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Harpers Ferry Completes ISIC-led ULTRA-S

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070912-40
Release Date: 9/12/2007 8:37:00 PM

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) Ty Swartz, USS Harpers Ferry Public Affairs

USS HARPERS FERRY, Sea of Japan (NNS) -- The dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 9) successfully completed a three-day evaluation, Unit Level Training Assessment-Sustainment (ULTRA-S) conducted by the Immediate Superior in Charge (ISIC) Sept. 3, while on a multi-month deployment in the Western Pacific.

The evaluation marked the first time an ULTRA-S was completed by an ISIC for forward-deployed naval forces, a major milestone in the way-ahead vision of training provided by Commander, Naval Surface Forces.

The emphasis of the new training pipeline is sustainment, which Harpers Ferry demonstrated during the recent assessment, showing capabilities that remain high, following their last ULTRA-S assessment in December 2006, according to Cmdr. Pierre Fuller, Expeditionary Strike Group 7 material officer.

“The key to this is sustainment, especially on a deployment,” said Fuller. “Harpers Ferry demonstrated that they can maintain the mission readiness on a consistent level.”

The fact that the ULTRA-S was led by the ISIC was also a significant factor. In previous training pipelines, Afloat Training Group would be the primary training and assessment force and come aboard every 18-24 months in parallel with the traditional training cycle. With the ULTRA pipeline and ISIC involvement, training and readiness assessments become constant—every four to seven months—and are done with more internal oversight of training proficiency.

The ISIC evaluation team was unique in that it was comprised of Sailors from Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7, USS Essex (LHD 2), and Mine Countermeasure Division 11 and Afloat Training Group Western Pacific.

The team of inspectors arrived at White Beach Naval Facilities in Okinawa, Japan Sept. 1, to board USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 46) and evaluate 16 mission areas including engineering, damage control, seamanship, combat systems, amphibious warfare, medical, aviation and force protection/anti-terrorism.

Harpers Ferry also had the Maintenance Material Management program reviewed to ensure that material readiness standards and maintenance practices continued to meet standards.

Taking Sailors from an assortment of commands ensured that the best experts were on hand to grade Harpers Ferry in specific mission areas, according to Fuller.

The new way of doing business won approval from Harpers Ferry commanding officer, Cmdr. David Bossert.

“The ULTRA-S performance viewed by the ISIC team augmented with Sailors by ATGWP, Essex, and Mine Countermeasure Division 11 is the way of the future,” said Bossert. “Essex Sailors are certainly grading everything fairly but at the same time they are very up front with trying to help us to improve what we are doing. I think this is a very good concept and I hope that this succeeds into the future and sticks.”

The ultimate goal is to ensure that the ship maintains and sustains the highest levels of training and readiness, particularly during a deployment, said Fuller. Harpers Ferry is forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan and currently on a multi-month deployment that has included the exercise series Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT); despite being on such a deployment, readiness has still remained paramount.

ULTRA-S is designed to evaluate the ability of the ship’s training team to effectively train the crew and then accurately assess the crew’s proficiency in each mission area. The ship’s training team is initially certified as capable of training the crew, without outside assistance, during an event call the Final Evaluation Problem and then are tested periodically in the ULTRA-S phase.

If the evaluations are within 10 percent of the highest markings, the ship is certified as not only able to provide basic training to the crew, but also capable of sustaining mission readiness through continued training and accurate self assessment.

Success during ULTRA-S is largely based on how accurately the ship’s training team evaluates drills. The evaluation team observes and evaluates the drills then debriefs with the training teams.

Harpers Ferry Command Master Chief (SW/SS) Darryl Brandt felt confident that the crew was ready to impress the evaluation team with their level of knowledge and ability to apply it to simulated and real life mission scenarios.

“Additionally, I believe that utilizing assessment teams consisting of Sailors recruited from ships across the Sasebo basin will ensure that we are consistently sharing our ideas, techniques and strengths which will naturally accelerate overall performance across the board for all of us. Finally, this type of interface can only improve our everyday working relationships between the different ships and their crews.”

Sailors aboard Harpers Ferry echoed CMC, stating for the most part that they were confident their training would carry them through the evaluation successfully and without any problem areas.

“While deployed on CARAT, we were drilling extensively in preparation for ULTRA-S. We ran numerous fire drills, helicopter crash drills, pipe patching, flooding drills, and main space fire drills,” said Chief Hull Technician (SW) Ken Pullman, Damage Control Training Team Coordinator. “The Damage Control Training Teams main goal is to maintain the level of proficiency that the crew is right now and also work on improving in the areas that we are little bit weak in and keep our knowledge level high.”

Harpers Ferry is forward-deployed in Sasebo, Japan and serves Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward deployed amphibious force. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

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