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Peleliu Completes Ammunition Onload With Help From BHR

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050721-11
Release Date: 7/21/2005 4:22:00 PM

By Journalist 2nd Class Zack Baddorf, USS Peleliu Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) completed its ammunition onload July 18-20 in preparation for the ship’s upcoming six-month Western Pacific deployment.

Four SH-60 Seahawk helicopters assigned to the “Blackjacks” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, Landing Craft, Utility (LCU) 1666, and LCU 1648 transferred 1,113 pallets of ammunition to Peleliu from the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) (BHR), which completed its 182-day deployment in support of the global war on terrorism June 6.

“This gets rid of the 'middle man,'” said Peleliu Command Master Chief CMDCM Jim English. “The less ordnance you move, the better. So it’s good for us and good for [BHR].”

The “Blackjacks” also completed a vertical replenishment, carrying 196 pallets of ammunition onto Peleliu from Fallbrook Naval Weapons Station, Calif.

Once the helicopters dropped off the equipment, the aviation ordnancemen used forklifts to move the ammunition from the flight deck to the ammunition storage areas in the ship’s lower cargo holds.

“Transfer of ammunition is the most exacting and hazardous of all operations,” according to Peleliu’s weapons officer, Lt. John Burgoyne. Accidents could lead to “massive shipboard damage and personnel casualties, so we place great emphasis on the safe and expeditious handling of ordnance,” he added.

The Sailors involved in the transfer worked “almost non-stop,” said Peleliu’s weapons department leading chief petty officer, Senior Chief Aviation Ordnanceman (AW/SW) Leroy Hatcher. “This is normally a four- to five-day evolution. We did it in two and a half days, safely."

Burgoyne said the Sailors did “outstanding. It was a safe and effective operation in record time.”

“It’s the busiest time for our job,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Adam Langford. “I worked 21-hour days, and that’s typical for all of us during this onload period.”

Langford worked on the flight deck, where he said “everything’s moving really fast.”

“You’ve got to keep focused. There’s forklifts going back and forth with helicopters right next to you,” said Langford, who joined the Navy as an aviation ordnanceman about three years ago. “You have to stay as concentrated as you can.”

Besides concentration, the aviation ordnancemen also have to work together, said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (AW) James Cook, the weapons department leading petty officer.

“Teamwork has been very effective from the flight deck to the lower cargo holds,” said Cook, who has been in the Navy for 17 years.

While Cook has helped with many onloads and offloads of ammunition before, many of his junior Sailors, like Airman Everett Hough, have not.

“I think it’s great. We get to see a lot of stuff most people don’t get to see,” said Hough, a native of Pageland, S.C. “It’s a dangerous yet fun job.”

Hough said it’s a big responsibility, too.

If there is a mishap, “it’s not just my life being put in danger, it’s the whole ship,” said the 19-year-old undesignated airman.

Despite the long hours, Hough said he likes his job so much he plans on striking to the aviation ordnanceman rating.

“Being an ordnanceman is something special,” said Cook. “There’s nothing like it.”

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