Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bataan Conducts Amphibious Operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet

Amphibious assault vehicles from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU) approach the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) during an amphibious training exercise. Bataan is serving as the flagship for the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group conducting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. The 22nd MEU is serving as the theater reserve force for U.S. Central Command. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Tony Sisti/Released)

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jeremy L. Grisham

USS BATAAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines aboard multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) recently conducted full-scale amphibious operations training, which allowed the crew to maintain proficiency and readiness on four different types of crafts.

Bataan opened its well deck to the sea, allowed up to seven feet of water to enter the specialized compartment and launched and received landing craft air-cushions (LCAC), landing craft utility, amphibious assault vehicles and lighter amphibious resupply cargo craft from the dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) and amphibious transport dock ship USS Ponce (LPD 15).

For Bataan's engineering and deck departments, launching and recovering LCACs is routine, but working with the other craft is a bit more uncommon, so when the chance came to sharpen their skills, the crew was eager and ready for the challenge.

Deck department Sailors stationed at well-deck control, the craft access ramp and the along the parallel "wing walls" of the well deck brought aboard each craft, unloaded their cargo and then launched them back out to the sea.

"As far as proficiency, that's our job. We need to be ready for anything," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Eric Peterson from Hoisington, Kan., leading petty officer for deck's 2nd division. "Overall, you're only as strong as your weakest link."

Each amphibious craft presents unique challenges for the engineering team responsible for keeping the well deck flooded at the proper level, or "ballasting." Whether the requirement was six inches of water or seven feet, the operators and equipment were ready to execute.

"It really is assault and repair divisions that work diligently to maintain all ballasting equipment at peak performance," said Chief Damage Controlman (SW) James Welch, a native of Fresno, Calif., and one of Bataan's ballasting control officers. "When the time comes to do the job, we don't have any doubts about how the equipment will perform."

Bataan is serving as the flagship for the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, conducting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations.