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Tortuga Conducts Landing Quals During Blue-Green Workups

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070205-08
Release Date: 2/5/2007 2:35:00 PM

By Ensign Timothy N. Firoved, USS Tortuga Public Affairs

USS TORTUGA, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Tortuga (LSD 46) completed the first day of inter-service flight operations Feb. 1 as part of its Blue-Green workups, the semiannual training set between the ship and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

Helicopters involved in the operations were the first to touch down on Tortuga’s deck in several months, and were welcomed by a flight deck crew eager to demonstrate their abilities.

The evolutions were designed to give the Tortuga-MEU team a chance to practice interoperability while conducting and planning aviation operations. It also offered Sailors and Marines an opportunity to satisfy both day and night deck landing qualifications, a precursor to conducting possible future real-world operations.

The Marine helicopters stirred excitement among crew members looking to prepare for the next mission.

“These flight operations provide invaluable inter-services training for all watchstanders,” said Lt. j.g. John Warner, the officer of the deck during the landings. “The challenges we faced during this evolution, such as maneuvering to obtain optimum launch and recovery wind envelopes for each type of helicopter, raised everyone’s experience level.”

Following several months of training and preparation, including aviation firefighting team training in Yokosuka, Japan, and a successful Aviation Certification (AVCERT), the flight deck crew was up to the task of recovering and launching the various helicopters.

“We put in long hours to make this happen, and this is a great opportunity for our junior personnel to get trained up,” said Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class (SW) Frederick E. Bliss. “I’ve never landed some of the helicopters the Marines operate and it provides us an opportunity many people don’t get over here.”

The landings were a first for many new Tortuga crew members.

“It’s different from what you see on television,” said Hull Maintenance Technician Fireman Christopher M. Turbyfill, who maintained sound-powered communications with the helicopter control tower during the landings. “You’re standing on the flight deck with the ship rolling in the water when the helicopter touches down and kicks up a bunch of wind. You’re trying to maintain your balance and your focus at the same time.”

Junior Sailors relied on more experienced members of the flight deck crew as they gained valuable on-the-job training, and worked at increasing their proficiency in conducting helicopter landings.

“It was kind of scary up there when the helicopters were hovering over the deck for their final descent. It really drove home the point of how massive and powerful these helicopters are and how remarkable it is that they are able to land in such a small area,” said Turbyfill. “I drew strength from the professionalism and experience of veteran members of the team and from the knowledge that we are the emergency response for any casualty the helicopter might have.”

Tortuga will benefit from several more opportunities to practice interoperability exercises with aviation elements of the 31st MEU during its Blue-Green Workups.

Tortuga is a dock landing ship serving under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force. ESG 7/Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

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