USS Underwood Completes Transit Through Panama Canal

The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Underwood (FFG 36) transited the Panama Canal in support of Southern Seas 2012, May 6.

The transit began early Saturday evening and spilled over into the early hours of Sunday morning.

“The transit normally takes 10-12 hours to complete,” said Quartermaster 3rd Class Joshua Hughes, a native of Detroit, who steered the ship as the master helmsman for part of the transit. “It’s a long transit and the times will always vary depending on traffic because there are a variety of vessels that use the canal. Last night’s transit moved fairly quickly. Traffic was at a minimum so we were able to get through it in a timely manner.”

Hughes has navigated the canal five times, but the novelty has yet to fade.

If you’ve done it once, if you’ve done it a thousand times, it feels the same,” said Hughes.It’s the excitement. It’s the focus that is required in order to safely navigate a passage like this. Not a lot of people get to do this and I am truly pleased to say I’ve been able to do it at least once, let alone multiple times, and I hope to do it again.”

The meticulous passage of the ship is possible only with the efforts of all crew members aboard the ship.

Teamwork was essential to our transit, especially due to the length of our transit,” said Command Master Chief Michael Bates.The transit lasted over 11 hours. We didn’t pull in until 2 a.m. The ship did a great job of relieving people on time and putting the right people on station.”

Transiting the canal is only the beginning for the crew of Underwood as they prepare for UNITAS Pacific, an annual multinational maritime exercise, scheduled to begin May 14.

“The success of this event really set the tone for the deployment in terms of teamwork getting us through an evolution like that,” said Bates.The evolution was pretty flawless. I think that will set us up for success over the next six months.”

After completing the transit, the crew of Underwood took on supplies and refueled the ship at Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal.

Underwood is embarked on a six-month deployment to Central and South America and the Caribbean Sea in support of Southern Seas 2012 to engage in multinational naval exercises with partner nations.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

Naval Today Staff , May 09, 2012