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May 20, 2016 / iDriveWarships

Ships of the Surface Fleet: Dock Landing (LSD) Ships

harpers ferry.jpg

USS Harper Ferry (LSD 49) anchored out at sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes/ Released)

Moving to a new location can be stressful, and we often look to family for support, friends to help with packing, and movers to transport things to the new location. Each person has a different but important job in order to get the task completed. Similarly, the U.S. Navy has different ships for different types of missions, with each platform designed for their own specific purpose. When it comes to moving U.S. Marine to where they need to be, they call their brothers and sisters in the Navy for an assist.

One of the best ships for this task is the Dock Landing Ship, or LSD. Designed to transport amphibious craft with their crews and embarked personnel, the LSD platform can support beach landings via conventional landing craft, helicopters, and Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft. These LCACs are used to carry and transport troops, equipment, and other supplies. They can travel at high speeds, up to 40 knots (about 46 miles per hour), to accommodate rapid beach landings and personnel insertions.

USS Germantown

A Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), attached to Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7 departs amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Vazquez/Released)

The ability to land Marines on beaches has long been an important part of warfare. During World War II, the U.S. needed a vessel that could carry Navy and Marine Corps personnel, weapons, supplies, and large landing craft across the seas at fast speeds. In 1941, English ship designer, Sir Roland Baker, designed the British Tank Landing Craft (LCT), which inspired the U.S. construction of LSDs.

There are now two classes of LSDs, the Whidbey Island-class and the Harpers Ferry-class. Both classes have well decks that can be flooded to launch and recover LCACs and other similarly-sized landing craft. They have flight decks for the launch and recovery of helicopters and the V-22 Ospreys tilt-rotor aircraft. Both classes can also provide landing craft with space for docking, repair, fueling services and, if needed, LSDs can serve as the primary control ship during an amphibious assault.

Although the two classes may look a lot alike on the outside, they’re actually very different inside. The Whidbey Island-class  ships were specifically designed to operate LCACs and can carry up to four of them – the largest capacity for LCAC transport of any Navy amphibious platform. It can also provide docking and repair services for LCACs as well as for conventional landing craft. While the Harpers Ferry-class ships offer similar capabilities as her sister class, they’ve been modified to accommodate just two LCACs in order to increase their cargo capacity.

Wherever Marines need to go, the Navy’s Dock Landing Ships play a vital role in the process of providing forward power projection and protection around the world.

Please check back for future installments to learn more about the different types of ships that comprise the U.S. Navy Surface Fleet.


May 12, 2016 / iDriveWarships

Surface Navy Recognizes Medal of Honor Recipients (Part 2)



The Three Servicemen Statue is part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The statue was designed by the late Frederick Hart, dedicated in 1984  shows three unnamed American military  members carrying infantry weapons. The memorial serves as a testament to the sacrifice of American military personnel during the Vietnam War. (Navy photo by Photographers Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain/Released)

“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die,” said American baseball player George Herman Ruth, Jr. famously known as Babe Ruth. This quote holds true in the U.S. Navy, especially in the U.S. Surface Fleet where there are currently 21 naval warships named for Medal of Honor recipients.

Today in our second installment of a multi-part series, we’re highlighting four Surface Force ships whose brave namesakes were awarded the prestigious decoration; USS Howard, USS James E. Williams, USS Gonzalez, and USS Donald Cook.

USS Howard (DDG 83) is named in honor of Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jimmie E. Howard. On August 21, 1967, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions when he led his platoon into battle against the Viet Cong force. During the 12-hour attack, Howard and his men killed 200 enemy troops.

USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) is named in honor of Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class James Elliot Williams. On May 14, 1968, Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions in the Vietnam War. He served as a patrol-boat commander on the night of Oct. 31, 1966 when two of his boats came under attack. In an intense three-hour battle, he and his men killed 65 enemy combatants, destroyed more than 50 of their vessels, and disrupted a major enemy logistic operation.

USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) is named in honor of Marine Sergeant Alfredo “Freddy” Cantu Gonzalez, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on October 31, 1969 for his brave actions in the Vietnam War. During the Battle of Hue – one of the bloodiest and longest battles of the Vietnam War – Sgt. Gonzalez risked and lost his life firing numerous rounds of ammunition while moving from his position. He successfully knocked out enemy positions and suppressed much of their fire in the process.

USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) is named in honor of Marine Colonel Donald G. Cook, the first Marine captured in Vietnam to be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, for his courage and behavior while a prisoner of war (POW) in Vietnam. During his captivity, he took it upon himself to set an example for his fellow POWs. He risked his own health and well-being by sharing his food and some medicines with other prisoners who needed it and refused to betray the Military Code of Conduct. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on February 26, 1980.

These brave men and their noble actions have managed to be both heroic and legendary. Their selfless legacies continue to live on, inspiring others to go above and beyond in protecting our nation ensuring their legacies live on through the ships that bear their names, and the Sailors who represent them.

Please join us in the upcoming months as we recognize the remaining surface ships in future installments of Surface Navy Remembers Medal of Honor Recipients.

May 6, 2016 / iDriveWarships

Simple Ways to Honor Your Spouse on Military Spouse Appreciation Day

spouse2Ships deploy and Sailors go with them for months at a time, leaving behind friends and family whose responsibilities and roles are often underappreciated.

The role of a military spouse can be challenging. Spouses deal with their Sailor’s long working hours, deployments, and frequent relocations that make military marriages even more complex. With so much going on, military spouses often act as the stabilizing force for their families by providing emotional support and consistency to their family members.

In an effort to raise awareness of the importance of the military spouse’s role and recognize the sacrifices they make to support their service member, the Department of Defense declared the Friday before Mother’s Day as Military Spouse Appreciation Day. To help you celebrate this special occasion, or show your appreciation any day of the year, here are five things you can do to show your spouse you appreciate their hard work and dedication.

  1. Go on a date! Whether you go explore a local city or go out to a fancy dinner, take them on a date. If you have children, hire a sitter, if possible. If getting a sitter isn’t possible, have a date night at home. Prepare a special meal, set the table with your best dishes, and spend time reconnecting. Try following that up with a movie or a shared activity you both enjoy.
  2. Do the chores! Keeping a house clean is always challenging, especially when a military spouse also works and the family includes kids and pets, or both! Consider taking over the household chores for the day so they can relax.
  3. Send notes of encouragement! Military spouses will almost certainly have days while their loved ones are deployed, household appliances fail, and little ones get sick. Sometimes it happens all at once and they have to deal with it alone. To combat those hard days, consider hiding love notes around the house or sending cards with encouraging words. This can do wonders to life their spirits, especially when you’re deployed.
  4. Give a simple gift! It doesn’t have to be anything outrageous or grand. A heartfelt token of appreciation can be as simple as a bottle of their favorite wine, fresh flowers or a massage. You may even earn some bonus points by giving the massage yourself.
  5. Give them alone time! While a military spouse may spend a lot of time separated from loved ones, getting a few hours, or a day, away from their routine can help them relax and recharge. This small “self-cation” can help them cope with the unique demands of their whirlwind lifestyle.

No matter how you choose to celebrate National Military Spouse Appreciation Day make sure to express your gratitude for all that they do to support you. A simple ‘Thank You’ can go a long way!

April 29, 2016 / iDriveWarships

Maintaining the Fleet


USS Spruance (DDG 111) (left) with USS Decatur (DDG 73) and USS Momsen (DDG 92). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Will Gaskill/Released

Summer is just around the corner and that means fun, sun, and – for many – road trips! To prepare, travelers may change their oil, have brakes serviced, or check the air pressure in their tires. Similarly, U.S. Navy ships must prepare before long voyages, like deployments, to ensure the safety and success of the journey.

Pre-deployment inspections are imperative because deployments generally last about seven months and broken or faulty equipment at sea could be catastrophic. Routine inspections and preventive maintenance help ensure the safety of the ship and Sailors while increasing the vessel and equipment’s longevity and lethality. With the extensive amount of time a ship spends at sea in her lifetime preventive maintenance is also must to combat the effects of corrosive saltwater. It can also save taxpayer money by preventing the need for costly repairs.

Although Sailors always work hard to preserve their ships and systems through training, exercises, and maintenance, there are times when a closer look is needed. This means ships must undergo intense, periodic assessments such as the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) and 3M inspections.


A Sailor checks a fuse box during INSURV preparation. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago/Released

INSURV, completed every 30 months, is considered the fleet’s most intense inspection. The primary purpose is to examine the material readiness of a ship and report its overall condition all the way up to the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus. INSURV assesses the condition of a ship’s hull and nearly all of the installed equipment, from engines and propellers to inflatable life jackets and convection ovens. One of the most recent ships to undergo INSURV is USS Momsen (DDG 92)According to this article from Momsen’s official website, INSURV inspectors were extremely impressed with the crew’s knowledge and demeanor and concluded Feb. 11, 2016 that Momsen was in the best material condition possible for her current deployment as part of a Pacific Surface Action Group (PAC SAG). 

Another milestone assessment, Maintenance and Material Management Inspection (3MI), is conducted every two years and closely examines the ship’s ability to perform required maintenance using the ship’s maintenance recommendation and tracking system. This system, often referred to as 3M, outlines when and how to perform both preventive and corrective maintenance on various equipment and systems on board. Just like changing your car’s oil at specific intervals to prolong the engine’s life, the 3M system details all planned points at which systems need to be checked or have maintenance performed. This helps ensure that all equipment on the ship is properly maintained and in good working order. USS Decatur (DDG 73) is one of the most recent ship’s to pass 3MI. On Feb. 29, 2016, just ahead of her current deployment with the aforementioned Pacific Surface Action Group (PAC SAG) Decatur announced via their official Facebook page that they earned an outstanding 98% on their inspection. 


A Material Maintenance Management (3M) assessor , left, briefs Sailors about maintenance. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Laura Hoover/Released

These inspections, while intensive, are well worth the additional effort they require to help preserve Sailors’ safety and increase the U.S. Navy’s war fighting readiness so we can count on our ships them to be where we need them, when we need them.

April 22, 2016 / iDriveWarships

Surface Forces Recognizes Earth Day Every Day with Great Green Fleet for the Future

earth_day_blog.jpgEvery day millions of Americans try their best to protect our planet; from recycling paper or plastic bottles, to carpooling to work, or driving a hybrid car. It all makes a difference. This year marks the 46th anniversary of Earth Day, a movement created to inspire and motivate us to find helpful ways to keep our planet cleaner.

The U.S. Navy is celebrating Earth Day this year with the theme “Creating Resiliency Afloat & Ashore,” to support efforts in environmental planning, training, and testing. The Navy’s January launch of the “Great Green Fleet” (GGF) – ships operating with advanced energy saving technologies and running on biofuel blends – is a great example of this year’s theme. The GGF highlights the Navy’s efforts to transform its energy use by demonstrating the usability of biofuel blends and other energy saving technologies that they intend to expand upon.

USS Chung-Hoon

Great Green Fleet ship USS Chung-Hoon

In addition to saving energy, the Navy also wants to save taxpayer money. The biofuel used by the Navy is made from tallow – or beef fat – and is considered a “drop-in” as it doesn’t require the Navy to change any of its engines, transport or delivery equipment, or operational procedures to use it once it’s blended with more expensive traditional fuel. This allows it to be used easily in all surface Navy ships without modifications.

In addition to biofuel, the Navy is using Energy Conservation Measures (ECM), technologies and practices that conserve energy for core mission practices. ECM includes the Shipboard Energy Dashboard, Stern Flaps, Short-Cycle Mission and Recovery Tanking (SMART), Solid State Lighting, and Thermal Management Control System.

While the concept to reduce dependency on traditional fossil fuels and increase energy efficiency was announced back in 2009 by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, the ultimate goal is to give Sailors and Marines an advantage and to make them better warfighters. Using biofuels helps this effort by reducing the Navy’s dependency on oil with variable prices and origins in countries that aren’t necessarily friendly to U.S. interests. Decreasing fuel consumption also makes the Navy less vulnerable to logistical issues, allowing ships to stay on station longer and deliver more firepower.

Just as President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet showed the might of the U.S. Navy and our nation as a global power more than 100 years ago, the Great Green Fleet shows how our Navy continues to operate globally, using energy conservation and innovation to provide the presence necessary to ensure stability, deter potential adversaries, and provide options in times of crisis.

April 14, 2016 / iDriveWarships

Ships of the Surface Fleet: Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Ships


USS Chief

USS Chief (MCM 14)  U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Frank L. Andrew


When you think “minesweeper” do you think about the computer game from the early ‘90s? You know, the game where you had to use logic (and a bit of luck) to avoid detonating hidden mines and ending your game? Well, the U.S. Navy has its own version of minesweeper and while the goal is similar – to find and either detonate or inactivate mines – ours is anything but fun and games.

Dangerous explosive devices known as sea mines lurk in waterways around the world, capable of damaging or even sinking military and commercial vessels, particularly in sea lanes where the vast majority of the goods needed by people all around the world travel regularly. Here’s something to consider; approximately:

– 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water.

– 80% of the world’s population lives near the sea.

– 90% of all world trade by volume travels by sea.

That’s an awful lot of water to cover and, unlike in the game minesweeper, there is no restart button after a miscalculation.

To combat this threat, the U.S. Navy’s Surface Fleet currently has 11 mine sweeping ships in service. These 224-foot mine countermeasures (MCM) ships manned by a crew of 84 Sailors use sonar and video systems, cable cutters, and a mine detonating device that can be released and detonated by remote control to find and inactivate or destroy mines, keeping sea lanes clear and safe. Avenger-class MCMs are the only ships in the Surface Fleet constructed with wooden hulls sheathed in fiberglass. This design allows the hull to withstand a nearby blast from a mine and also minimizes their risk of detonating any nearby magnetic mines.


The guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58)  U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean P. La Marr

Both technologically sophisticated sea mines and underwater improvised explosive devices pose threats to vessels and have been used to challenge military forces and commercial use of the seas. In fact, 28 years ago today, USS Samuel B. Roberts was struck by a mine during her maiden deployment to the Arabian Gulf in the midst of the Gulf War. Though the ship was saved through the valiant actions of the crew, this mine strike underscored the importance of MCM ships in the fleet, and we continue to utilize and improve mine hunting techniques today.

On April 4, 2016, navies from more than 30 nations kicked off the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX), a training exercise designed to address multiple elements of the maritime security challenge and promote deterrence of threats to global shipping. The event, which is being held in the international waterways of the Middle East, will involve scenarios in mine countermeasures, maritime security operations, and other helpful techniques to address terrorism threats. IMCMEX will conclude on April 26.

Please check back for future installments to learn more about the different types of ships that comprise the U.S. Navy Surface Fleet.

April 5, 2016 / iDriveWarships

U.S. Pacific Fleet Gold Star Wives Continue Service as Ship Sponsors

gold_star_final.jpgToday is Gold Star Wives Day, the day our nation recognizes the hardships and sacrifices of the wives of U.S. Armed Forces members who lost their lives in combat. On Dec. 18, 2010, Congress named the first Gold Star Wives Day, which continues to be observed annually on April 5.

While all Gold Star Wives are valued members of the U.S. Navy family, the U.S. Pacific Surface Fleet has a small number of exceptional women who have taken on an additional distinguished role in Navy history as a ship’s sponsor. Every ship in the Navy has at least one sponsor – sometimes more – selected by the Secretary of the Navy. The sponsor’s role is a significant one as they will participate in life milestones of the ship and create a lasting bond with the ship and crew through ceremonies like christening, commissioning and later, once the ship’s active service life is over, decommissioning.

Birgi Smith USS Freedom Photo Released Lockheed Martin

Birgit Smith christening USS Freedom. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Betty Ann Fitzgerald, widow of Lieutenant William Charles Fitzgerald, is the sponsor of USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62). Lieutenant Fitzgerald was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his heroic, loyal, and selfless actions while providing a safe escape for his personnel during Vietnam.

Birgit Smith, widow of Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith, is the sponsor of USS Freedom (LCS 1). Sergeant First Class Smith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  He exposed himself to open fire while holding off the enemy to allow wounded soldiers to be safely evacuated from the battlefield.

Lieutenant Colonel Robin L. Higgins (Ret.), widow of Colonel William Rich Higgins, is the sponsor of USS Higgins (DDG 76). Colonel Higgins was taken hostage by pro-Iranian terrorists in Lebanon in 1988 and later murdered. Since then, she has become a speaker on surviving adversity and terrorism, and author of the book, Patriot Dreams- The Murder of Colonel Rich Higgins. She’s also a former Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

logoThe Navy is committed to providing long term assistance to surviving family members through means like the Navy Gold Star Program.  As we recognize Gold Star Wives Day, please take a moment to honor all Gold Star spouses and families. It is because of service member’s sacrifices and heroism that our nation continues to be great.


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