Saturday, October 24, 2009

Normandy Completes Group Sail with Ike Strike Group Ships

By Ensign Adam R. Cole, Normandy Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- USS Normandy (CG 60) completed a three-week multimission training Oct. 19 during her first underway period since entering an Extended Dry-docking Selected Restricted Availability (EDSRA) period.

The main focus of the training period was to embark the helicopter detachment for familiarization training, work alongside other Dwight D. Eisenhower Strike Group ships as part of a "group sail" and then independently train in the various mission areas needed to deploy.

Group sail was a seven-day operation that went from Oct. 5-12. During group sail, Normandy teamed up with six other surface ships and one submarine. Ships included the Federal German Navy Ship FGS Hessen (F 221), USS Ross (DDG 71), USS Nicholas (FFG 47), USS McFaul (DDG 74), USS Farragut (DDG 99), and USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58), plus the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720). Normandy embarked Helicopter Anti-submarine squadron light (HSL) 46, "Grandmasters," Detachment 3 for the Group Sail who brought with them the light airborne multipurpose system (LAMPS) SH-60B Seahawk.

"Group Sail proved to be an excellent opportunity for all watchstanders to perform in the areas which they have trained for," said Capt. Jeffrey T. Griffin, Normandy's Commanding officer. "We displayed that we can meet and exceed the tasking given to us as not only air defense commander but also as a vital surface combatant in the surface warfare and subsurface fight. The credit goes to every member of the crew, as each one played some kind of role."

The missions included air, surface and subsurface with the surface component being a live-fire event; both the air and subsurface events used U.S. Navy units posing as opposition forces.

On any given day, Normandy would conduct a mix of operations: landing the SH-60B helicopter, searching for a submarine, transiting in a screen with accompanying ships, or simulating defense on inbound aircraft.

Of the mission areas, particular attention was focused on anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Particularly, the Integrated ASW Course Phase II (IAC II) proved to be the highlight of the Group Sail as it evolved live contacts and a coordinated effort between all ships and helicopters. Normandy sonar technicians had to be at their best to positively identify the subsurface threats, track them, and ultimately engage with weapons in a simulated firing, both of a vertically launched anti-submarine rocket and a torpedo.

"I think we have a strong team that worked well together," said Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SW) Alan C. Bratz. "We had trained well, knew our equipment well, and it just came together."

Also important was furthering the air-surface interoperability between the Normandy and the ship's embarked helicopter detachment, which will be deploying with Normandy next year.

The helicopter detachment embarked Normandy Oct. 1 for what is known as Week One Workups (WOWU). There, Normandy and the Grandmaster pilots did a series of landings, during the day and at night. It set the stage for the very active group sail period, in which the pilots and flight deck personnel had to be closely linked to achieve mission accomplishment.

"I think both WOWU and Group Sail were very successful," said Lt. Brian Mowry, air department maintenance officer. "The ship was very helpful, both the flight deck crew and the bridge, to ensure that we had safe take offs and landings. We were working hand in hand with a lot of ship's force in order to achieve mission accomplishment."

Of the days that the helicopter detachment was embarked, the helicopter was up in the air for 67.5 hours in total, being used primarily in the ASW mission.

Such hours and such operations meant a lot of flight quarters for the crew, often early in the morning and late at night. Though strenuous, the Normandy flight deck team was happy to oblige.

"We are one team," said Boatswain's Mate Seaman Rueben Benders. "It was a lot of flight quarters, but we knew we had to get it done. Everyone performed at their best."

Normandy is a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser based in Norfolk, Va.