Bonhomme Richard ESG WESTPAC 07 Deployment
LHD-6 Bonhomme Richard
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) (BHR) headed back to homeport San Diego 30 November 2007 after successfully completing in only three days an underway workload originally scheduled for five. BHR Commanding Officer, Capt. Steve Greene attributed accomplishing the compressed schedule to the skill and dedication of his crew. "BHR Sailors are well trained and ready to go," said Greene. "The professionalism and enthusiasm of this crew never ceases to amaze me."
During the last underway of 2006, BHR's crew conducted a pre-action aim calibration (PAC) and towed drone unit (TDU) firing with its Close-in Weapon System (CIWS); an underway replenishment; air operations; and ammo on-load/off-load operations. "Shortening our schedule saved time and money, both valuable resources," said Greene. "It also exposed us to the higher tempo we will experience as we begin training with Expeditionary Strike Group 5 and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit in the New Year."
With the help of Landing Craft Units (LCU) 1617 and 1629, assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 1, from Naval Air Station North Island, BHR moved 95 pallets consisting of more than 140,000 pounds of ammunition. "We were pretty much topping off our supply," said BHR Weapons Officer, Lt. j.g. Travis Scott. "We will probably only need to load one more time before we are fully ready for deployment."
Fixed Wing Marine Attack (VMA) Squadron 513 from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., used valuable time freed up by the prompt completion of the CIWS PAC shoot to conduct AV-8 Harrier flight operations. They certified nine pilots in a variety of at-sea flight operations. "Getting in the air early allowed us to knock out a majority of the front-end workload required to have our pilots qualified to conduct flight ops underway," said Marine Corps Maj. Grant Pennintgon, VMA-513 operations officer. "Now we have qualified pilots who are used to landing on the ship, ready to go when work-ups start early next year."
In addition to the ammo on-load/off-load and air operations, the Navy/Marine Corps team aboard BHR conducted a PAC fire, which is part of the routine maintenance on the MK-15 Phalanx CIWS. This PAC fire made sure the weapon system is properly sighted and maintained, assuring the readiness of BHR's defense systems. According to BHR Combat Weapons Division Leading Chief Petty Officer, Chief Fire Controlman Daniel Cameron, CIWS is a shipboard self defense system for the Navy and is an important part of BHR's defense capabilities. "If the NATO misses it and RAM misses it, then CIWS is the last defense between an incoming missile and the ship," said Cameron. Chief Fire Controlman Albert Shields said live maintenance and training sessions like this are essential to assuring the CIWS system and operating personnel are ready to defend the ship in a real-life scenario. "It is always a good idea to flex your weapon systems when you get a chance, to make sure they are ready in case you need them," said Shields. "By doing this enough, the operators will be able to commit the operation to muscle memory."
Following the ammo on-load/off-load and CIWS PAC fire, and between flight operations, BHR topped off with 450,000 gallons of fuel during an underway replenishment with the USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187). According to the BHR skipper, the ship was ahead of schedule and ready for the upcoming challenges.
BHR was scheduled to deploy in support of the global war on terrorism in early 2007.
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