Wednesday, June 10, 2009

USS Ohio Crew Readies for Multimission Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chantel M. Clayton, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West Det. Northwest

SILVERDALE, Wash. (NNS) -- With a major maintenance period completed, the men of the guided-missile submarine USS Ohio (SSGN 726) (Blue) crew are ready to take their boat, June 9, and head back out to sea later this month.

Ohio class guided-missile submarines (SSGN) provide the Navy with an unprecedented combination of strike and special operation mission capability within a stealthy, clandestine platform. Armed with tactical missiles and equipped with superior communications capabilities, SSGNs are capable of directly supporting dozens of special operations forces (SOF).

According to Capt. Murray Gero, Ohio Blue crew commanding officer, the crew is ready to get the boat out to sea and complete missions that she is capable of doing.

"They're excited," said Gero, of the 160-man crew. "The missions that we do are very exciting and challenging. They are very complex, and they involve very close coordination with several outside agencies, including SEALS. They've been home from deployment for almost ten months now, and I think most of us have sea legs that have been screaming to get back to sea."

Ohio has the capability of performing multiple missions, making it a valuable asset to the Navy.

"The ship is capable of as many as five different submarine war missions simultaneously, including surveillance and reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship undersea warfare, and we also do strike missions and special operations," said Gero.

"We carry the capability of carrying two dry deck shelters, which house the SEAL delivery vehicles, and they enable us to deploy and retrieve special ops forces from off-shore."

The boat's capability to carry a heavy load of missiles also makes them a go-to asset for fleet commanders.

"We typically go to sea with over 100 tomahawk missiles, and that basically replaces a tomahawk missile inventory of three surface warships," added Gero.

"This increases the flexibility of the surface fleet, because we basically allow them to reassign those three ships as soon as we get into our operating theater."

Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a recent podcast that the silent service is a method of leveraging the undersea domain.

"We pride ourselves in having the quietest, most efficient, most technologically advanced submarines anywhere; they're expensive, and we never have enough of them," said Willard. "So we in the Pacific Fleet strategically emplace our submarine forces in order to maintain a continuum of operations and give us the capability to surge those submarine forces forward whenever we need them."

Ohio recently completed a major maintenance period (MMP), one month ahead of schedule. Ohio's Gold crew, commanded by Capt. Dennis Carpenter, leveraged the early completion to conduct training out at sea, which was welcomed by the crew.

"The ship has been out of the yards for over a month. Working closely with Captain Carpenter and the Gold crew, we were able to complete the MMP, and that enabled the Gold crew to have the ship and conduct training and midshipmen operations in San Diego for about three weeks," said Gero.

Both the Gold and Blue Ohio crews worked together to ensure the ship successfully completed the MMP, while ensuring the work being done to the ship was completed successfully and correctly.

"We (the Blue crew) took the boat out for about six days in late December so we could get some proficiency and make sure we were able to operate the boat safely," explained Gero. "We started the MMP and spent about seven or eight weeks there, taking apart some of the systems, making some of the repairs and generally trying to oversee the shipyard's repair and installation processes.

"Once we identified that all of the equipment was operating normally, the Gold crew was able to take about two and a half weeks of additional operational time, which is a great training opportunity for them, as well as a great show and tell opportunity for us during the midshipmen training period."

While the Gold crew utilized underway training time, the Blue crew also took advantage of the time available to ensure they were trained by honing in on the skills they need.

"While the Gold crew was working hard to get the ship ready for sea again at the end of MMP, and during midshipmen operations in San Diego the last three weeks, my crew was hard at work here," said Gero. "We just finished a very comprehensive and very challenging command training exercise, or CTE, which is overseen by Submarine Squadron 19 and [Trident Training Facility], where they observed us go through our paces, and our crew came out with flying colors."