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November 17, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Surface Navy Remembers Capt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr.

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WASHINGTON (May 8, 2012) An artist rendering of the future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116). The ship is named after Thomas Hudner, right, a Medal of Honor recipient and retired Naval aviator. (U.S. Navy illustration by Lt. Shawn Eklund/Released) 120508-N-AL577-001

Nov. 13, 2017 bore witness to the passing of one of America’s true and great heroes. At 93 years of age, retired U.S. Navy Capt. Thomas Hudner’s passing leaves behind a legacy of heroism, service with honor, brotherhood, equality, and dedication to his country.

After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1946, Hudner became a pilot during the Korean War and quickly earned a humble reputation as a prolific pilot and friend. Just one year after qualifying as a naval aviator, Hudner stamped his name in the Naval history books while assigned to Fighter Squadron 32 aboard USS Leyte (CV 32), as part of U.S. 7th Fleet Task Force 77.

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Naval aviator Ensign Jesse L. Brown sits in the cockpit of an F4U-4 Corsair fighter, circa 1950. Brown was the first African-American to complete U.S. Navy flight training and the first African-American naval aviator in combat and to be killed in combat. He flew with Fighter Squadron 32 (VF-32) from USS Leyte (CV 32). Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

On the coattails of the desegregation of the military in 1948, Ensign Jesse Brown, the first African-American naval aviator, was assigned to the same squadron as Hudner and had been etching his own name in history scrolls as a talented fighter pilot. Brown and Hudner, Brown’s wingman, were on mission in Dec. 1950 providing air support during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir when Brown’s plane was shot down over North Korea. Noticing that brown was still alive after the plane crash but apparently trapped in the plane’s cockpit, Hudner jettisoned his own plane in the snowy mountains and attempted to rescue Brown before he was discovered by converging North Korean troops.

Hudner was unable to extinguish Brown’s burning aircraft with snow, even with assistance from a rescue helicopter crewmember, Lt. Charles Ward. As dusk crept in, Hudner and the rescue helicopter, unable to operate in the approaching darkness, were forced to leave the still-trapped Brown. Hudner begged superiors to conduct an extraction mission for Brown’s body, but all requests were denied because the possibility of ambush was too great.

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Mrs. Daisy P. Brown, widow of Ensign Jesse L. Brown, congratulates Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Thomas J. Hudner, USN, after he receives the Medal of Honor from President Truman at the White House, 13 April 1951. Lt. j.g. Hudner was awarded the medal for attempting to rescue Ensign Brown, who had been shot down by enemy fire near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea, on 4 December 1950. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a pilot in Fighter Squadron 32, while attempting to rescue a squadron mate…” is what Hudner’s Medal of Honor citation would later read. Hudner’s actions made him the first Medal of Honor recipient since WWII.

Hudner’s actions could have been single-handedly responsible for breaking stigma of a desegregated military. Even at the risk of court martial for intentionally crashing his plane, the selflessness of this “color” blind hero paved the way toward equality in the years to come. Throughout the remainder of his career, Hudner worked tirelessly to convince naval authorities to name a ship after Brown. In 1973, Hudner retired from the Navy at the rank of captain but saw his efforts come to fruition that same year with the commissioning of Knox-class frigate USS Jesse L. Brown (FF 1089). The frigate was commissioned in February 1973 and served as a reminder of Brown’s service and sacrifice for a little over 20 years, before being decommissioned in 1994.

In retirement, Hudner went on to work with the United Services Organization (the USO), served as commissioner for the Massachusetss Department of Veterans’ Service and regularly worked with veterans groups.

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BATH, Maine (April 1, 2017) Streamers mix with falling snow during the christening of the future guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) at the Bath Iron Works shipyard Saturday, April 1, 2017 in Bath, Maine. Hudner was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor during in the Korean War when he intentionally crash landed his plane in an effort to save fellow pilot Ensign Jesse Brown, the Navy’s first African-American pilot. (U.S. Navy photo/Released) 170401-N-N0101-102

In honor of Hudner’s heroic and selfless actions, future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), the next evolutionary stage in tactical excellence in surface warfare, is expected to commission in Boston in the Fall of 2018.

The ship will be one of the nation’s most technologically advanced and capable warships. It will be the first of the “technology insertion” destroyers, which means it will gain elements of the next generation Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The improvements will include better onboard power-generation, increased automation, and next generation weapons, sensors and electronics.

The Medal of Honor and future USS Thomas Hudner are momentous achievements that represent the Navy core values of honor, courage, and commitment and will hopefully resonate with future generations of Sailors and Americans as he is laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

Even through the United States lost a true American hero, his legacy will carry on in the crews that will man and sail the future USS Thomas Hudner across the seven seas and to ports across the globe.

Fair winds and follow seas shipmate.

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CONCORD, Mass. (Nov. 15, 2017) The Military Funeral Honors Team of the Massachusetts Army National Guard carries the casket of Medal of Honor Recipient retired Capt. Thomas J. Hudner Jr., during a funeral procession in Hudner’s honor. Hudner, a naval aviator, received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Casey Scoular/Released) 171115-N-SM577-0113

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November 10, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Control the Solomon Islands, Control the War: Lessons Learned at Guadalcanal

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Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 12-15 November 1942: USS President Jackson (AP-37) maneuvering under Japanese air attack off Guadalcanal, 12 November 1942. In the center background is smoke from an enemy plane that had just crashed into the after superstructure of USS San Francisco (CA-38), which is steaming away in the right center. Photographed from USS President Adams (AP-38). Note the anti-aircraft shell bursts. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Meant to light the way toward victory for America and her allies in the South Pacific during World War II (WWII), Operation WATCHTOWER proved to be one of the most intense and knotted amphibious and open water operations in the U.S. Navy‘s history.

At this point in the war, the Japanese Imperial forces were determined to exert sea control of the trade routes in order to strengthen their replenishment efforts while cutting off those of their enemies. With seizure of Guadalcanal, the largest of the southern Solomon Islands, from the British in July 1942, they began building an airfield to solidify their occupation and launch bombing missions against the opposing Allied fleets.

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USS San Francisco (CA-38) enters San Francisco Bay, 11 December 1942, after being damaged in action off Guadalcanal

In the end, after an excruciatingly long period of fighting (August 7th, 1942 – February 9th, 1943), the American Navy and Marine Corps offensive campaign proved victorious and established a permanent base for the expansion of American combat power, and ultimately provided the turning point in the war – for the first time in the war, the relative advantage for the Japanese Imperial forces were decisively reversed.  Momentum was now on the side of the Americans and their allies.

But make no mistake; while the spoils go to the victor – in this case the forward operating base established at “Henderson Field” and the Japanese Imperial forces’ desire to push into Australia thwarted –, the campaign was initially under-resourced with ships based on an underestimation of Japanese naval capabilities by U.S. Navy leadership. Ashore, the thinner ration of supplies allocated (60-day vs. standard 90-day pack-outs) for the amphibious campaign near the beginning of the engagement was so noticeable that it had the Marines involved nicknaming the engagement “Operation SHOESTRING.”  Both factors would contribute to the large losses felt by Allied forces.

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Kinugawa Maru (Japanese cargo ship) shown beached and sunk on the Guadalcanal shore, November 1943. She had been sunk by U.S. aircraft on 15 November 1942, while attempting to deliver men and supplies to Japanese forces holding the northern part of the island. Savo Island is in the distance. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Allied and Enemy Estimated Losses Compared

Allied Powers                    Empire of Japan
7,100 dead                          31,000 dead
4 captured                           1,000 captured
29 ships lost                        38 ships lost
615 aircraft lost                   683–880 aircraft lost

That being said, regardless of circumstances handed American forces throughout the months of fighting, the grit of heroes like Congressional Medal of Honor recipients Sergeant John Basilone and Rear Admiral Norman Scott was demonstrative of the commitment needed, and exerted, to overcome such fierce aggression and opposition.

In today’s Surface Warfare Strategy, we talk about being ready “to hold potential adversaries at risk, a range, whether at sea or ashore.” We owe so much of our ability to maintain maritime superiority to the lessons learned from the courageous Sailors and Marines serving at the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Given perspective, we recognize that the fighting ashore was bloody, but the at-sea clashes between the Japanese Imperial and Allied navies were unprecedented. The close range fighting (some reported as close as 20 feet) was so devastating to both sides that the strait to the north of Guadalcanal became known as “Iron Bottom Sound” due to its floor being littered with sunken warships.

So given all the time that has passed and the developments in the Navy since, what lessons learned remain as relevant to us today as they did in 1940s?  

The answer can be found in how we organize surface forces for enhanced combat power today.

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 2.05.36 PMTactics: Never underestimate the enemy. The American Navy had planned for daytime fighting operations being held at considerable distance.  Stunningly, the Japanese had grown their tactics with an asymmetrical approach, mastering night operations at sea. Today, we have the Surface Mine Warfare Development Center growing tactically proficiency in junior officers and deployed staffs by covering advanced tactics in amphibious warfare, anti-submarine warfare/surface warfare, integrated air and missile defense, and mine warfare.

Talent: Confidence is built through competence. Approximately three months after fighting began, the persistence of American Sailors tracking the enemy’s tactics would lead to the sinking of the Japanese ship, Hiei; it would be the first Japanese battleship lost during WWII. Today, we manage the extraordinary talent that exists within our surface force with a view towards building depth, breadth and experience for the future.  

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 2.05.58 PMTools: Enhance naval power at and from the sea. The U.S. Navy had done a lot to enhance ships following World War I, including the addition of Radio Detection and Ranging (RADAR). Unfortunately, limited training and previous operational use led to limited confidence by commanders during the Battle of Guadalcanal. Today, weapons and combat system packages are put through extensive testing prior to implementation on operational deployments.

Training: Train like we fight. Battle of Guadalcanal was one of the first multi-service “joint” campaigns endured by American forces. Needless to say, it was a learning-rich environment. Today, we have integrated training that replicates the challenges of operating and sustaining warships in complex scenarios, and joint exercises and operations have become a standard reality.

As much as the Battle of Guadalcanal served to turn the tide of WWII, it now serves to remind us that the state of readiness is imperative to us holding our Nation’s seapower edge.

November 4, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Historic Test Mission for AEGIS Baseline 9 Cruiser

Guest Blog By: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lenny LaCrosse

USS Mobile Bay Missile Exercise

PACIFIC OCEAN (Oct. 24, 2017) An SM-2 missile launches and destroys an airborne training target during a successful first test of the updated AEGIS Baseline 9 weapons system aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53). Mobile Bay is underway testing the updated AEGIS Baseline 9 weapons system in preparation for its upcoming deployment. (U.S Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad M. Butler/Released) 171024-N-KT595-570

During a recent underway to test weapons capabilities, guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) conducted a live-fire missile exercise using the updated AEGIS Baseline 9 weapons system.

There are currently 84 U.S. Navy ships in service with variations of the AEGIS Weapons System installed: 22 cruisers and 62 destroyers, with Mobile Bay being the first cruiser to upgrade to Baseline 9 software and capabilities, with minor changes in equipment on top of the Baseline 8 system.

The Navy’s AEGIS program took to sea in 1983 with USS Ticonderoga (CG 47). It was conceived to counter the Soviet variable-geometry wing Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire bombers, which can travel at speeds around Mach 2. The Navy had to develop a ship-based radar and missile system able to detect and intercept an object flying at almost twice the speed of sound.

The need for a total weapon system with the ability to detect, track, engage and destroy gave birth to the AEGIS Weapon System. Operating in concert with the AN/SPY-1 high-powered, multi-function phased-array radar, AEGIS can perform search, track, and missile guidance functions simultaneously, with the ability to track more than 100 targets.

The Navy began building AEGIS cruisers using the hull and machinery designs of Spruance-class destroyers. Beginning with the commissioning of USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), the first AEGIS ship outfitted with the vertical launching system (VLS), and followed by improved AN/SPY-1B radar on USS Princeton (CG 59) and the AN/UYK-43 computers on USS Chosin (CG 65), AEGIS systems took cruisers to the next level in firepower and survivability.

Today, 35 years after Ticonderoga, the basic components of the AEGIS system on cruisers and destroyers (the SPY-1 radar and VLS) have remained pretty much the same, but the threats have gotten faster and deadlier.

USS Mobile Bay Missile Exercise

OCEAN (Oct. 22, 2017) The guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) sails past Port Hueneme, Calif. after the successful transport of passengers and equipment to and from the ship. Mobile Bay is currently underway testing the updated AEGIS Baseline 9 weapons system in preparation for its upcoming deployment. (U.S Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad M. Butler/Released) 171022-N-KT595-293 PACIFIC

The Navy has kept ahead of the game, upgrading the AEGIS system to seek and hit ballistic missile targets traveling at speeds up to ten times faster than Backfires and at altitudes in the furthest reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere.

For the Mobile Bay, upgrading from AEGIS Baseline 8 to Baseline 9 began in Oct. 2016, as a joint effort between the crew of Mobile Bay, Department of the Navy civilians, and defense contractors.

Mobile Bay is the first guided-missile cruiser to upgrade from Baseline 8 to the Baseline 9 system without having to completely install all new equipment; increasing accuracy, range and weapons capabilities aboard the ship. This upgrade demonstrated that ships don’t need excessive yard periods and complete system overhauls to expand their capabilities thanks to open architecture environments and commercial off-the-shelf designs.

One major update that Baseline 9 provides over Baseline 8 is the integration of the Navy Integrated Fire Control- Counter Air (NIFCA-CA).

NIFC-CA connects assets within a battlespace through cooperative engagement capability, allowing a Baseline 9 cruiser to receive the targeting solution needed to fire their weapon without having organically sensed the target. Being able to fire on a target well before a ship’s own sensor sees them, allows for increased standoff distances to begin an engagement and enables the entire fleet to manage intercepts of high-speed threats by the best suited defensive asset.

USS Mobile Bay Missile Exercise

PACIFIC OCEAN (Oct. 24, 2017) An SM-2 missile launches and destroys an airborne training target during a successful first test of the updated AEGIS Baseline 9 weapons system aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53). Mobile Bay, the first guided-missile cruiser in the fleet to upgrade from AEGIS Baseline 8 to the updated Baseline 9, is underway testing new weapons capabilities in preparation for its upcoming deployment. (U.S Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad M. Butler/Released) 171024-N-KT595-448

During a recent live fire missile exercise, Mobile Bay fired two Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) missiles and one Enhanced Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) from the forward launcher on the forecastle.

For the first time in Navy history, Mobile Bay demonstrated the enhanced capabilities the updated AEGIS system brings to the fleet by engaging an SM-2 missile using only the SPQ-9 radar system.

The ship’s missiles successfully tracked, engaged and destroyed three unmanned aerial vehicles used to simulate airborne threats during the exercise.

With the ability to provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities, AEGIS cruisers can operate independently, as part of an aircraft carrier strike group or within surface action group in support of global operations.

The Navy is currently modernizing the fleet’s 11 newest cruisers, updating the ships’ combat systems and hull, mechanical, and electrical systems. This modernization plan will extend the service life of these ships from 35 to 40 years, ensuring relevant and capable purpose-built air defense commander platforms into the mid-2030s.

 

 

 

 

October 27, 2017 / iDriveWarships

SSOP: The Bedrock of Surface Force Operations

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SAN DIEGO (Sept. 25, 2017) Commander of Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Vice Adm. Tom Rowden speaks with Gas Turbine Systems Technician 2nd Class Juan Estrella during a visit to Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer. This visit was part of Rowden’s continuing initiative to engage the leadership and crews of surface combatants on waterfronts across the Pacific Fleet and enforce sound shipboard operating principals and how following their core principles and supporting processes is the path to success in everything they do. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Trevor Welsh)

As a mission increases in complexity, risk grows exponentially. It is nearly impossible for any one individual to solely identify, evaluate and mitigate all the risks in complex or unknown situations. Going to sea is a dangerous and complex evolution. When you add in complex and sophisticated missions, weapons and operations, it adds an entirely different layer of complexity and strain on an already hazardous environment.

Without the right tools, preparation and a properly coordinated team, seemingly benign events can have unforeseen results- simply as a result of human error.

There are 83 surface combatants homeported along the West Coast and Hawaii, as well as the Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) in Japan and Western Pacific. One of the ways our U.S. Navy Sailors can mitigate risks and the dangers of being at sea is by practicing sound shipboard operating principals (SSOPs). By following these core pillars and supporting processes, Sailors will be able to create a path to success in everything they do, at sea or on shore

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The six pillars are formality, procedural compliance, level of knowledge, questioning attitude, forceful backup and integrity, focus on human performance and create the foundation for highly effective commands. Used together, these six principles form the bedrock on which the Surface Force implements the three operating methods: operational risk management (ORM); plan, brief, execute, and debrief (PBED); and hazard reporting.

  • Formality in day to day operations is evidenced by clear concise orders and verbatim repeating of commands to eliminate the potential for misinterpretation.
  • Well-trained and disciplined operators follow procedures thoughtfully, vice blindly, and understand the expected system response when taking an action. Successful supervisors and operators ensure procedures are readily available, frequently referenced, and strictly adhered to.
  • Sailors should use critical thinking skills and exercise vigilance in everything they do. Asking ‘what is wrong with this picture’ is a key query from a questioning attitude.
  • When forceful backup is employed effectively, unclear orders are questioned and clarified.
  • Integrity means doing the right thing even when nobody is watching, on and off duty.
  • Risk management does not mean risk avoidance; it means Sailors should work through to minimize risk.
  • PBED is the day-to-day practice used to ensure ORM is in place.
  • Hazard reporting is, first, hazard identification, asking ‘what could go wrong here’, then informing those who need to know.
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SAN DIEGO (Sept. 25, 2017) Commander of Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Vice Adm. Tom Rowden speaks with the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG 76) during a visit to the ship. This visit was part of Rowden’s continuing initiative to engage the leadership and crews of surface combatant ships across the Pacific Fleet and enforce the use of sound shipboard operating principals and their core processes as the path to safe and successful maritime operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Trevor Welsh)

It is the responsibility of every member of the Surface Force to use SSOPs and safety standards and procedures in place, and use the PBED method for training, operations, and maintenance; apply ORM to all they do, on and off duty; and maintain a questioning attitude and provide forceful backup to ensure risk mitigation efforts are maximized to prevent loss and damage. Sailors must also maintain proficiencies and qualifications to ensure appropriate levels of knowledge support the safety and success of afloat operations, demand formality during operational communications to ensure procedural compliance, model and enforce integrity in every situation, and report mishaps and near misses to their chain of command.

Sailors should not only comply with SSOPs, but look to enforce SSOPs when applicable.

October 20, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Support Units of the Amphibious Force

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PACIFIC OCEAN (July 23, 2017) Sailors tie up a Landing Craft Unit from Beachmaster Unit 1 in the well deck aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25) in support of UNITAS LVIII. The annual, multi-national exercise focuses on strengthening existing regional partnerships and encourages establishing new relationships through the exchange of maritime mission-focused knowledge and expertise during multinational training operations. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob I. Allison/Released) 170723-N-BT947-447

During the island-hopping campaigns of World War II, military leaders recognized a need for a single organization dedicated to the support of amphibious operations. A decision was made to consolidate amphibious assault assets under one parent command, thus forming Naval Beach Group ONE in July 1948.

Since the beginning, NBG-1 and its component commands have participated in a variety of amphibious operations. Starting early on during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, to the modern and technically sophisticated amphibious operations in Somalia and Iraq, the Sailors of NBG have served throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans in support of U.S. policy abroad.

LCAC Operations on Marine Corps Base Hawaii

KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (June 25, 2014) Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Robert Pucel, from Beachmaster Unit (BMU) 1, signals Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) 58, assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5, to hold it’s position after landing during an equipment transfer between the amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay. The equipment will be used to support Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014, the world’s largest international maritime exercise. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 26 to Aug. 1. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight/Released) 140625-N-HU377-137

This initial Naval Beach Group (NBG) consisted of Headquarters Unit, Boat Unit One, Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) ONE, and Underwater Demolition Team ONE. Eventually, Boat Unit ONE became Assault Craft Unit ONE, and Underwater Demolition Team ONE shifted to the control of Naval Special Warfare Command. In 1949 Beachmaster Unit ONE was added to the organization, and with the addition of Assault Craft Unit FIVE in 1983 the organization gained the ability to conduct over-the-horizon assaults using the landing craft air-cushioned (LCAC).

Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) ONE was commissioned at Camp Peary, Williamsburg, Virginia, in July of 1943 as the 104th Naval Construction Battalion. During WWII, the 104th completed many land based construction projects, from air fields to Naval Operation Bases. They first began amphibious missions in 1947, with the assembly and placement of pontoon structures, beach rehabilitation, harbor development, salvage, and training of reservists in these operations. By 1950, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) recognized the unique capabilities of the 104th that set them apart from the rest of the Naval Construction Battalions, so they were renamed Amphibious Construction Battalion One.

The capabilities of the Seabees in ACB-1 focus on providing round-the-clock transporting from ship to shore of fuel, materials, equipment and water, in support of the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), and Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF) operations. The importance and impact of these Seabee Battalions was demonstrated during the invasion of Sicily, where it was proven that pontoon causeways provide an excellent method of rapidly unloading vehicle-borne cargo and troops in areas with shallow water where larger ships can’t go, thus providing the element of surprise.

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 26, 2014) Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1681 departs the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45) to conduct a personnel transfer with the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). Comstock, part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, is on a deployment with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit to promote peace and freedom of the seas by providing security and stability in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lenny LaCrosse/Released) 140826-N-CU914-018

 Assault Craft Unit ONE is composed of four utility landing craft (LCU). These rugged steel vessels are used by ARGs to transport cargo, vehicles and troops from amphibious assault ships to the beach or piers. With both bow and stern ramps for loading/offload operations, several LCUs can connect bow to stern to support roll-through offload to shore. Although small in comparison to ships in the fleet, these vessels still have most of the same amenities; including berthing spaces, galley and laundry, and can operate independently at sea for up to ten days.

ACU-1 embarks the well-deck of a larger amphibious ship with the mission to deploy a fighting force of Marines ashore. Ballast tanks on the large amphib are filled, sinking the stern and flooding the well deck, allowing the LCU to float and deploy. ACU handles the amphibious assault aspect of an engagement by moving those troops, vehicles and supplies across open water to the shore.

Since 9/11, ACU-1’s mission has expanded to support the Global War on terrorism. These missions include multi-day anti-piracy patrols, visit-board-search and seizure operations, oil platform defense, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Like many of these support units, Beachmaster Unit ONE was formed to support the amphibious assaults during WWII. It was apparent that the orderly flow of troops, equipment and supplies across the assault beaches was necessary for the success of amphibious operations. This led to the formation of the Beach Party Battalion, which included a Beachmaster Unit. By July 1948 the CNO ordered the commissioning of the Beachmaster Unit as a separate command, forming BMU-1.

BMUs bring tactical components to support amphibious operations. By deploying the Beach Party Team with Expeditionary Forces, BMUs provide beach and surf zone salvage and facilitate the landing and movement on the beach of troops, equipment, supplies and evacuation of casualties, prisoners-of-war and non-combatants. Beachmasters are not only capable of supporting combat operations, as they are also called upon to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

NBU 7 LCACs, 31st MEU Return to USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6)

CORAL SEA (July 23, 2017) Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) 21, assigned to Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, approaches the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) during Talisman Saber 17. The biennial U.S. and Australian bilateral exercise held off the coast of Australia is designed to achieve interoperability and strengthen the U.S.-Australian alliance. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Sykes/Released) 170723-N-XK809-329

Assault Craft Unit FIVE provides the fleet the capability to deliver supplies across long distances in a short period of time with the use of LCACs. The LCAC is a high-speed, over-the-beach, fully amphibious landing craft, capable of hauling 75 tons of cargo (troops, weapon systems, equipment) at speeds of 40+ knots. Although that’s about half the payload capacity of the LCU, the air cushion technology of the LCAC allows it to reach more than 70 percent of the world’s coastline, where LCUs can only access about 15 percent.

As different as these support units are from one another, they all are an integral part of the U.S. fighting forces. They have to operate in a high density, multi-threat environment while deployed with the ARG. All of these units contribute to the core capabilities of U.S. Maritime Sea Power; Forward Presence, Deterrence, Sea Control, Power Projection, and Maritime Security. They work together to provide the fleet with the movement of troops, vehicles, equipment and supplies from ship to shore.

October 13, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Preparing the Surface Force: How New Naval Surface Group Western Pacific Will Differ From Afloat Training Group

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SASEBO, Japan (Sept. 25, 2017) Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, commander of Naval Surface Forces, U. S. Pacific Fleet, addresses Sailors during an all-hands call in the hangar bay of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Rowden is visiting Fleet Activities Sasebo, home of the 7th Fleet’s forward-deployed amphibious ships, to better understand forward-deployed readiness challenges and to discuss the new command Naval Surface Group Western Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Zachary DiPadova/Released) 170925-N-RD713-445

Following the string of at-sea accidents this year that involved U.S. Navy ships, criticism arose over the strenuous operational tempo of forward deployed ships in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. Questions arose regarding training pitfalls, sleep cycles for watchstanders, and the general effectiveness to prepare ships for operations. Work has been diligently underway to devise strategies and programs, and amendments to Surface Force processes in order to reduce the risk of similar incidents and improve readiness in the future.

One of these actions includes the creation of Naval Surface Group Western Pacific (NSGWP). This organization, which will be led by Capt. Richard Dromerhauser, will coordinate training and maintenance periods for ships forward deployed to Japan and address an organizational gap that allowed a culture to grow myopically focused on operations to the detriment of readiness. NSGWP will consolidate authorities to oversee the training and certification of Forward Deployed Naval Forces-Japan (FDNF-J) ships and provide oversight of training, maintenance, and readiness, as well as liaise with fleet commanders. Additionally, this organization will assess whether ships are proficient enough to receive operational tasking, or whether they will require remediation prior to being deemed mission ready.

As NSGWP is being further developed in the upcoming months, questions have already arisen about how it differs from Afloat Training Group (ATG).

flowchartATG trains ships and recommends them for certification in specific warfare areas. The following warfare areas fall under the jurisdiction of ATG: 3M; air warfare; anti-terrorism; amphibious warfare; aviation; ballistic missile defense; communications; cryptology; electronic warfare; explosive safety; intelligence; medical; mine warfare; damage control; engineering; navigation; seamanship; search and rescue; strike warfare; supply; surface warfare; undersea warfare; visit, board, search, and seizure; and cyber warfare. These warfare areas are further categorized into Mobility, Unit Tactical, and Group Tactical tiers, labeled 1-3, respectively. Additionally, each warfare area has a X.1-X.4 event series coding: material assessment (-X.1), theory and fundamental (-X.2), individual and watch team training (-X.3), and certification and qualification (-(X.4). Because different ships have varying capabilities and systems, these certifications are tailored specifically to platforms and ship classes. When a ships completes each of these events, ATG will recommend that the associated mission area be certified.

While ATG examines discrete portions of ship readiness and trains the crew, they have no influence in the crew manning levels, or their operational schedule and availability for tasking. NSGWP will examine the ship’s readiness as a whole – and certifications aside, it will raise the question,“Is this ship ready to receive operational tasking?” If the answer is no, NSGWP will recommend operational commanders defer any operational tasking until the ship is properly crewed, trained and ready to meet mission requirements.

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USS Benfold (DDG 65), left, and the Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) participate in a photo exercise during Pacific Griffin 2017 off the coast of Guam. US Navy Photo

Through this additional authority, NSGWP provides another level of readiness assessment for forward deployed ships which, due to their operational tempo, operate under a different training pipeline than ships homeported stateside.

Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, Commander U.S. Naval Surface Forces is eager for NSWPG to stimulate much-needed change on the waterfront for our forward deployed forces and is confident in his newly assigned commanding officer, Capt. Rich Dromerhauser.

“The Surface Navy operates under the tenets of being Forward, Visible and Ready,” said Dromerhauser. “And I fully take on board the CNO’s point; we must understand that the enduring strength for our Surface Force can only be built on a foundation of solid readiness.”

While ATG and NSGWP have the same driving force – training and preparing our naval force for operations at sea – their approach, jurisdiction, and focus greatly differ from one another. With this new organization coming into place, FDNF-J will benefit immensely from incorporating the roles of both ATG and NSGWP in training, maintaining and equipping the most capable, ready surface warships.

October 6, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Fleet Week City’s Tie to Battle of Guadalcanal

SFFW Essex Tour

171003-N-XN518-041 SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 3, 2017) Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Ian Kilcrease discusses Navy weaponry with guests on the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) during Fleet Week San Francisco 2017. Fleet weeks provide an opportunity for the American public to meet their Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard team and experience America’s sea services. Fleet Week San Francisco will highlight naval personnel, equipment, technology and capabilities with an emphasis on humanitarian assistance and disaster response. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Irwin Sampaga/Released) 171003-N-XN518-041

As Surface Warriors USS Champion (MCM 4),  USS Dewey (DDG 105), and USS Essex (LHD 2) represent the U.S. Navy at San Francisco Fleet Week this week, the bridge wings of an earlier Surface Warrior located near the city’s coast is a reminder of a war long over.

USS San Francisco (CA 38) saw significant action in the Battle of Guadalcanal during World War II and now her bridge wings – armor meant to protect the bridge – reside in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area on permanent display at the USS San Francisco Memorial. The 75th anniversary of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal is less than six weeks away and the lessons learned during that time are still relevant today.

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NHHC Photo: USS San Francisco Battle of Guadalcanal damage to forward superstructure from starboard side. Note hit on 5″ gun No. 3 in foreground and fragment damage to the stack. 

The Guadalcanal Campaign was fought on and around Guadalcanal, an island of the Solomon Islands, between the Allied Forces and the Empire of Japan. From Aug. 7, 1942 to Feb. 9, 1943, the two forces fought for control of the island as a strategic location in the Pacific theater during the war. While the campaign was long and arduous, the surface battles stand out because of the amount of carnage suffered from close range sea clashes and the damage inflicted. The most complex of these was the Battle of Guadalcanal.

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal began Nov. 12, 1942, with Japanese air attacks on U.S. ships bringing reinforcements to the embattled island. Over the next four days, the U.S. Navy loses the light cruisers Atlanta and Juneau, in addition to seven destroyers. Japanese battleships Hiei and Kirishima, and heavy cruiser Kinugasa, along with three destroyers and many valuable transports are also sunk. Japan’s losses weaken their ability to strengthen their garrison on Guadalcanal, enabling the U.S. to shift from the defensive to the offensive in this campaign, which later becomes a decisive victory for the Allies in the Pacific theater.

Though the battle is in the history books, the lessons of the toughness it takes to grind out an assigned mission, the resiliency required to refuse to give up the fight, and the importance of sea control, strongly influence the attributes of our Navy today.

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Graphic depicting a possible distributed lethality inspired formation of surface ships (blue) spread out in juxtaposition to an adversaries possible formation.

Demonstrative of this character was the recent quick response by the crew of USS Mason (DDG 87) when they launched three missiles in defense of themselves and USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) after being attacked by two suspected cruise missiles fired from the Yemini shore while in the Red Sea in October 2016.

On a larger scale, the warfighting spirit of our aforementioned Surface Warriors is present as the surface force shifts to an offensive mindset via distributed lethality and the increase of each surface combatant’s ability to fight.

Though time passes and we move farther from the events of the Battle of Guadalcanal we will never forget those who fought or the lessons their grit and tenacity taught us about the importance of sea power.

Heroes, like those that served aboard USS San Francisco will always have a place in the annals of Navy history, and more importantly a place in shaping our heritage of honor, courage and commitment!

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