Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Fitzgerald Concludes SHAREM 163

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Byron C. Linder, Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) completed the Ship Anti-Submarine Warfare Readiness and Evaluation Measurement (SHAREM) 163 exercise Dec. 7, off the coast of Okinawa, Japan.

Fitzgerald; joined by Destroyer Squadron 15 (DESRON) guided-missile destroyers USS Curtis D. Wilbur (DDG 54) and USS Lassen (DDG 82); Seawolf class submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22); Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyers JDS Inazuma (DD 105), JDS Samidare (DD 106), and JDS Sazanami (DD 113); and Oyashio submarine SS600 Mochishio; used the bilateral exercise to focus on developing and evaluating antisubmarine warfare (ASW) tactics and watchstander proficiency, and build on the relationship between the JMSDF and the United States.

Chief Sonar Technician-Surface (SW/IUSS) Patrick Bright, a Versailles, Ky. native and Fitzgerald's CA division LCPO, explained the many opportunities the exercise provided.

"It's an ASW intensive exercise. It gives us the opportunity to test tactics and plans, and get a sample of the environment we can conduct ASW tracking exercises in, so we can get a good picture of what's going on," said Bright.

The exercise also provided the opportunity for the U.S. and JMSDF to observe and learn about the two services' ASW methods. Three JMSDF Sailors from JDS Atago (DDG 177) boarded Fitzgerald to cross-train with Fitzgerald's Sailors.

JMSDF Petty Officer 2nd Class Yukihiro Nakaume, a sonarman aboard Atago, expressed his appreciation to see the exercise from a different perspective.

"It is a great honor to be aboard. I have never been on a United States ship, and it's very interesting for me. The crew is very friendly and kind," Nakaume said. "Our ships have similar systems, but we have different tactics and watch rotations. I would like to learn how to operate many different sonar systems."

The exercise commenced Dec. 3 with a "convergence zone" event, which challenged the watchstanders' abilities to successfully track an undersea target with a known course and speed while maintaining a standoff distance. Four "freeplay" events placed the ships in a wargame setting, tasking the Sailors with searching for submarines or tracking high-value units.

A series of structured events focused on the mechanics of ASW, with identifying, tracking, losing, and relocating the undersea targets, and an "opposed refueling at sea" exercise provided the opportunity for Sailors to protect a high-value target in the form of Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Carl Brashear (T-AKE-7) as it refueled the participants.

Ensign Matthew Hottle, a Seattle native and Fitzgerald's antisubmarine warfare officer, explained the importance of being able to work with real targets and with the JMSDF.

"These events are great training for our people. There's so much we don't get to do on a regular basis, and this is the one exercise that's entirely focused on ASW, and provides us with a lot of rare opportunities," said Hottle. "It's always great to work with the Japanese, and the riders have been very helpful when it comes to communicating and learning about the way they do business."

Fitzgerald is one of seven Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers assigned to DESRON 15, and is permanently forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan.