Friday, July 18, 2014

Commander, Fleet Forces Presents USS Gettysburg with 'Best in Fleet' Trophy

By Lt. j.g. Kiley Provenzano, USS Gettysburg Public Affairs

MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command presented the 2013 Battenberg Cup to the crew of guided missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64), July 16, during a ceremony held on the ship's flight deck.

Adm. Bill Gortney presented the cup, awarded annually to the Atlantic Fleet Battle Efficiency Award winner, ship or submarine, with the greatest accumulation of crew achievements.

Since the award's inception in 1905, Gettysburg is only the fifth cruiser to win the Battenberg Cup.
During the award presentation to the Gettysburg crew, Gortney recognized the crew's accomplishment.

"Continue to set the standards you have set," challenged Gortney during the presentation. "I can feel that you are a good ship. I see it in the way you carry yourselves."

Gortney was joined by Commander, Surface Forces Atlantic, Rear Adm. Pete Gumataotao, in presenting the award.

"You cannot just talk about standards. You have to live them," said Gumataotao. "I'm very proud of you. You had to work it. Don't ever forget that."

"Having the fleet commander come to visit the ship and present this award truly speaks to how important it is," said Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Fallon Hiort. "It is amazing and much appreciated to see our hardworking crew rewarded."

Gettysburg's success started with a focus on personal excellence. With a steady focus on positive Sailor development as a command priority, the cruiser was awarded the Golden Anchor award for personnel program excellence. The ship had the Atlantic Fleet's lowest attrition rate and nearly doubled the Navy-wide advancement rate in the fall 2013 Navy advancement exam. Gettysburg continued its excellence by qualifying 99 percent of its petty officers as enlisted surface warfare specialists and a finalist in both the Surface Force Atlantic Sailor of the Year and Shiphandler of the Year competitions. Three Sailors received the prestigious Navy and Marine Association Leadership Award, the most in Surface Forces Atlantic. A Gettysburg Sailor received the 2013 Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Copernicus Award for Information Warfare Excellence.

Gettysburg also received the 2013 Battle "Efficiency" award and all five command excellence awards, excelling in every possible warfare area to win the Harry S. Truman Strike Group recognition.

Additionally, with a long-term commitment to junior officer training and development, Gettysburg returned from deployment with every surface warfare officer qualified as an underway officer of the deck. Furthermore, every qualified surface warfare officer furthered their development with a focus on engineering and returned with the engineering officer of the watch qualification. A member of the wardroom was selected for early command and began the training pipeline to take command of a patrol craft in Japan. Last week, 10 junior officers received their surface warfare officer qualifications.

Gettysburg returned in April from a nine-month deployment with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group to the 6th and 5th Fleet areas of responsibility. During that deployment, Gettysburg actively participated in sustained operations with foreign navies, provided humanitarian aide for multiple stranded mariners, wrote several standard operating procedures in use today and checked in more than 17,000 aircraft as air and missile defense commander in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Gettysburg is preparing to enter a prolonged maintenance period over the next 11 months following a fleet exercise and is homeported in Mayport, Florida.

USS Donald Cook Participates in SAREX

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corey Hensley, US Naval Forces Europe-Africa/US 6th Fleet Public Affairs

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (NNS) -- Guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) participated in a bilateral search and rescue exercise (SAREX) off the coast of Cyprus with search and rescue units and personnel from the Republic of Cyprus, July 16.

The SAREX provided an opportunity to promote maritime capabilities and interoperability in a number of maritime mission areas, including man-overboard and medical evacuation emergency drills, daylight search and rescue operations and deck-landings of the search and rescue helicopters aboard the Donald Cook's flight deck.

It also focused on personnel and rescue units capabilities and readiness, responding to potential SAR missions or other humanitarian operations within the Republic of Cyprus region and throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.

USS Donald Cook Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Scott A. Jones, commented that "[it] was great to be able to share and hone our tactics, techniques and procedures for search and rescue at sea with our Republic of Cyprus partners. Exercises such as this allow us to demonstrate our shared commitment to maritime security and safety."

The exercise began with the Cyprus Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC Larnaca) responding to a distress call from a simulated sinking fishing boat. AW-139 rescue helicopters assigned to Cyprus' 460 SAR Squadron, the Cyprus Police Aviation Unit and a fast patrol boat assigned to Cyprus' nation guard and navy command were dispatched in response.

JRCC Larnaca also sent an emergency transmission requesting further assistance to any ships operating in the area. Donald Cook was the first on scene to respond and provide assistance as Cyprus units conducted rescue operations.

Donald Cook, the first of four Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to be forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is serving on a scheduled patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations as part of the president's European Phased Adaptive Approach to ballistic missile defense in Europe.

U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.

CORIVRON 2 Completes Training with Belize SBU During SPS 2014

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andrew Schneider, Southern Partnership Station 2014 Public Affairs Ashore

PUNTA GORDA, Belize (NNS) -- Coastal Riverine Squadron (CORIVRON) 2, held an end-of-mission ceremony at Camp Fairweather, July 11, in support of Southern Partnership Station 2014 (SPS-JHSV 14).

Over the last six weeks, CORIVRON 2 trained the Belize Small Boat Unit (SBU) service members in riverine operations, insertion and extraction missions, river patrols and interdictions.

"This was a valuable training opportunity for us," said Belize Defense Force Lt. Col. James Requeña, 1st Infantry Battalion commanding officer. "I loved seeing how well we worked together in the classroom or out in the field."

A unique aspect about this years training is that several of the trainers that were part of Southern Partnership Station 2013 returned for SPS-JHSV 14.

"One of the things that really impressed me and the team is how much you all retained the knowledge that the past two training teams have taught you," said U.S. Navy Lt. Sean Tucker, CORIVRON 2 officer in charge from Pittsfield, Massachusetts. "This made it easier to move on into advance tactics and techniques."

Toward the end of the training, the Belize SBU learned something new while working alongside CORIVRON 2 Sailors to help them better stabilize security in their region.

The ceremony concluded with Belize SBU service members receiving graduation certificates and awards for their hard work and dedication.

Military Sealift Command joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) is scheduled to return to Belize to reload and transport service members to Guatemala to continue the SPS-JHSV 14 mission.

SPS-JHSV 14 is a U.S. Navy deployment focused on subject matter expert exchanges with partner nation militaries and security forces. U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet employ maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability and build enduring partnerships that foster regional security in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility.

VP-16 Departs 7th Fleet After Historic Deployment

From U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Patrol Squadron (VP) 16's final aircraft touched down in Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, signifying the successful end to a dynamic seven-month deployment for the War Eagles of VP-16 and the first operational deployment of the P-8A Poseidon July 16.

Families and friends were on hand to welcome the Sailors and aircrew home with smiles, hugs and kisses.

Operating out of Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, the War Eagles supported commander, Task Force (CTF) 72, flying anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, maritime domain awareness, search and rescue, carrier strike group coordination and theater security cooperation missions throughout the Western Pacific area of operation.

"Our men and women have worked tirelessly the last seven months," said Cmdr. Daniel Papp, VP-16 commanding officer. "As the first squadron to deploy with the P-8A we were faced with challenges that the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance community has not seen in over fifty years since VP-8 first deployed with the P-3 Orion. I am proud to say, our Sailors' and aircrew's flexibility and diligent work ethic allowed us to handle these trials effectively."

VP-16 Sailors played an important role in shaping a positive perception of the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft (MPRA) community and the P-8A.

"From static displays and community service projects to day-to-day interactions with host nations, our Sailors handled themselves with the utmost integrity and discipline. Our War Eagle team unquestionably represented the U.S. Navy and the United States admirably," said Papp.

Most notable was the War Eagles' participation in the multinational search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Over the course of two months, VP-16 supplied two aircraft for the search and rescue effort, with multiple aircrews rotating through Perth, Australia, to support daily flight operations. VP-16 flew more than 37 missions, logging more than 313.3 flight hours and 365,118 square miles covered.

"It was the first time the P-8A was used in a search and rescue operation," said Lt. Cmdr. Adam Schantz, the detachment officer in charge. "As a result, our aircrew were tasked with determining how best to effectively employ the aircraft for the assignment. We were able to develop a comprehensive search plan, allowing us to cover thousands of miles of open ocean in a single mission. And although we were regrettably unable to locate the missing plane, the performance of our aircrew and the aircraft itself was commendable."

In addition to the search effort, the War Eagles conducted multiple detachments, participating in international exercises, strengthening partnerships and improving interoperability with U.S. friends and allies throughout the theater. During the deployment, VP-16 completed 16 detachments to seven countries including Japan, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, the Republic of the Philippines, Guam and the Republic of Korea. The War Eagles participated in exercises with both U.S. and international partners including Snapdragon exercises, Operation Foal Eagle (Ssang Yong 2014), Operation Tropic Thunder, Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Malaysia, Coordinated Maritime Patrol Operational Procedures exercises and Operation Rai Balang.

"Introducing the Poseidon's capabilities to both our sister services as well as partner nations, friends and allies has been a great honor for VP-16," said Lt. Timothy Bierbach, a weapons and tactics instructor and tactical coordinator in the command. "There is always excitement bringing a new platform online for the first time. The MPRA community is taking a huge leap with the addition of the P-8A Poseidon, opening doors to additional mission sets not seen with the P-3C Orion."

Thanks to the dedicated support of the maintenance professionals, VP-16 aircrews flew more than 3,500 mishap-free flight hours among 600 sorties. Despite this high operational tempo, many War Eagles still managed to achieve personal milestones, with 67 personnel qualifying and receiving the Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist pin, 15 being selected for advancement during the most recent exam cycle and 26 choosing to reenlist throughout the course of the deployment.

The War Eagles kept themselves busy when off-duty as well. VP-16's Morale, Welfare and Recreation committee organized and sponsored eight tours to various cultural and historical sites throughout the island, allowing 160 Sailors to explore the various attractions Okinawa had to offer. In addition, more than 60 Sailors contributed off-duty time in support of the Okinawa, Japan, area assisting the Hijagawa no Sato Retirement Home, Stearley Heights Elementary School and the Yaro Youth Center, volunteering 206 hours to the community.

"As we return home to Jacksonville, our team is looking forward to some well deserved time off to reconnect with family and friends," said Papp. "We had an extremely successful deployment and are now shifting our focus to the inter-deployment readiness cycle. I know that our Sailors are looking forward to tackling the training, exercises and evaluations here at home in prepare for our next deployment."

The War Eagles were relieved by the 'Mad Foxes' of Patrol Squadron (VP) 5.

Mercy Conducts MEDEVAC Drill during RIMPAC

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Pyoung K. Yi, USNS Mercy Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The crew of the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) participated in a medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) drill, July 16, during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014.

The MEDEVAC drill's purpose was for Mercy's crew to practice coordinating between all of the medical components aboard the hospital ship while receiving a steady flow of incoming patients who suffered injuries likely to be seen during a mass casualty scenario. Medical, aviation and security personnel were all called into action in support of the drill.

Observers of the drill included medical personnel from the Canadian Armed Forces, the People's Republic of China, People's Liberation Army (Navy) [PLA(N)], and Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD). Some of the attendees who witnessed the fast-paced atmosphere of the drill were impressed.

"I found the whole experience to exceed anything I've done or witnessed in my twenty-one year career as a nurse," said Lt. j.g. Mary Pelton, a nurse and observer from NMCSD. "The use of resources, the communication, the level of professionalism and the mission in getting patients quickly evaluated, it's the gold standard."

Seven patients with various mock injuries were treated, and simulated mannequins were also utilized to enhance training and make the drill more realistic. Posing as patients with mock injuries during the drill were two midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy.

"The first time being wheeled into the casualty reception area, in that sort of trauma scenario, was very unique," said Midshipman 1st Class Vikram Mukherjee. "The medical team acted very quickly. You can tell they know what they're doing."

Lt. j.g. Nicole Ely, a nurse aboard Mercy, said the MEDEVAC drill, along with other drills the Mercy conducts, provides Sailors experience with of the ship's standard operating procedure when dealing with a mass casualty situation.

"Every drill we get a little better and fine-tune the ship's capabilities," added Ely. "It gives us all a chance to get better at our jobs and responsibilities on Mercy.