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Chinook Crews Swap in Bahrain

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040121-05

Release Date: 1/21/2004 5:00:00 PM

By Journalist 1st Class (SW) Dennis J. Herring, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, 5th Fleet Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- Crew members on the first coastal patrol vessel to participate in the Chief of Naval Operations' sea swap initiative met face-to-face Jan. 8, to pass ownership of the ship to the new crew in Bahrain.

Off-going USS Chinook (PC 9) Sailors, who have manned the ship since July 2003, spent the Thursday morning performing various demonstrations at sea with the oncoming crew, USS Tempest (PC 2) Sailors of Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base.

The off-going crew, formerly from USS Tornado (PC 14), is returning to Little Creek for a post-deployment stand-down period and then regaining command of Tornado. This crew was the first non-original crew to take over Chinook during its time in the U.S. 5th Fleet region.

"The 5th Fleet region was a great theater to operate the ship in," said Lt. Cmdr. Dennis Burke, off-going commander of Chinook. "I feel we probably set many records for patrol craft operating here. We were constantly in position to perform the many tasks required.

"Added to the busy schedule here, sea swaps are extremely demanding on the crew," he said. "The crew must make sure every part, every system on the ship is working its best before a new crew takes over."

Patrol craft carry a crew of about 30 Sailors. Compared to a larger ship with sometimes 10 times that number, crew members must take on many responsibilities outside of their ratings.

"Some of the crew have collateral duties that are many times more important than their rating," Burke said. "It is very important to have experienced Sailors who have the ability and experience to handle many roles."

With the limited number of Sailors aboard, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SW) John Gregg, oncoming independent duty corpsman, explained he has found more than one "hat" to wear since accepting duty on a patrol craft. Gregg not only takes care of medical issues aboard ship, he is also qualified as an underway officer of the deck and a small-boat coxswain for ship boardings.

Chinook's oncoming commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Ray Hartman, explained he and his crew have looked forward to service in the U.S. 5th Fleet area. He added he has found his tours on patrol craft to be a great way to round out his career, since he will retire after his tour aboard Chinook.

"This crew is very unique," Hartman said. "All of the oncoming officers are former enlisted, including myself. Just among the four of us, we have over 60 years of combined service."

The oncoming crew, just like the off-going crew, consists of very experienced, mostly higher ranking Sailors. The new crew has nine 1st class petty officers. and most of its 2nd class petty officers are senior in their rate.

Burke and Hartman agree this seniority gives both crews the skill sets required to do the job required in the region.

"My primary goal now that we are here in 5th Fleet is to get everyone safely back home from deployment," Hartman said. "We came here to perform a safe mission. We came here to do the mission assigned."

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