Saturday, March 07, 2009

7th Fleet Ships Complete Multi-Sail Exercise

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Byron C. Linder, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The semi-annual five-day Multi-Sail exercise brought 7th Fleet ships together to improve warfare mission readiness March 1-5, off the coast of Okinawa, Japan.

The crew of USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) took advantage of the opportunity to serve as the exercise flagship. Operating with McCain were Yokosuka-based cruisers USS Cowpens (CG 63) and USS Shiloh (CG 67); Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS McCampbell (DDG 85) and USS Stethem (DDG 63); Hawaii-based destroyers USS Hopper (DDG 70) and Chung-Hoon (DDG 93); and the underway replenishment ship USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3).

Capt. Charles Williams, commander, Destroyer Squadron 15, praised the hard work and dedication to the mission success displayed by every Sailor on the deckplates.

"I was very impressed with what I saw from everyone. Without the Sailors, we wouldn't have been able to complete these exercises," Williams said.

The exercise was in a round robin format and, for McCain, participation commenced with a day-long naval surface fire support exercise. Using the MK-45 five-inch gun system, the participating ships shot at targets to test both weapons maintenance and watchstander skills.

From high speed boats to a large inflatable target, dubbed the "killer tomato", the ships utilized their five-inch, 25-mm and 50-caliber guns to hone their skills in a live-fire exercise.

Anti-submarine warfare exercises followed with the ships' watchstanders being challenged to manage a quiet ship environment and track the movements of other ships. McCain and other participating units also shot torpedoes from ships and helicopters in a live firing event.

Following the recovery of the torpedoes, Multi-Sail drew to a close with joint flight operations. U.S. Air Force helicopters made 44 day and night landings on the flight deck to close the exercise.

The exercise's location off the coast of Okinawa provides a prime spot for training, said Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Phillip Rosas, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native.

"We had roughly 200 nautical miles of free space to operate in. We can't do exercises like Multi-Sail back in Yokosuka," Rosas said.

Operations Specialist 2nd Class Jeff McDill, a native of Seattle, said the exercise's frequency provides a prime opportunity for training.

"It's one of the best exercises for training new people. There have been a lot of lessons learned since the original Multi-Sail, and those lessons have been applied," McDill said. "This is an enhanced hands-on view of the operations we may get called on to perform in a real-world situation."

DESRON 15 is the Navy's only forward deployed destroyer squadron and is responsible for the readiness, tactical and administrative commander responsibilities for seven Arleigh Burke Class guided missile class destroyers. DESRON 15 and its ships are the principal surface forces of Battle Force 7th Fleet in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans.