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USS John L. Hall, USS Elrod Take Advantage of Opportunities En Route to Neptune Warrior

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070912-34
Release Date: 9/12/2007 4:14:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ricky Allen, Carrier Strike Group 2

ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Six ships led by Commander, Destroyer Squadron (COMDESRON) 22 left the east coast Sept. 4 to participate with naval forces from Denmark, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom in Neptune Warrior.

It’s been a week since the USS John L. Hall (FFG 32) and USS Elrod (FFG 55) left port to participate in Neptune Warrior, and according to their commanding officers, things have been going well.

"We're getting a lot of preparations for not just multi-ship operations but multinational operations," said Commander Augustus Bennett, commanding officer of the Hall. "We're getting the feel for working with the [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] ships."

The crew has been conducting seamanship training, which according to Bennett has maintained a high level of readiness for the ship and the exercise. He added that his crew of 250 are ready and enthusiastic.

“The operations and exercises we've done en route to our location have been very intense," Bennett said. That intensity and pace, he added, helps prepare the crew to be able to operate in a dynamic environment.

The time underway has also given Sailors a chance to work on their warfare qualifications.

"We just had a [Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist] qualifier a few days ago,” said Bennett. "We’ve got at least three more in the queue. I've got two folks qualifying EOOW [Engineer Officer of the Watc]) ... seeing the ship operate in this type of environment is great for training," said Bennett.

The exercise is something different for a ship used to conducting counter-drug operation deployments.

"For [the crew] to see this, they're excited,” said Bennett. "When you see them excited that increases the excitement for the junior Sailor, whether it's their first deployment or third deployment. When they see that level of excitement on the transit, it's great things for the Sailors. I've never been to Scotland, but I've heard great stories, and I'm looking forward to experiencing it first hand."

On board the Elrod, the feelings are the similar.

"It's been good," said Cdr. Todd Belts, Elrod's commanding officer. "Our crew has gone through their basic training cycle. That was a packed schedule, very difficult."

He added the exercise was good for the crew because they could now put a lot of their shipboard training to work, and like many Sailors underway, work on their warfare qualifications.

"We have six new junior officers out of college. I concur with the CO of the Hall. It's such a great opportunity for them. That's one of the things we are doing here is getting their qualifications."

In closing Beltz, like Bennett, said he is looking forward to participating in Neptune Warrior.

"I've heard a lot of good things about Neptune Warrior, so I'm looking forward to this exercise," Beltz said.

Neptune Warrior is a course designed to improve interoperability between allied navies as well as prepare the participants for a role in a Coalition Joint Task Force during upcoming deployments. Neptune Warrior serves as the United Kingdom’s advanced certification course and is on par with a U.S. Joint Task Force Exercise, which normally certifies U.S. ships.

Commander, DESRON 22, and his staff are embarked aboard the Norfolk-based USS McFaul (DDG 74) and will use this opportunity to evaluate the ship and crew. Joining McFaul are USS Cole (DDG 67), USS Nicholas (FFG 47), USS Elrod (FFG 55) and USS John L. Hall (FFG 32). USNS Laramie (TAO 203) will provide logistics support to the Task Group.

Neptune Warrior is normally held twice a year and is open to allied navies with assets available to participate

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