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August 26, 2016 / iDriveWarships

My 2016 Surface Week Experience


Midshipmen with USS Comstock Commanding Officer Cmdr. Gervy J. Alota on the flight deck while underway during PROTRAMID Surface Warfare Week. Photo courtesy of Lt. J.G. Alex Goodwin.

Guest Blog By MIDN 2/C Alex Ashley
U.S. Naval Academy

At the conclusion of my sophomore year, I left the United States Naval Academy (USNA) to embark on another summer of training. I had already experienced a training session the previous summer on board a U.S. Navy ship and was ready to see what new things this summer had in store.

Professional Training for Midshipmen (PROTRAMID) is a program that familiarizes USNA midshipmen about the different service communities the Navy offers prior to commissioning. It allows midshipmen, like myself, to learn and subsequently make an educated decision when deciding which community we want to serve in. This was one of the next summer training experiences I was to embark upon before I began my junior year at USNA.

There is a common perception among midshipmen that the surface warfare week of PROTRAMID is redundant because of the surface cruise that is required for most midshipmen during their pervious summer of training. Coming into a week of surface warfare (officer), or SWO-oriented training, I too thought I’d seen everything it could offer during my cruise last year. However, I can confidently say that by the end of this year’s SWO week my opinion had changed greatly.


Commander, Naval Surface Forces Vice Admiral Thomas Rowden takes a group photo with USNA Midshipmen during one of the 2016 Surface Warfare Week Kickoff briefs. Photo courtesy of Lt. Madisyn Hansen.

The first thing that helped to change my mind was hearing Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, talk about his views and goals for PROTRAMID and his experiences as a SWO during his 34-year career. Of particular interest to me, was his anecdote of leading a major humanitarian aid effort in Africa.

He described pulling into a port and seeing the people in need directly benefit from the ship’s coordination efforts and the profound gratitude that was expressed toward him and his Sailors. His story had a way of reminding me that the Navy prides itself on being there when emergencies occur or when people are in need and that the surface Navy is a large contributor to make things better in the world.

It was at that point that I realized how much opportunity a SWO has to make the world a better place through missions like counter-piracy, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and ensuring freedom of the seas in the uncertain times in which we live.

While Vice Adm. Rowden’s experiences made me look at surface warfare missions with much admiration , I still had lingering anxiety that surface week would be a redundant experience considering last summer’s much longer surface cruise. However, I was impressed by how much this year’s training would build upon last year.


Midshipmen “storming the beach” off of an LCU during Naval Beach Group Day during PROTRAMID Surface Warfare Week. Photo courtesy of Lt. J.G. Alex Goodwin.

Rather than repeating last summer’s grey-hull orientation, we were introduced to platforms and missions that don’t usually come to mind when you think about surface warfare. We saw Riverine squadrons and amphibious landings and weapons demonstrations, we rode amphibious craft to ships, and we witnessed other aspects of surface warfare that midshipmen might’ve not considered prior to their service selections..

Despite the range and rewarding nature of surface warfare missions, the SWOs we encountered said it was not the execution of these missions that was their favorite part of their jobs. Instead, they said it was their shipmates. The opportunity for person-to-person leadership on a daily basis was cited as a major contributor to job satisfaction at every level. To me, this was indicative of an encouraging, people-first culture in the surface community.

My mindset coming out of surface warfare week is not the same one I had going into summer training. It began with the idea that I had already seen everything and there were no questions left to ask. I instead left feeling more educated and confident to make my service selection when it comes time to next year.

August 19, 2016 / iDriveWarships

The Future of Aviation in the Surface Fleet


Two F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters complete vertical landings aboard the USS Wasp (LHD 1). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/Released)

From combat operations to humanitarian assistance efforts, the Surface Navy has a long history of partnering with our U.S. Marine Corps brethren to project power ashore in a broad spectrum of missions. Together we are a mobile, lethal, flexible instrument of national power, unequalled in reach or scope.

In honor of National Aviation Week, and today’s National Aviation Day, we look ahead to where that combined effort, in the near future, will begin a new chapter in this storied relationship. In October 2016 USS America and an embarked Marine Test and Evaluation Unit will conduct the final stage of F-35B Joint Strike Fighter developmental testing required before regular fleet operations commence with work ups for USS Wasp, USS Essex, and their respective assigned Marine Expeditionary Units, starting in 2017.

This enhanced warfighting capability goes beyond historical upgrades to existing airframes. It introduces a new era of aircraft to surface operations.

The aircraft’s manufacturer highlights new advantages of this ‘fifth-generation’ aircraft as being able to “dramatically reduce” the ability of enemy defense systems or aircraft to detect or engage with weapons “due to (its) Very Low Observable (VLO) stealth capability”; as well as sharing “real-time (networked) access to battlefield information…with commanders at sea, in the air or on the ground for U.S. and coalition partners (to provide an) instantaneous, high-fidelity view of ongoing operations.”


Marines and sailors aboard the USS Wasp (LHD 1) secure and refuel an F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/Released)

In addition to leveraging new technologies, the aircraft can fly like a plane and land like a helicopter via its short takeoff and vertical landing abilities. That capability coupled with its supersonic capacity make the F-35B a great fit for amphibious operations, where the focus is on rapidly launching Marine Corps power into harsh shore environments. The aircraft even has an astounding 18,000 pound ammunition capacity which can be quickly configured to meet various mission requirements.

Adopting such an impressive evolution in air power required some modifications in ship design and maintenance practices. Using lessons learned from the initial Joint Strike Fighter’s at-sea testing aboard USS Wasp, multi-purpose and general purpose amphibious assault ships will receive an upgrade to their flight deck construction with a thermal spray coating applied to support long-term operational sustainability. This will help the deck surface withstand the increased exhaust heat produced over previous airframes and distribute that heat to protect the ships infrastructure below.

The Marine Corps reported the “F-35B…aircraft reached initial operational capability on July 31, 2015, when a squadron of 10 F-35Bs was declared ready for world-wide deployment.”

Before F-35B Joint Strike Fighter operation capabilities join the Surface Force, USS America must complete a planned maintenance availability period in San Diego and conduct a series of sea trials designed to build a strong working relationship between ship personnel and the Marine Corps team.

We are excited about the aircraft’s potential role in sea control!


August 12, 2016 / iDriveWarships

Surface Navy Remembers Medal of Honor Recipients Part 3


Rear Admiral John D. Bulkeley, USN,

Rear Admiral John D. Bulkeley, USN

“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941— a date which will live in infamy,” is well-known from the speech given by President Franklin D. Roosevelt after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Those assaults resulted in the United States entering World War II where  many Americans courageously fought and died. Today we remember a few of those brave men whose fighting spirits live on in ships named after them.

In the U.S. Navy, specifically in the U.S. Surface Fleet, there are currently 26 warships named after Medal of Honor recipients. Five of those Surface Force ships include: USS Bulkeley, USS Kidd, USS O’Kane, USS Ramage, and USS Ross.

USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) is named in honor of Navy Vice Admiral John Duncan Bulkeley. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during World War II. In 1942, while serving as a patrol torpedo boat pioneer, Bulkeley used his four-boat squadron to assist in evacuating Army General Douglas MacArthur, his family, and his immediate staff from the Philippines.

NH 97386

Captain Isaac C, Kidd, USN, Commanding Officer, USS Arizona (BB-39)

USS Kidd (DDG 100) is named in honor of Navy Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, Sr. Admiral Kidd was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery during the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Kidd was killed in action during the attack while in command on the bridge of the USS Arizona.

USS O’Kane (DDG 77) is named in honor of Navy Rear Admiral Richard O’Kane, who commanded the submarine USS Tang during World War II. In five war patrols, O’Kane successfully led USS Tang in sinking a total of 33 enemy ships and rescuing American fliers who were shot down. O’Kane was awarded the Medal of Honor for his brave actions during his submarine’s final operations.

USS Ramage (DDG 61) is named in honor of Navy Vice Admiral Lawson P. “Red” Ramage. On Jan. 10, 1945, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions

during World War II. On July 31, 1944, commanding USS Parche (SS 384), Ramage led a predawn attack on a Japanese convoy. He cleared the bridge of all personnel leaving himself to fight it out with the enemy. Over 46 minutes, Ramage and USS Parche sank two enemy ships and badly damaged three others.


Guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71)

USS Ross (DDG 71) is named in honor of Navy Captain Donald Kirby Ross who was awarded the Medal of Honor on April 18, 1942 for his selfless, courageous actions during the Japanese air raids on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On Dec. 7, 1941 while serving as a warrant officer machinist on USS Nevada (BB-36), he didn’t leave his post during the attacks despite becoming wounded and blinded by a bomb. Instead he remained at his station and kept the ship’s machinery running until the ship could be beached which prevented it from sinking and blocking the harbor.

Thanks to the valiant and unrelenting effort put forth by these service members, and countless others around the globe, the Allies of the world eventually won WWII, defeating the Axis forces of tyranny.

Please join us in the upcoming months as we recognize the 13 remaining surface ships in future installments of Surface Navy Remembers Medal of Honor Recipients.

August 5, 2016 / iDriveWarships

Supporting Your Sailor: Themed Care Packages

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ARABIAN GULF (July 12, 2016) Seaman Cody Platt opens a care package aboard the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49). Harpers Ferry is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Eshleman/Released) 160712-N-VS214-068

It’s deployment time for many Sailors and Marines, which also means it’s time to send out care packages. While deployments are never easy, sending a service member a care package from home can be a real morale booster. Since we know that choosing the perfect items to send your loved one can be challenging we’ve come up with some fun themes to help you break away from the typical boxes of beef jerky, hot sauce, and whoopee cushions. So gather up the family and get everyone involved in making these fun care packages any service member is sure to love!

It can be rough spending your birthday away from home, so why not send your loved one a birthday bash in a box? We recommend filling this care package with simple decorations like streamers, banners, kazoos or party blowers, classic party games, and pop up décor. Include small wrapped gifts like headphones, a watch, a manicure set, or even a digital music player or e-reader pre-loaded with content. Next fill all the little spaces in the box with hard candy that won’t melt and top it off with a musical card that’ll sing them happy birthday or a recorded message from you. Bonus points if you include a bubble-wrapped cake in a jar (just keep the candles at home).

Since homesickness often accompanies deployment, consider sending your loved one a care package that doubles as a little dose of home. Items in this box might range from artwork done by the kids to pictures of family members, outings, pets, and your home or garden. You can also include something more substantial like fuzzy socks or a light blanket. Add in some hand written letters of appreciation, notes of encouragement, or a DVD of greetings from family. Top it off with some fancy instant coffee, a new travel mug (with a lid is best), Sunday comics, or magazines. Tuck in an air freshener in your home’s signature scent, and it won’t be long before this little box of comfort has your Sailor feeling right at home.


ARABIAN GULF (May 27, 2011) Sailors read letters included in care packages received from Operation Troop Aid (OTA) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility and will be conducting close-air support missions as part of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Melissa Russell/Released) 110527-N-RG360-059

On the flipside, one of the highlights of deploying is getting to visit different countries along the way. Encourage your loved one to explore by sending them a travel-themed box. If you know some of the ports they could be visiting you might include small, lightweight guide books or print out common phrases in the local language. If you’re not sure where they’ll be stopping, you can include more general items any savvy traveler might keep on hand such as sun screen, bug repellant bracelets or spray, wet wipes, a compact travel toothbrush, a sleep mask, and snacks that can handle being tossed in a backpack like hard granola bars, nuts, and flavored drink mixes.

Lastly, because deployments are often six months or longer your loved one will likely miss some holidays, but you can send them some cheer with a holiday-themed box. This care package can either mark a holiday they’re missing or give them a sneak peek of a future holiday. For example, you can send your Sailor an Easter-themed box in April if they’ll be missing it, or a Christmas-themed box in July. Just include décor, snacks, candy, movies, and gifts that coordinate to the holiday you’ve selected. And while they may not be official holidays you could even send a World Series baseball, March Madness basketball, or Super Bowl themed box complete with miniature sports games or balls.

Whether you mail your Sailor one of these themed care packages, or an equally awesome traditional care package, they’re sure to appreciate whatever you send. For someone on deployment, there’s just something special about hearing your name at mail call and claiming a care package. So make your Sailor’s day and send them a box!

July 15, 2016 / iDriveWarships

Building Partnerships Through RIMPAC


An aerial view of ships moored at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for Rim of the Pacific 2016. Twenty-six nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 30 to Aug. 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2016 is the 25th exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Ace Rheaume/Released)

The world’s largest international maritime exercise is currently taking place in and around Hawaii and waters off of Southern California. The Rim of the Pacific exercise, or RIMPAC, began in 1971 with just five participating countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom. This year 26 countries have come together to foster and sustain cooperative relationships critical to ensuring security on the world’s oceans. Their goal is to become “Capable, Adaptive, Partners.”

To help break the ice, a number of ships held receptions to welcome leadership and crew members from other countries aboard their ships to socialize and learn a bit about their host’s culture and traditions. Some of the 25,000 personnel participating in RIMPAC competed in a variety of sporting events such as soccer, volleyball, and basketball to help foster a sense of camaraderie before beginning the intense activities of the shore and sea phases. This initial bonding is designed to help participants build relationships and ultimately become one team striving to complete the mission at hand.

Participating countries, most of which lie in and around the Pacific, quickly began working closely with one another through a series of expert exchanges and training evolutions designed to share how various countries’ forces operate and help partners learn how to function as an integrated team. These activities allow nations to work together in both real and simulated training situations to enhance their interoperability and help ensure the security and stability of the Pacific.

nora tyson

Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, ceremoniously pounds rice flour with a mallet during a reception held aboard the Republic of Korea Navy guided-missile destroyer Sejong the Great (DDG 991) at Rim of the Pacific 2016. (U.S. Navy Photo By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Travis Litke/Released)

While ships were in port, shore-based activities included a chaplaincy symposium, a panel discussion on Women, Peace and Security during the Maritime Security Symposium, and a multinational Fundamentals of Global Health Engagement Course featuring military and Department of Defense civilian participants. A number of force operations like gun range and small arms demonstrations, amphibious assault vehicle launch and recovery, and amphibious beach assault drills were also conducted during the shore phase.

Now that the ships are underway, at sea activities have included a multiple day mass casualty drill featuring both government and non-government organizations aimed at helping forces learn how to operate together smoothly for future humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations. Other at sea activities include integrated submarine rescue training, more amphibious craft launch and recovery, aircraft cross-decking for launch and landing evolutions on partner ships, anti-submarine warfare, group formation sailing, missile shoots, and the sinking of the now decommissioned frigate USS Thatch (FFG 43).

12928415_274550119543348_4903362712777086138_nFollowing the at sea phase, RIMPAC will formally end with a reception offering partners an opportunity to reflect on their accomplishments and thank one another for their
participation. While RIMPAC only happens every two years it’s an experience participants will take with them for the rest of their lives. Not only are they fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships by participating in the exercise, they’re also building bonds of friendship and goodwill between nations to become the “Capable, Adaptive, Partners” the Pacific needs.

Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet ships participating in RIMPAC include: USS America (LHA 6), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), USS Coronado (LCS 4), USS Howard (DDG 83), USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), USS Pinckney (DDG 91), USS Princeton (CG 59), USS San Diego (LPD 22), USS Shoup (DDG 86), USS Stockdale (DDG 106), and USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110).




July 1, 2016 / iDriveWarships

Surface Navy Honors Freedom, Independence and America on the Fourth.

blog 5-1.jpgIt’s that time of year again when Lee Greenwood’s “God bless the USA,” is playing on the radio, the sweet smell of BBQ is in the air, and family and friends are gathering at the local park to watch the fireworks show in honor of our nation’s birthday.

As we celebrate our 240 years of independence, let us remember the true meaning of this holiday. When most Americans think of the 4th of July, “America,” “freedom,” and “independence” are three words that typically come to mind. They represent our power, strength, and fortitude, so it’s no surprise that there are some U.S. Navy ships bearing these names.


U.S. Navy graphic, posted on the Community, History and Heritage Command website

In May 1777, USS America a 74-gun man-of-war ship was gifted to France in appreciation of their partnership with the new nation the United States of America. The current USS America (LHA 6) is the fourth ship to be named after our country. She is an amphibious assault ship that provides forward presence and power projection supporting Marines and their aviation assets as part of an Expeditionary Strike Group or supporting smaller scale operations.

Three navy ships have been named for the notion of freedom. The first USS Freedom was a member of the Navy’s Cruisers and Transport Force. A second Freedom (IX-43) was an auxiliary schooner assigned to the U.S. Naval Academy where she served in a noncommissioned status through 1962. The current USS Freedom (LCS 1) is a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) designed to defeat maritime threats and support sea control in coastal waters. This Freedom is a fast, maneuverable, and networked surface ship that is multi-mission capable.

USS Independence (LCS 2) is the sixth ship to be named for the concept of independence. Independence is also an LCS, but of a different variant with a unique trimaran design. Its use of interchangeable technology allows for operational flexibility supporting various mission requirements in coastal waters.

All three ships are currently defending our nation just as their predecessors did before them. While many of us will take this time to come together and celebrate the holiday, please remember the thousands of Sailors and Marines who are deployed around the world protecting our freedom.

Through their service and sacrifice, Sailors and Marines continue to make every day Independence Day for the United States of America while serving at sea, in the air, or ashore.

For more history and information on these ships, please visit the Naval History & Heritage Command website.



June 24, 2016 / iDriveWarships

USS Coronado to Demonstrate Over-the-Horizon Missile at RIMPAC

Live-fire exercise

WATERS NEAR GUAM (Sept. 15, 2014) A Harpoon missile is launched from the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67) during a live-fire exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin V. Cunningham/Released) 140915-N-UF697-087

There have been a number of exciting things happening in the world of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) lately. From the successful completion of USS Jackson (LCS 6)’s first Full Ship Shock Trials to PCU Detroit (the future LCS 7)’s upcoming commissioning, the positive momentum of LCS is continuing as Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) transits to participate in the U.S. Navy’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise beginning June 30.

RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime exercise. It provides a unique training opportunity to help participants foster and sustain cooperative relationships critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security of the world’s oceans. While at RIMPAC, Coronado is scheduled to become the first LCS to demonstrate the ability to launch a Block III Harpoon missile.

Originally developed in the early 1970’s, the Harpoon missile was created to serve as the Navy’s basic anti-ship missile. The missile is an all-weather, anti-ship, over-the-horizon (OTH) system that can be launched from multiple platforms to engage a wide variety of land-based targets. It’s also capable of locating and destroying enemy ships at distances up to 100 nautical miles.


PACIFIC OCEAN (July 11, 2008) The guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) fires a Harpoon anti-ship missile during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) maritime exercise. RIMPAC is the world’s largest multinational exercise and is scheduled biennially by the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Participants include the United States, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, the Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. U.S. Navy Photo (Released) 080711-N-5874W-017

The Harpoon uses a small, active radar homing system in the nose of the missile to guide it in a low-level, sea-skimming cruise route, making it nearly undetectable to adversaries while improving the warhead’s survivability. Once the radar system identifies its target, it will pilot the missile for a precise impact – detonating a 500-pound warhead with lethal firepower.

The demonstration at RIMPAC will show how the Harpoon missile can be utilized on one of the Navy’s newest platforms, the LCS. Still evolving, LCSs were designed as multi-mission ships capable of operating in a wide-range of environments, from the open ocean to coastal and littoral waters. Testing and expanding the capabilities of LCSs will likely continue as the Naval Surface Force focuses on building their offensive capabilities in line with the principles of Distributed Lethality.

USS Coronado (LCS 4) left her homeport of San Diego on June 22 and is scheduled to begin a planned deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility at the conclusion of RIMPAC.


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