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February 1, 2018 / iDriveWarships

Stories of Ship Selection: The Start of a Career


Now Lt. j.g. Theo Miller, United States Naval Academy Class of 2015 graduate, holds up the USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) nameplate after choosing it during his Ship Selection event. Courtesy photo.

Last Thursday, approximately 250 midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy chose their first duty station at Ship Selection night. The duty stations available range from exotic locations abroad in Spain and Japan and even Hawaii, to homeports on both the east and west coasts.

For many, this will be the only chance they have to choose where they will go with any degree of certainty. For all, this is the start of their career as a Surface Warfare Officer. And whether these midshipmen continue to serve for five years or 20, there is no doubt that a junior officer’s first ship has a significant impact on their career.


United States Naval Academy midshipmen cheer and take photos during the Class of 2018 graduate Ship Selection event. Courtesy photo.

This is the ship that will mold them from a newbie Ensign to a competent and qualified officer of the deck and eventually a Surface Warfare Officer. This ship will teach them the practical applications of fundamentals they learned in an academic environment. The lessons that a first tour junior officer learns on their first ship stay with them throughout their career.

Rightfully so, Ship Selection is a big deal for Naval Academy seniors, or “firsties” as they are called at the academy. The ships of our Navy each carry unique personalities based upon their histories, mission sets, namesakes, command leadership, and of course, location. It is not uncommon for midshipmen to spend the weeks prior to Ship Selection narrowing their choices down to a handful of options from the list of available ships.

And on the last Thursday of January, hundreds of midshipmen and their friends, family, mentors, and professors, along with representatives from some of the available ships and key members of the Surface Warfare community, gather to determine where the year’s graduating class of SWOs will scatter to throughout the Fleet.

Meet some members of our Surface Fleet and see how they chose their first ship:

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PEARL HARBOR (June 16, 2014) The guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam from a four-month deployment to the western Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Diana Quinlan/Released) 140616-N-WF272-030

Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Schaeffer, class of 2004, and currently stationed at U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters in Hawaii, remembers feeling the pressure to choose his first ship was largely based on location.

“I had simple, yet specific instructions from my girlfriend: Hawaii,” he confided.

Schaeffer chose USS Lake Erie (CG 70), then homeported in Pearl Harbor. To future SWOs, he offers this advice:

“At the end of the day, a ship is a ship to a certain degree.  Yes, it is true that some wardrooms are better than others, but your job on your first ship is largely the same wherever you go, listen (to your Chief), learn (from EVERYONE) and get qualified.  If you assume that is true, then you are just picking where you want to spend what little free time you may have.”


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Now Lt. James Deal, a United States Naval Academy Class of 2012 graduate, selects USS Monterey (CG 61) during his Ship Selection event. Courtesy photo.

Lt. James Deal, class of 2012, was “that guy who was sitting near the end of the last row of people to pick.”  As he watched his classmates pick ship after ship, the last in Hawaii and San Diego were taken off the board, leaving only Norfolk.

“I looked at the board at the names and platform types for anything, even a shred of what to do because everything I had wanted was gone. With just Norfolk left, all I remember is seeing the ship that I had done my youngster summer cruise on – USS Monterey (CG 61) – and I thought ‘hey, I know that ship and I had a good time on there,’” said Deal.

“I had a positive experience on the Monterey. Who knew I was picking a flagship of the fleet with a ridiculously solid crew? I couldn’t have picked a better ship for myself, now knowing what I know,” he added.



Now Lt. j.g. Theo Miller, shown as an Ensign on board his first ship, USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51). Courtesy photo.

Lt. j.g. Theo Miller, class of 2015, chose USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51), homeported in Norfolk, VA. He remembers feeling as though ship selection was the “NFL draft of the Navy, because we had family, friends, and admirals come to observe us pick our first ship. At no other time in your career will you have 100% control to pick your homeport and ship.”

Miller, now stationed in Bahrain, said “your first tour as a Division Officer will set up how you view your time in the Navy. Having a great command as I did on Arleigh Burke made my time on the ship fly by, gave me great memories, and made me realize that I want to make a career out of the Navy.”


caitlyn vernon ship selection

Midshipman Caitlyn Vernon, right, smiles after making her selection during the Naval Academy’s Ship Selection. (Photo by: Steve Ruark / For The Capital Gazette)

For Midn. 1/C Caitlyn Vernon, her choice last Thursday was defined by a bit of family history. Vernon’s father sent letters to every living Medal of Honor recipient a few years ago, and received a reply from a Mr. Thomas Hudner.

The letter Vernon’s father received said “to Officer Wayne Vernon and your children, best of luck.” The future USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) will be commissioned later this year, and then head to its homeport of Mayport, Florida.

“Once I saw he got a reply from Hudner, I was like, I have to get that ship. It was meant to be,” said Vernon.


Congratulations to all ship selectees and we look forward to seeing you in the fleet!

January 26, 2018 / iDriveWarships

Two Precommissioning Navy Ships Transit the Panama Canal Together

Panama Canal Transit

PANAMA CANAL (Jan. 9, 2018) The future amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD 27) transits the Panama Canal while the future littoral combat ship USS Omaha (LCS 12) follows astern. Portland is currently transiting from its building site in Pascagoula, Miss. to its new homeport in San Diego. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Britney Odom/Released) 180109-N-UK053-052

A unique event took place last week when the future USS Portland (LPD 27) and future USS Omaha (LCS 12) transited the Panama Canal together.

The two ships were on their way to their new homeport of San Diego, Calif. and will soon be commissioned into the surface fleet. Omaha arrived in San Diego Jan. 19, completing her maiden voyage just a couple of weeks ahead of her commissioning ceremony on Feb. 3. Portland arrived Jan. 22 and will be commissioned into service this spring.

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USS Omaha (CL-4) and another, unnamed, battleship, circa 1925-1926

Since 1914, when the USS Jupiter (AC-3) became the first U.S. Navy ship to transit the Panama Canal, the narrow waterway bridging the Atlantic and Pacific oceans has been key in connecting our Atlantic and Pacific Fleets.  Jupiter was later converted into the Navy’s first aircraft carrier and renamed USS Langley (CV-1).

Made up of 12 locks, six of which are used by transiting ships, the Panama Canal enables ships to be transported through more than 50 miles of mountainous terrain from one ocean to the other. Successfully completing the evolution requires precise rudder control and safe speeds, and saves ships an 8,000-mile journey around South America.

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USS Portland (CA-33) transits the Panama Canal in 1935

This was not the first times Navy ships bearing the names Omaha and Portland have made the trip through the canal.

The transit of Omaha and Portland echoed a similar journey made by U.S. Navy light cruiser USS Omaha (CL-4) and another, unnamed, battleship, circa 1925-1926.

The heavy cruiser USS Portland (CA-33) transited the Panama Canal in 1935 while carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt from San Diego, Calif., to Charleston,S.C..

Transits through the Panama Canal were more common in the first half of the 20th century. However, as ships designs became larger, and strategy necessitated ships remain in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, the opportunity to navigate the Panama Canal became more rare. Now, a Panama Canal transit is considered to be a highlight among 21st century Sailors.


SAN DIEGO (Jan. 22, 2018) – The future USS Portland (LPD 27), transits San Diego Bay en route to her new homeport in San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lenny LaCrosse/Released) 180122-N-CU914-060

Portland arrived at its San Diego homeport Jan. 22. The ship departed the Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) Shipbuilding site in Pascagoula, Miss. on Dec. 14, 2017. Portland is the 11th San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship. It will be commissioned in April in its namesake city of Portland, Ore. and is the third ship to bear this name, following USS Portland (CA-33) and USS Portland (LSD-37). Portland was christened in 2016.

Omaha is the sixth Independence-class littoral combat ship. It will be commissioned in February in San Diego and is the fourth Navy vessel to bear the name, following USS Omaha (a screw sloop), USS Omaha (CL-4), and USS Omaha (SSN-692). Omaha was christened in 2015 by sponsor Susan Alice Buffett (daughter of Warren Buffett).


​SAN DIEGO (Jan. 19, 2018) The littoral combat ship the future USS Omaha (LCS 12) arrives at its new homeport, Naval Base San Diego. Omaha will be commissioned in San Diego next month and is the sixth ship in the LCS Independence-variant class.(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Molly DiServio/Released)

December 29, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Hello, 2018!

new year

Wishing all of you the best with your goals in 2018! Here’s to a safe, happy, and healthy new year!

December 22, 2017 / iDriveWarships

A Grinch Underway


From all of us at Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Happy Holidays!


December 15, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Get to know Little Rock (LCS 9)

The U.S. Navy‘s newest littoral combat ship (LCS), the future USS Little Rock (LCS 9), will be commissioned tomorrow into active service during a ceremony held in Canalside Buffalo, adjacent to the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park, in Buffalo, New York. In honor of this momentous occasion we’ve gathered ten facts — five about the ship and five related to its namesake city — to help you get to know Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Little Rock. Make sure to tune in here Saturday to watch the historic commissioning ceremony LIVE, starting at 1100 EST.

  • The future USS Little Rock’s keel was laid down June 27, 2013. The mast stepping ceremony took place April 23, 2015 and it was christened July 18, 2015. It will be commissioned during a ceremony at Canalside in Buffalo, New York on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017.

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    USS Little Rock (LCS 9) Coat of Arms, featuring their motto: “Back with a Vengeance.”

  • PCU Little Rock’s name honors the capital city Arkansas, which is the state’s largest municipality with nearly 200,000 people calling it home.
  • The littoral combat ship will be the 10th littoral combat ship to join the Navy and the 5th in the fleet of the odd-numbered Freedom variants. It features a steel double-chine advanced semi-planing monohull design.
  • PCU Little Rock’s namesake city derives its name from a small rock formation on the south bank of the Arkansas River called “le Petit Rocher” (French: “the little rock”). The “little rock” was used by early river traffic as a landmark and became a well-known river crossing.
  • The future USS Little Rock (LCS 9) was christened and side launched on July 18, 2015 during a ceremony at Marinette Marine Corporation’s shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin.
  • Former Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus selected USS Little Rock’s name. He served as the 75th SECNAV and was the longest serving leader of the Navy and Marine Corps since World War I.
  • Janée L. Bonner, spouse of the Honorable Josiah “Jo” Bonner, former U.S. representative of Alabama, is the ship’s sponsor. She christened the ship and at the commissioning will give the traditional order for the crew to “man our ship and bring her to life!”

    USS Little Rock

    USS Little Rock (CLG 4) underway at sea, prior to taking over temporary duty as the flagship for Commander Second Fleet Vice Adm. K.S. Masterson on June 19, 1965. (U.S. Navy Photo Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command)

  • For the first time in the Navy’s 242-year history, a new ship will be commissioned alongside a ship of the same name. The original USS Little Rock is the only remaining Cleveland-class ship and is now on permanent display as a museum at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park.
  • At 3400-tons, LCS 9 is 388 feet in length, has a beam of 57 feet, and can operate at more than 40 knots. It will be homeported in Mayport, Florida.
  • A Key to the City of Little Rock was given to the ship and it, along with a Key to the City of Buffalo recognizing them for the historical commissioning, will be put on a plaque & stored in a trophy case aboard the vessel for the life of the ship.

LCS is a fast, agile, mission-focused platform designed for operation in near-shore (littoral) environments, also has the capability to perform open-ocean operations. It’s designed to defeat asymmetric “anti-access” threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft. For more information on the littoral combat ship, click here.



December 1, 2017 / iDriveWarships

5 Facts to Know About LCS and Serving Aboard Them


The first of class littoral combat ships USS Freedom (LCS 1), left, and USS Independence (LCS 2), maneuver together during an exercise off the coast of Southern California. The littoral combat ship is a fast, agile, networked surface combatant designed to operate in the near-shore environment, while capable of open-ocean tasking, and win against 21st-century coastal threats such as submarines, mines, and swarming small craft. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jan Shultis) 120502-N-ZZ999-009

Littoral combat ships (LCS) are small surface combatant ships with specific, yet flexible, capabilities. The ships employ a system-of-systems approach through a series of modular mission packages, unmanned vehicles and an innovative hull design.

The force flexibility means commanders can pair capabilities with the specific mission requirements. Duty aboard an LCS as part of the rotating Blue/Gold crews is challenging and exciting. What more could a Sailor ask for than a new ship, more opportunities to learn and train, and a variety of missions to conquer!

Here are five things to know about littoral combat ships and serving aboard them.


SOUTH CHINA SEA (May 9, 2017) Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Paul Coombs signals to the MH-60S Seahawk during a vertical replenishment exercise as part of Initial Ship Aviation Team Training with the “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 aboard littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4). Coronado is on a rotational deployment in U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, patrolling the region’s littorals and working hull-to-hull with partner navies to provide 7th Fleet with the flexible capabilities it needs now and in the future. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Deven Leigh Ellis/Released) 170509-N-PD309-019

1. LCS Sailors do more than their specific rating requires; they become experts in additional jobs and areas around the ship. “My main job is CS, a culinary specialist,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Mariah Marie Cords. “Other jobs that I do [are] anchor windlass, I’m a part of line handling, and I’m also part of flight deck firefighting.” LCS Sailors have the opportunity to learn more and use that training and experience the rest of their career.

2. There are two distinct variants of LCS ships – the Independence-Class and the Freedom-Class. Each have unique strengths and benefits to the program, and though they tackle the same missions, are very different ships. The Freedom-Class LCSs look like a more traditional Navy vessel, both inside and out, with a sleek hull design aimed at speed, and a unique quick-release system for boat operations. The Independence-Class ships feature a unique and futuristic-looking tri-hull design, and an interior featuring wider passageways and staircases instead of ladderwells. Independence-Class ships feature a much larger mission bay, allowing for quicker changes between mission packages.

3. Enlisted Sailors, chiefs, and officers all share in the duties and work on the ship. It is not uncommon to see the command master chief washing his own dishes in the galley, or seeing high-ranking officers walking side-by-side with seamen picking up foreign objects during FOD walkdown before flight operations.

4. The smaller crew creates crew familiarity, stability and a sense of ship ownership. “You’re working with such a tight-knit group, it feels like a family. I know that the Sailor standing next to me has my back no matter what,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Nguyen.

5. The LCS program employs three distinct mission packages, which can change depending on what the ship is assigned to do. While the primary mission packages are surface warfare, mine countermeasures, and anti-submarine warfare, LCSs can also be outfitted for unique missions utilizing their mission bays, including humanitarian assistance and special operations. “Whatever a combatant commander decides they want the Navy can resource and build, we can plug it into this ship and have it on station,” said Commander Kevin Meehan, the commanding officer aboard USS Gabrielle Giffords.


*This content originally appeared on All Hands Magazine’s website, here.

November 24, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Giving Thanks

USS Preble

INDIAN OCEAN (Nov. 23, 2017) Sailors gather on the mess decks for Thanksgiving dinner aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88). Preble is conducting maritime security, forward presence and theater security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Morgan K. Nall/Released) 171123-N-IA905-2018

As Americans, we have countless reasons to be thankful during Thanksgiving celebrations.  Most of us will spend the holiday weekend enjoying time with friends and families, watching parades with elaborately decorated floats and cheering for our favorite football teams, but not all Americans are able to take part in the festivities. Some of these fathers, mothers, daughters, sons and siblings serving in the United States Navy and the Surface Force will be standing the watch around the globe so those at home can enjoy their peace and prosperity.

We can, and should, be grateful to these Sailors and for the safety of our seas and commerce, the defense of our country, and for our civil liberties they help protect.  Some of them will take time off to join their families for the holiday, and we can be grateful for that too, but our true thanks should be given to those who will not be spending their Thanksgiving at home. No, instead, these selfless and brave warfighters will spend their holiday aboard ships, manning our installations, or deployed to foreign lands. While they will be missed, the sacrifices they make for our country and for our freedom they protect is something for which every man, woman, and child can be grateful.

Thanksgiving aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6)

SASEBO, Japan (Nov. 24, 2017) Cmdr. Rich LeBron, executive officer, serves Sailors a Thanksgiving meal aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Bonhomme Richard, forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan, is serving forward to provide a rapid-response capability in the event of a regional contingency or natural disaster. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cameron McCulloch/Released) 171123-N-RU971-076

This sacrifice, though necessary, is not lost on Navy leaders.  Around the globe, commands will host their own Thanksgiving Day celebrations and offer the best shipboard comfort cuisine the military has to offer.  These events, though appreciated by the crew, are about more than just delivering a special meal – it’s the comfort and solace that comes along with those juicy slices of turkey, stuffing covered in gravy, and sides of cranberry sauce; it’s a slice of normal. If you’ve participated in preparing a family thanksgiving meal, you know it involves meticulous planning and preparation as well as perfect execution in order to make sure everything turns out just right and right on time.

So, what does it take to for the Surface Force to feed the more than 19,000 Sailors deployed protecting and defending our freedom?  Well, it takes a lot.  According to the Naval Supply System Command’s estimate, the culinary specialists and their food service attendants were responsible for the preparation and serving of approximately:

15,000 pounds of turkey                      5,200 pounds of mashed potatoes

1,200 pounds of corn                           1,300 pounds of green been casserole

1,000 pounds of cranberry sauce        4,000 pounds of ham

3,000 pounds of sweet potatoes          2,900 pounds of stuffing

2,500 pounds of gravy                         1,500 pounds of shrimp

3,000 pounds of eggnog         and       1,000 pies…

All of this, just to give you a little taste and home and as a heartfelt Thank You for your service.

For all you brave Surface Force Sailors on the high seas, know that although you cannot be at home, you are missed, and as we pick our turkey legs clean, raise another glass of eggnog, and indulge in just one more slice of pie this holiday, we’re thinking of you.

From all of us at Naval Surface Forces, Happy Thanksgiving!


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