By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman, USS Antietam Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) completed an ammunition on-load May 20, while at anchorage off of Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka.
Sailors assigned to Antietam's weapons department took charge of the shipboard evolution and were responsible for the planning of safely receiving and moving the ordnance within the ship.
"Safety is our number one priority," said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Jacob Kimble, a safety observer from Antietam's weapons department. "We have many safety observers on station ensuring the proper handling of tools, gear, rigging and line handling. Many of them provide hands-on training to the less experienced Sailors."
Prior to each shipboard evolution, a brief is held in the ship's wardroom where a variety of topics are discussed in preparation for the on-load.
"We've been planning this evolution for over a month" said Chief Sonar Technician (Surface) Michael Deleon, Antietam's ammo on-load safety officer. "We receive our briefs and training by personnel who are safety qualified, mainly officers and chiefs with experience."
The ship receives multiple types of ammunition at different locations, such as the forecastle, the flight deck, aft missile deck and fantail.
"We conduct multiple safety briefs at every location receiving ammo on the ship," said Kimble. "We train and qualify personnel in the specific armament the location is receiving. We do this by providing simulations, going through lessons learned and providing reading material."
The location of anchorage, sea state, weather and winds also play a major role in the successful and safe completion of the on-load.
"Sea states and winds can stop the evolution," said Deleon. "It can cause the armament to swing around in the crane which makes it difficult to maintain positive control."
Lack of communication and not paying attention is the biggest issue added Kimble.
"Everybody works hard during this evolution and makes sure we do everything by the book," said Deleon. "We don't want to mess up because that can make the evolution last longer. Cutting corners can omit steps that are paramount to safety. Our safety observers are there to guide personnel and make them aware of their surroundings."
With cranes moving ordnance overhead, it is imperative that Sailors receiving ammo on any ship should always keep their head on a swivel and pay attention to any discrepancy they may find.
"Every safe evolution is a good evolution," said Kimble. "If we have any issue, we'll try to fix it then and there. It doesn't matter how long it takes as long as we do it carefully and safely."
Antietam is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.