USS Arlington Conducts Fast Cruise

USS Arlington (LPD 24) conducted a fast cruise Feb. 27, at Huntington-Ingall’s Industries’ shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., to determine if the ship is ready to go to sea.

This fast cruise was an important element of Crew Certification Phase II, conducted by the amphibious transport dock’s immediate superior in command, Commander, Amphibious Squadron (COMPHIBRON) 8 from Feb. 25-27.

Arlington’s crew completed the first phase of crew certification, an administrative evaluation performed by the ship’s type commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (SURFLANT), Oct. 22, 2012.

The Navy’s primary instruction concerning crew certification, the Surface Force Readiness Manual, states that the purpose of this assessment is to “perform a thorough review of the ship’s overall training program and an assessment of their ability to provide an adequate number of qualified crew members to support safe operations at sea.”

Lt. Cmdr. Derek Mason, who led COMPHIBRON 8’s Crew Certification team for Arlington, said the ship was being evaluated on “warfare areas specific to the LPD 17 (San Antonio-class) amphibious platform,” including air, surface, seamanship, intelligence, cryptology, navigation, engineering, damage control, explosive safety and supply.

“Arlington did outstanding on Crew Certification Phase II,” Mason said. “There were no discrepancies, and the discrepancies we noted from Crew Certification Phase I have been corrected.”

The fast cruise conducted for crew certification was the sixth held aboard Arlington. The first took place Jan. 12, just five weeks after the ship was delivered from the shipyard to the Navy.

According to the Surface Force Readiness Manual, a fast cruise verifies “the crew is ready and qualified to take the ship to sea and simulates at-sea operating conditions.”

During a fast cruise, the crew simulates stationing the special sea and anchor detail, setting normal underway watches (both topside and engineering), flight quarters, responding to medical emergencies and engineering casualties, man overboard drills, restricted maneuvering and loss of steering, underway replenishment, damage control drills and abandoning ship procedures.

“Fast cruises typically last all day, and we go through all the evolutions that we will go through when we are actually underway,” explained Arlington’s training officer, Lt. Sean McDonnell. “These processes are verified by leadership to ensure that we are operating safely and in accordance with Navy instructions, and that the crew has been trained properly and qualified in each watch station.”

The differences between the first fast cruise and the last were phenomenal, noted USS Arlington Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Eric Lull.

“There was a tremendous increase in the confidence and capability in the crew,” he said. “As with any precommissioning unit, many of the more experienced Sailors on board have not been to sea in a long time, and most of the junior Sailors have never been to sea at all. We have seen this crew grow a lot, from – in many cases – brand new recruits to being a fully-functioning crew that can safely take this ship from here to where it needs to go.”

One of the largest improvements was Arlington’s ability to set material condition Zebra – that is, setting the maximum state of readiness for the ship’s survivability system, by systematically securing hundreds of doors, hatches, scuttles, access valves and deck drains throughout the 684-foot ship, to ensure the greatest degree of watertight integrity.

“This makes the ship more resilient to any damage that might occur, whether it is from battle damage, or caused by internal disasters such as flooding or fire,” Lull added. “Our initial time – from the first fast cruise – was above 30 minutes when we were still learning the ship’s layout. During the last fast cruise, we were under nine minutes.”

Mason attributes the crew’s success to a solid a training program coupled with teamwork.

“Arlington has a very motivated crew, and you can’t go wrong with that,” he said. “They have a can-do attitude; they know how to work together as a team.”

With the assessment is complete, Arlington will be endorsed by COMPHIBRON 8 for certification by SURFLANT, clearing the ship to debark from Pascagoula (where the ship has been under construction for four years) for their permanent duty station in Norfolk, Va.

“By the time we did our last fast cruise, everything was running very smoothly, because we had practiced it all so many times,” McDonnell concluded. “We are very confident about sailaway. We’ve worked very hard to get to this point, gone to the right schools and conducted the right training to safely get the ship back home.”

The ship is named for Arlington County, Va., home of the Pentagon, in honor of the 184 victims and heroes who lost their lives during the terrorist attack there on 9/11.

Arlington is the eighth in Navy’s San Antonio class of ships, designed to be the most survivable amphibious vessels ever put to sea. The third in the U.S. fleet to bear the name, Arlington will be commissioned on April 6, 2013. The ship combines 21st century amphibious shipbuilding and warfighting technologies to support current and future Marine Corps aircraft and landing craft, and will be capable of taking nearly 1,200 Sailors and Marines into harm’s way.

Naval Today Staff, March 6, 2013