ceremony for the SH-60B is scheduled for May 11.

Click here to view photos of the Gary homecoming.

April 9, 2015 / iDriveWarships

Want to Get Underway?

USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) makes a turn while underway in the Pacific Ocean

By CDR Matt Kawas, Commanding Officer of USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) Crew 103

U.S. Navy Sailors have sailed the open seas, around the world, around the clock for the past 239 years. But have you ever wondered what it’s like to be on a warship in the middle of the ocean? Are you curious what we see as we cruise along the waves at night? Have you ever wanted to tour a U.S. Navy ship but have not yet had the opportunity? Well, now you don’t have to look any further than your computer screen or mobile device to get a glimpse of what life is like for us on the high seas.

On April 10, 2015 at 11 a.m. EDT, I invite you to join my crew and I for a live tour of the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) as we operate in the waters of Southeast Asia. Under the glow of the red night lights, you’ll get a 30-minute tour inside the “skin” of the ship, and will have the chance to interact with the Sailors who operate Fort Worth. It’s an opportunity you won’t want to miss, so make sure to post questions for our Sailors on the Navy’s social media and watch the tour on Friday by going to the Navy’s Google+ Page, YouTube Channel, or Navy Live blog.

UPDATE: Watch the full video here.

*This post originally appeared on the Navy Live blog.

March 30, 2015 / iDriveWarships

Saying Goodbye to the “Iron Nickel”

USS Peleliu (LHA 5) transits San Diego Bay

By Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) Donnie W. Ryan

The distinctive silhouette of an amphibious assault ship on the horizon can strike fear into the heart of the enemy or renew hope for people in need during a humanitarian crisis. For 34 years, the mighty amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) filled both roles, serving as both a weapon of war and a symbol of peace.

But the sounds of “reveille, reveille” and “commence ship’s work” will probably never be heard through the now empty passageways of the deserted vessel. In an almost eerie quietness throughout the ship, the only thing left inside the bulkheads are memories of the Sailors and Marines who proudly served aboard the Iron Nickel.

Tomorrow hundreds of plankowners, former crew members, and a few Marines will join the ship’s crew at Naval Base San Diego to say goodbye to one of the most famous ships in the Navy’s Pacific Fleet. The flag will be hauled down, the watch secured, and the crew ceremoniously disembarked for the final time.

During her almost 35 years of service, Peleliu was homeported on the California coast in both Long Beach and San Diego, as thousands of Sailors and Marines called the ship home. Capable of launching a coordinated air and sea attack from one platform, Peleliu has conducted 17 deployments, 178,051 flight operations, served 57,983 personnel, and steamed approximately 1,011,946 nautical miles since being commissioned May 3, 1980 in Pascagoula, Miss.

The ship’s maiden deployment took place in 1982, with follow-on deployments almost every two years thereafter. While on a Western Pacific deployment in 1990, the crew rescued 155 refugees from Vietnam who were crammed into a small boat. The story of how the gray silhouette of the mighty Peleliu appeared on the horizon to rescue the group just in time lives on in the hearts of a group of grateful individuals.

Phuong Minh T. Nguyen, who was a young child in the boat, remembers the story and has made it her job to make sure no one ever forgets how the crew rescued the refugees and took them to safety.

“On the seventh day we saw black dots on the horizon, and the dots kept getting bigger,” said Nguyen. “They were big American Navy ships and they were coming to rescue us. We love the Sailors of USS Peleliu because they rescued us.”

Peleliu took on another humanitarian mission during the summer of 2007 as the platform for Pacific Partnership. Throughout the four-month deployment, Peleliu hosted both military and civilian personnel who provided medical and dental care, as well as education and preventative medicine to more than 31,600 people in the Philippines, Vietnam, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Following the Pacific Partnership deployment, Peleliu deployed in 2008 to support maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operations. Three months into the deployment, the ship made headline news when it responded to a distress call from the M/V Gem of Kilakarai off the coast of Somalia, reporting that it was under attack from armed pirates.

Rear Adm. Marcus A. Hitchcock, who commanded Peleliu during the 2008 deployment, said he remembers the attack on the civilian merchant ship and how Peleliu’s Sailors and Marines sprang into action in order to help prevent the pirates from taking control of the vessel.

“We were conducting routine operations that morning and then suddenly there was a commercial container vessel putting out a mayday call,” said Hitchcock. “The ship was electrified and we launched three helicopters within minutes.”

A show of force from the Navy and Marine Corps helicopters and the sight of the mighty Peleliu’s silhouette on the horizon must have struck fear into the pirates as they quickly fled the scene.

The Gem of Kilakarai did report one grenade landed on the ship’s bridge wing during the attack but failed to detonate. Explosive ordnance personnel from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit were dispatched to defuse the unexploded grenade.

“The ship was doing a good job at evasive maneuvers but the pirates were determined to take the ship,” said Hitchcock. “Our actions absolutely prevented that act of piracy from taking place.”

On a personal note, Hitchcock said he remembers how much fun it was to set up a swim call for Peleliu Sailors and Marines in the Red Sea and make a port visit to Aqaba, Jordan during the 2008 deployment. Force protection conditions didn’t allow for a lot of liberty in the port, but the ship’s supply department worked with local merchants to create a tent city on the beach to entertain the crew during the port visit.

During that deployment, the officers and crew also made an impressive effort to earn surface warfare officer, enlisted surface warfare, and enlisted air warfare pins during the deployment. As a result, the ship was flying all three pennants as it returned home to Naval Base San Diego on Nov. 4, 2008, with hundreds of friends and family onboard for a Tiger Cruise.

“I was always very impressed with the crew’s ability to achieve the mission,” said Hitchcock while thinking back on his 18-month tour as commanding officer. “When I think of the Iron Nickel I think about the true grit of the crew. My time onboard was filled with a lot of great memories.”

The 2008 deployment was not the last for the mighty Peleliu as it deployed again in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Even with new Sailors and Marines joining the team each time, the ship developed a reputation of doing whatever it took to safely accomplish the mission. From delivering relief supplies to Pakistan during massive flooding, to landing Marines on the beach, the blue/green team exceled during every mission.

After the decommissioning process is complete, Peleliu will be towed from San Diego to Pearl Harbor to join the Navy’s reserve fleet. There, the gray silhouette of the last of its class amphibious assault ship will take its place alongside its sister ship and first in class, the ex-USS Tarawa (LHA 1).

“Pax per Potens” and the stories of the mighty Peleliu will live on in the hearts and minds of the former crew members for many more years to come.

March 26, 2015 / iDriveWarships

Message Regarding ISIS Threats to Servicemembers

Loose Lips Sink Ships

As you are all aware, this week 36 of our shipmates’ names and addresses were posted on a website claiming to be friendly to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) cause. While Department of Defense (DoD) and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) have not found evidence of operational planning or an imminent threat, there is little doubt that this gesture has caused concern and anxiety specifically for those on the list, their families and shipmates and more generally to the force. To inform conversations with Sailors and their families, I want to address some of the most common concerns we’re hearing across the Fleet.

This incident is a reminder of the importance we individually have to place on our personal safety and operations security. The guidance shared with Sailors in their sustained and cyclic training remains valid… stay aware, stay vigilant and be prudent about the information you share. Standing guidance for our web pages and command social media accounts remain valid as well—there is not a need to make a change. Ongoing intelligence and law enforcement assessments continue to reinforce that sharing information smartly and with due caution remains safe—this includes dealings with vetted U.S. and international media. If anything changes or new intelligence becomes available, we will pass that information via the appropriate channels.

We serve in the most dynamic and powerful Navy on earth, made possible by our Sailors’ efforts and the support of their families. Taking the time to discuss this issue, to place it in the appropriate context, will help ease anxiety and focus responsive effort on productive, appropriate and necessary measures. This approach serves our Sailors and their families best.

Released by Vice Adm. S. H. Swift, Director, Navy Staff.

(Image via USAA Magazine)

March 20, 2015 / iDriveWarships

SURFPAC Observes Women’s History Month

SURFPAC Women's History Month celebration

The staff of Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC) gathered today to pay tribute to generations of women and their invaluable commitment to the military during Women’s History Month.

This year’s national theme, “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives,” was interpreted by a volunteer SURFPAC committee who acted out narratives of the female experience.

Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, Commander of Naval Surface Forces, shared his experiences of being part of the third graduating class to commission female officers at the United States Naval Academy. One of his classmates was Adm. Michelle Howard, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, who currently holds the second-highest rank of commissioned officers.

March 13, 2015 / iDriveWarships

Ship to be Named After First MCPON, Delbert Black

SECNAV, left, and MCPON with Ima Black, surviving widow of MCPON Delbert D. Black, wear command balls caps of the Guided-Missile Destroyer (DDG 119)

Today Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Mike Stevens announced that guided-missile destroyer DDG 119 will be named for the first MCPON, Delbert D. Black.

The late Master Chief Gunner’s Mate Delbert Black died 15 years ago after serving in three wars.

A legendary figure among Chief Petty Officers, Black established the role of MCPON, the Navy’s top enlisted leader. Black used his position to give enlisted Sailors more opportunities and a bigger role in decision-making.

The ship’s sponsor will be Black’s wife, Ima, a WWII veteran of the Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). The ship will be built in Pascagoula, Miss.


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