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USS Bridge Gets Underway For Last Time to Conduct Inspection, Weapons Offload

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040310-14

Release Date: 3/11/2004 8:59:00 AM

By Journalist 1st Class Michael B. Murdock, USS Bridge Public Affairs

ABOARD USS BRIDGE (NNS) -- In the early hours of Feb. 24, USS Bridge (AOE 10) cast off mooring lines and began her final underway period as a U.S. Navy vessel.

The four-day underway period was needed to complete Ship's Material Assessment and Readiness Test (SMART) and offload ammunition in preparation for Bridge's transfer to Military Sealift Command (MSC) ownership.

SMART is MSC's version of the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV), and successful completion was required prior to Bridge transferring to MSC in June. The two inspections are very similar. In fact, they are so much alike that the SMART team is made up of many of the same fleet experts who would conduct an INSURV. The inspection began Feb. 18 while Bridge was in port, and inspectors had the daunting task of inventorying and checking all of the ship's equipment and systems.

"The inspection covered all areas of ships operations, including engineering, damage control, communications, deck, supply, safety, medical, environmental protection, elevators, underway replenishment equipment and aviation," said Capt. Richard V. Stockton, Bridge commanding officer. "It was very comprehensive."

While the inspection may have started in February, the ship's crew actually began planning for it while the ship was still deployed.

"Preparation for the SMART began mid-summer of last year," said Stockton. "The crew prepared a comprehensive plan of action and milestones, and then executed it to perfection."

Even though much of the inspection could be done while Bridge was in port, there were several items that required the ship to be underway. No matter how much planning and preparation go into an event like this, there are always unforeseen challenges that arise. For Bridge, the biggest challenge faced during SMART occurred right as the ship was getting underway.

"At the beginning of the underway demonstration, a problem came up that no one on board had ever seen," said Stockton. "The port shaft would not indicate revolutions, even though it was actually turning. The engineering team meticulously troubleshot the discrepancy and replaced some parts to allow the demonstration to continue as planned. It was an anxious time, but the engineers were brilliant."

With the repair made, Bridge continued out to sea for the final SMART inspection checks, which included damage control equipment demonstrations and a full power run.

"I must say, conducting the full power run was a great event," said Stockton. "Going over 30 knots for an extended period of time and then demonstrating full rudder swing checks and crash backs at full power were really events to witness. The ship and crew responded magnificently."

The SMART inspection drew to a close as Bridge moored at Naval Magazine Indian Island the next morning. During an inspection debrief, the ship was graded outstanding in all areas, and the senior SMART inspector stated, "The ship was exceptionally well prepared for the inspection. Crew preparation, orchestration of equipment checks and demonstrations, and their ability to resolve significant material issues during the inspection were extraordinary."

"The performance of all the personnel was simply superb," said Stockton. "I can't say enough great things about these Sailors. To get such outstanding comments from the inspection team validates the hard work these exceptional Sailors have done."

While at Indian Island, Bridge's crew offloaded all ammunition in preparation for a ship's service period following transfer to MSC. The removal of the ammunition will make it easier for MSC to make any modifications to the ship they deem necessary. Members of Bridge's supply department and personnel from the Naval Magazine offloaded the ammunition quickly, and the ship returned to Naval Station Bremerton, Wash., Feb. 27. In recognition of the hard work before and during the inspection, the crew was given a three-day weekend.

With Bridge's final underway period completed, and decommissioning and transfer to MSC less than four months away, it would appear to some as though there is not much left for the ship's crew to do. To the contrary, there is still a lot of work left to be done and a very short amount of time to do it in.

"We will be maintaining the ship in pristine condition, removing the weapons systems and taking care of our Sailors as they finish the orders negotiation process," said Stockton. "It is a huge task, but I know the Bridge team will come through. They always do."

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