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Experimental Vessel Joins War on Terrorism

By Journalist 2nd Class (SW) Cristina Asencio, NAB Little Creek Public Affairs
Story Number: NNS030129-05

VIRGINA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- The crew of experimental vessel Joint Venture (HSV-X1) has spent the last year honing their skills and testing the capability of their new platform.

The buzzwords surrounding the project were always "experimental" or "testing ground," with ship and crew operating in a training-heavy, scenario-driven environment.

America's war on terrorism, however, changed that. The Australian-built catamaran departed Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek Jan. 25 for its first operational deployment.

The new millennium has brought many challenges and with it new approaches to old problems.

There is an emphasis on stealth, speed and quick response - how to get troops and equipment on station quickly and with little or no detection by the enemy. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld referred to this school of thought as "producing a fighting force that is interoperable, agile, responsive and lethal."

The idea of a high-speed catamaran assisting the conventional fleet was nothing short of revolutionary.

The aluminum-hulled Joint Venture boasts a fully operational flight deck and a completely computerized pilothouse, stocked entirely with commercial off-the-shelf technology.

It can carry as many as 400 troops and crew at speeds in excess of 40 knots and transport a number of different ground vehicles, small watercraft and equipment for use in any warfighting scenario. It is also one of the few Navy vessels that can get underway without any outside assistance.

With the deployment order issued, Joint Venture crew members are leaving no stone unturned in preparation for their voyage, training on everything from force protection to battle stations and even the rules of engagement.

"As an experimental vessel, we have the ability to change our operations with every mission. We want the crew to be prepared for whatever may arise," said Master Chief Boatswain's Mate (SW/AW) Brian R. Lanear, command master chief of Joint Venture. "The key is training, training and more training. On any given day, you see two or three training sessions going on all at once."

With the change in schedule, almost all of the original crew who brought Joint Venture from its original berth in Hobart, Tasmania, will be remaining aboard for the duration of this deployment.

"We were all supposed to rotate to different commands this summer," said Lanear. "I don't think any of us thought twice about being extended. We are here to support whatever operations may arise and all orders of the president of the United States."

The makeup of the crew is a reflection of that training creed, with most of them cross-training and standing watch in both main departments (operations and engineering). The relatively small size of the crew of 50 means fewer people to run the ship. Electronics Technician 1st Class April Champeau, for example, is a technician by trade but stands watch in the engineering department as engineering officer of the watch (EOOW).

According to Champeau, having knowledge of more than one job aboard Joint Venture is a necessary tool to ensure the success of its mission.

"As a crew, we try to bring our own previous experiences to the table and incorporate that into the way we operate here. I personally never thought I would end up an EOOW, but here it's necessary - I have to know more than one job," said Champeau. "We pride ourselves in always thinking outside of the box here."

Even the Army contingent pitches in a hand. Spc. Chad Worrall is part of the Army team that remains aboard when the Navy takes over operating the ship. His job, however, rings of pure naval seamanship, "turning to" as a deck seaman. That means manning mooring stations, handling cargo and the general upkeep of the ship's spaces. He also trains side by side with his Navy counterparts as a completely integrated member of the crew.

"This has been a great opportunity to broaden my horizons and get accustomed to working in a different type of setting. The Navy is really easy to work with," said Worrall. "I feel like I'm part of the crew in every way."

Though Joint Venture's mission is yet to be determined, the ship's leadership and crew are confident that the crew are up for whatever challenges that may lie ahead.

"We've been experimenting with the SEALs, Marines and other groups, testing our capability to transport both personnel and equipment to various commands in different theaters," said Lanear. "We're becoming an asset to the fleet at a time when real world operations are springing up all over."

"We've been together for a year and a half, and we work well as a team," said Champeau. "We're definitely ready for whatever comes our way."

"I'm ready to get out there and do what we've been trained for - there's no better time than now," Worrall said.

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