Monday, September 01, 2014

Blue Ridge Completes Exercise with ROK Navy, Improves Joint Operational Capabilities

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Waldrop

BUSAN, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and embarked 7th Fleet staff departed Busan, Republic of Korea Aug. 30 after conducting joint exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2014 (UFG 14) with the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy during a 17-day port visit.

The exercise enhances combat readiness and interoperability by utilizing cooperative training and engagement between ROK and U.S. forces in the region.

"UFG 14 was the first use of a combined ROK-U.S. Naval Component Commander (NCC) staff," said Capt. Chris Budde, UFG 14 Combined Maritime Operations Center (CMOC) director. "The CMOC concept exceeded all expectations by significantly improving the effectiveness of the navy component in the fight and further cemented the ROK-U.S. alliance."

During the visit, Sailors enjoyed cultural tours sponsored by Morale, Welfare and Recreation, participated in community service engagements with locals and competed in friendly sports matches with the ROK navy.

Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet Chief Petty Officers and Chief Petty Officer Selectees visited the Chun-Ma Rehabilitation Center, a home for mentally disabled people of all ages.

"Visiting the people at the Chun-Ma home was an amazing and humbling experience," said Chief Hospital Corpsman (Select) Cameron Poteat. "I'm glad that we were able to teach them a little about what we do and have a positive impact on their lives."

Blue Ridge welcomed aboard members of the ROK Navy to take guided tours of the ship, and in turn, Blue Ridge Sailors were given tours of the Korean guided missile destroyer, Sejong the Great (DDG-993), the ROK flagship.

"It was a great opportunity to meet with one of our regional partners and to get a tour of one of their destroyers," said Ensign Thomas Blevins the Combat Information Center Officer. "It was a unique experience to visit and talk with Korean sailors, see how they operated, and how they maintained their bridge."

Blue Ridge has been forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for 34 years. As the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas, Blue Ridge is vital in maintaining partnerships in the 7th Fleet area of operations.

PCU North Dakota (SSN 784), First Block III Virginia Class Submarine Delivered

From Team Submarine Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- The Navy accepted delivery of PCU North Dakota (SSN 784), the 11th ship of the Virginia Class, on Aug. 29, two days prior to its contract delivery date.

North Dakota is the first of eight Virginia Class Block III ships. Approximately 20 percent of North Dakota was redesigned as part of the Virginia Cost Reduction work done to lower acquisition cost and increase operational flexibility. The changes include a ship's bow redesign, replacing 12 individual launch tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes, each capable of launching six Tomahawk Cruise Missiles.

"North Dakota delivered ahead of schedule and under budget," said Capt. David Goggins, Virginia Class program manager. "When one considers the scope of design changes, this represents a tremendous achievement."

Only six days ago North Dakota successfully completed Alpha, Bravo, and Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) trials, which evaluate the submarine's seaworthiness and operational capabilities. During the trials, the crew took the submarine to test depth, conducted an emergency surfacing, and tested the submarine's propulsion plant.

"North Dakota and her crew delivered an outstanding performance," said Program Executive Officer for Submarines Rear Adm. David C. Johnson. "It was almost 10 years ago that the first ship of the class, USS Virginia delivered on Oct. 12, 2004. Since then, this program has delivered 10 ships, with North Dakota the latest. We continue to meet the Virginia Class standard of delivering submarines early, under cost, more complete and ready for tasking right out of the shipyard. North Dakota set a new benchmark for excellence in what is the arguably the best performing program in defense acquisition."

The Navy postponed North Dakota's original May commissioning date because of quality issues with vendor-assembled and delivered components that required an unplanned dry-docking to correct. Additional design certification work was also required on the submarine's redesigned bow.

"Now that certifications are complete, and we're armed with lessons learned,we can move forward knowing that we are providing our fleet with the most capable, and battle-ready submarine possible," said Goggins.

North Dakota will spend the next two months preparing for its Oct. 25 commissioning in Groton, Connecticut.

Virginia-class submarines are built to dominate the world's littoral and deep waters while conducting Anti-Submarine; Anti-Surface Ship; Strike; Special Operation Forces; Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; Irregular Warfare; and Mine Warfare missions. Their inherent stealth, endurance, firepower, and sensor suite directly enable them to support five of the six Maritime Strategy Core Capabilities - Sea Control, Power Projection, Forward Presence, Maritime Security, and Deterrence.

Team Submarine oversees the submarine force's research, development, acquisition, maintenance and life cycle support.

Navy Chief Selects Help Guam Residents

By Leah Eclavea, Joint Region Marianas Public Affairs

ASAN, Guam (NNS) -- Navy Guam chief selects partnered with a village mayor to clear land that will be used as a community garden and improve the living conditions of surrounding residents in Asan Aug. 29.

"The chief selectees from Big Navy, thanks to them they are helping me with this place, which is always flooded during the rainy season and it overflows to the residents because of the poor drainage, and also we are going to use it as a community garden," said Mayor of Asan-Maina Joanna Margaret Blas. "I am so grateful, and thank you is not enough."

One of the residents Elizabeth Untalan was watching the chief selects clear the land beside her mother's home. Untalan was happy knowing that her mother doesn't have to worry about flooding in the future.

"This morning my mother was crying with happiness," said Untalan.

The chief selects spent the day cutting down large trees and removing debris from the area.

"It's important to give back because the people of Guam have taken us in," said Chief (select) Logistics Specialist Kenneth Hughes, Military Sealift Command Ship Support Unit Guam. "They welcomed us and this is just a way to return the favor and say 'thank you.'"

The process to becoming a chief in the Navy is a long and challenging road. Enlisted Sailors go through the ranks from E-1 to E-5. Their years of service and leadership potential are carefully evaluated by the Navy Chief Selection Board.

"When you step into the ranks of the chief petty officer, your job is to take care of your Sailors, develop your Sailors, train your Sailors to make sure that we have a strong fleet," said Hughes. "The chiefs mess is basically where all knowledge, all the traditions and heritage of the Navy is kept and we are the keepers of tradition."

Hughes believes in helping out in the community and demonstrating strong leadership by being an example of service.

"If we come out here and represent the Navy and we work in the community, it is showing our junior Sailors it is okay to come out and do things that help the people around you, even though they are not in the military," said Hughes. "This is just us giving back and saying, 'hey we can do it.' As the chief selects out here this is us saying we are not above anything, just because we're chiefs doesn't mean you can't get down and can't get dirty."