Tuesday, March 24, 2009

San Antonio Demonstrates Capabilities During Maiden Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Brian Goodwin, Iwo Jima Amphibious Expeditionary Strike Public Affairs

USS SAN ANTONIO, At Sea (NNS) -- The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) readies to return to its homeport in Norfolk after completing a seven-month deployment as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG).

The homecoming will mark the end of the maiden deployment for the first San Antonio-class warship, which brought new warfighting capabilities to the stike group.

"We've demonstrated that the LPD 17 platform is very robust with its new features," said Cmdr. Eric Cash, San Antonio's commanding officer. "If you look at the lift capability, command and control, and capacity and facilities to embark a multitude of detachments, you can see how amphibious ships can be utilized from low to high intensity operations."

Thanks to San Antonio's design, embarked Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26 MEU) were able to carry out their daily routine and shore operations in an efficient manner.

"We were a complete unit, capable of any tasking because of the capacity that San Antonio has for our operations," said Lt. Col. John Giltz, Combat Logistics Battalion 26 commanding officer. "The passageways are much wider for a large number of Marines to move throughout the ship and for transporting vehicles. The flight deck is capable of having multiple aircraft, which makes loading and offloading much faster."

"This deployment has taught us a great deal on how to carry out MEU operations," Giltz added. "From what we've learned on San Antonio's maiden cruise, the LPD-class ships are very capable in independent ship missions."

A number of functions are monitored through the ship's latest feature, the shipwide area network (SWAN).

"SWAN has been a godsend for this ship on this deployment," said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Wendall Bates.

"It has enabled us to man less spaces, and it's a constant watchdog for our systems should anything go wrong, such as broken consoles at an engineering station, navigation issues or problems with the ship's control system."

At the start of the new year, San Antonio was selected to serve as the flagship for the newly-established Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 counter-piracy mission. Fleet Surgical Team 8, from the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), and Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron 3, from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), embarked San Antonio to enhance CTF-151's capabilities.

"By bringing such a diverse group of forces together, we were able to capitalize on each other's experiences and training, and that allowed us to better prepare for future missions," said Lt. Cmdr. Sean Kearns, San Antonio's executive officer.

"San Antonio surpassed all expectations made by the Iwo Jima ARG," said Lt. Richard Knutson, San Antonio's operations officer. "We demonstrated that this platform is versatile in carrying out operations such as visit, board, search and seizure operations, damage control training and simulated warfare."

Cmdr. Kurt Kastner, San Antonio's former commanding officer, led the ship and its crew out on the maiden deployment and is proud of the crew's accomplishments.

"The crew and embarked Marines faced every challenge and mission head-on," said Kastner. "I think their efforts will go a long way in defining future LPD 17 class deployments."

San Antonio is deployed as part of the Iwo Jima ARG supporting maritime security operations (MSO). MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.