Tuesday, October 20, 2009

'Green Ship' Makin Island to be Commissioned

NORTH ISLAND, Calif. (NNS) -- USS Makin Island (LHD 8) will be formally commissioned in a ceremony on Naval Air Station North Island Oct. 24.

The ship, which has been dubbed the "Prius of Navy warships," arrived in San Diego in mid-September, three years after her christening. The ship brought over 1,000 Sailors and their families to the San Diego community.

"I am eager for Makin Island to finally join the fleet," said Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, commander, Naval Surface Forces. "The Sailors of this crew exemplify the best this nation has to offer. They represent America's Navy with pride and distinction and proudly serve as part of a global force for good."

Makin Island is the final amphibious assault ship built in the LHD-1 Wasp-class, but is the first of the class built with gas turbine engines and electric drive.

The Navy projects that this advance will save nearly $250 million in fuel costs over the ship's lifetime. The development is already paying off – during the ships transit from Pascagoula, Miss., to San Diego, Makin Island consumed over 900,000 gallons less fuel than a steam ship completing the same transit, saving more than $2 million in fuel costs.

Other environmentally-friendly initiatives include the use of an electric plant to power auxiliaries, meaning no steam or associated chemicals; and the use of reverse osmosis water purification systems that negate the need for chemicals like bromine or chlorine.

"The USS Makin Island represents the centerpiece and future of naval expeditionary warfare and will significantly enhance our ability to rapidly respond to emergent tasking around the world," said Rear Adm. Earl Gay, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3. "Her commissioning is a watershed moment for our Navy-Marine Corps team, and I am honored to have her in the fleet."

According to Capt. Bob Kopas, commanding officer, the true strength of Makin Island rests in her crew.

"This crew brings a 'gung ho' attitude of teamwork and determined enthusiasm to the fleet, in the tradition of Carlson's Raiders, who originated the term 'gung ho'," said Kopas. "The dedication they have shown over the past four years has brought the ship to life and lays the foundation for Makin Island to face the challenges of the next 40-plus years of supporting the needs of our nation and Navy."

And in a related story:

LHD8 Completes Certifications Prior to Commissioning

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin L. Webb, USS Makin Island Public Affairs

NAVAL AIR STATION NORTH ISLAND, Calif. (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines aboard USS Makin Island (LHD 8) returned to port Oct. 16 having completed three more critical certifications prior to the ship's commissioning.

During the three-day underway, inspectors from Afloat Training Group (ATG) Pacific were onboard to evaluate and qualify Makin Island crew members to operate the ship's well deck for landing craft air cushion (LCAC) operations and to execute both underway replenishment (UNREP) and vertical replenishment (VERTREP) evolutions.

Makin Island Sailors and Marines completed their first well deck operations since mid-September, when they debarked landing craft utilities (LCUs) prior to pulling in after the ship's two month maiden voyage. Although LCAC operations are similar, it is a separate and necessary qualification for LHD 8's well deck.

"Working with the LCUs was definitely great preparation for the LCACs," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW/AW) Ian De Leos. "It's a more dangerous evolution because of the line handling that's involved, but it helped us, particularly my junior Sailors, get familiar with the process of well deck operations out at sea."

LHD 8's Deck Department has been preparing for the UNREP evolution since 2008 when 22 Sailors were sent to a team trainer in Norfolk, Va. During this fueling evolution, Makin Island successfully received more than 27,000 gallons of fuel from the USNS Guadalupe (T-AO 200).

"I've been on land training for this day for the last two years," said Boatswain's Mate Seaman Liliana Serrano. "Once you get underway and know that you actually accomplished it with no incidents, it's a good feeling."

On day three of the ship's underway, Combat Cargo worked with Air Department to prep and maneuver 16 separate cargo loads during flight operations. The crew completed 11 lifts/drops; more than ATG requires for a VERTREP certification.

"The inspectors and pilots were shocked by how well our rookie crew executed these evolutions," said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (AW/SW) Eddy Enriquez. "I would say that we worked together flawlessly and the 'Gung-Ho Spirit' shined through!"

"The success of the wide-variety of underway evolutions is a culmination of the crew's intense efforts to maximize training opportunities before, during and after ship delivery, as well as hone those skills during the Sail Around," said Capt. Robert Kopas, Makin Island's commanding officer. "I know that the crew will turn-out a commissioning ceremony second to none, and one that will live on in the memory of all who attend."

Makin Island's crew is preparing for the ship's commissioning ceremony at Naval Air Station Coronado Oct. 24.