USS Forrest Sherman Completes FOST
Guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) completed the royal navy’s flag officer sea training (FOST) ‘Thursday War,’ April 5.
The crew more than lived up to the ship’s motto ‘relentless fighting spirit’ during multiple battle situations involving surface, sub-surface, and air attacks during the exercise, which began March 26, just off the coast of Plymouth, England.
The ship had to pass a rigid inspection before they could begin the training. The crew focused on cleanliness, stow for sea, and safety before dozens of FOST assessors boarded the ship in the port city of Plymouth.
“The inspection determines if the ship and her crew are safe to train by meeting our stringent national safety standards,” said Warrant Officer 1st Class Mark Minett, a royal navy weapons engineer and experienced FOST member. “Once that is done we can train together, like we’ve done before, but closer this time.”
Cmdr. Luis Sanchez Jr., commanding officer of Forrest Sherman, commended the crew for ‘turning to’ in getting the ship ready for the onslaught of inspectors and eventually gaining their approval to continue with the training.
The training, which normally lasts up to eight weeks for royal navy vessels, consisted of two four day sections. Each section consisted of informative training sessions, realistic scenarios, and ‘Thursday War’ with the second section much more intense than the first.
FOST began more than 50 years ago as a way to certify Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ships for service in the operational fleet. Although Forrest Sherman was only the second U.S. Navy ship to go through the intensive regime, Germany, Portugal, and the Netherlands are some of the other countries who have put their vessels through the grueling assessment.
At the conclusion of the first Thursday War, Warrant Officer 1st Class Al Jones, a royal navy mechanical engineer and one of the principal damage control inspectors, said, “The initial response was a little slow, but the team quickly picked up the pace and performed well,”
“Thursday’s war was the repair locker’s first real immersion into a realistic battle damage scenario. All in all they responded extremely well and handled the damage at hand enthusiastically,” said Chief Damage Controlman Robert McGregor, a damage control training team member aboard Forrest Sherman.
The ship’s mission was to protect RFA Orangeleaf, while intervening between two notional rival countries. During the simulations, Forrest Sherman simulated sustained multiple threats including fighter/bomber attacks, missile strikes, enemy submarines, and mine swept channels. Orangeleaf also conducted essential refueling with Forrest Sherman on several occasions, including one during the final day’s battle while under attack.
Forrest Sherman halted many of the external threats, but nonetheless sustained numerous casualties to the ship and her crew. Crew members in repair lockers 2, 3, and 5 fought endlessly to save the ship in order to carry out her mission. The damage control and medical teams performed exceptionally, despite being assessed under different standards.
“There are different ways of doing things and this is a great opportunity to learn,” said Chief Petty Officer Steve Pickering, a medical assistant with the royal navy and FOST. “The U.S. Navy is huge, a global power, and it was exciting to work with such a very receptive crew. Their attitude was first class.”
Ens. Michael Cullen, one of Forrest Sherman’s visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) team leaders, said, “I really liked the reality brought to the anti-terrorism/force protection scenarios. When you have rounds and flash-bangs going off it adds a different perspective to the exercise.”
The crew was visibly fatigued heading into the final days of the training, but the Sailors rose to the high levels of performance needed to complete the arduous mission.
“I’ve been through other exercises, inspections, and deployment and this was by far the hardest,” said Sonar Technician (Surface) 3rd Class Victor Williams, a VBSS team member onboard Forrest Sherman. “It was even more intense than INSURV (Board of Inspection and Survey).”
Cullen added, “I went through INSURV and Joint Warrior last year and this was definitely more intense.”
On the final day, Rear Adm. Scott Craig, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, was on hand to witness the display of teamwork as Forrest Sherman overcame every challenge and kept the ship on course to complete its mission.
When ‘Thursday War’ was over, Cmdr. Sanchez announced over the ship’s intercom system (1MC), “I received nothing but positive comments from the admiral and the FOST assessors. Good job to all of you for completing this monumental task. The thing that stood out the most was your enthusiasm and dedication. No matter what was thrown at you, you turned it into gold; a testimonial to who you are and what you do.”
Forrest Sherman, homeported in Norfolk, Va., is currently visiting the port city of Brest, France.
Naval Today Staff , April 11, 2012; Image: navy