The U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) conducted an at-sea ammunition on-load in preparation for its 2014 patrol, May 21-22.
George Washington completed approximately 1,050 vertical and connected replenishment lifts in two days to take on ordnance from Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11).
“Every year, at the beginning of patrol, we bring aboard all of our ammunition for routine operations as well as the aircraft’s allocation of ordnance that pilots use for training in order to stay proficient,” said Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Sherard Steward, from Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
Sailors, mostly from weapons department, then moved the ordnance via forklifts from the flight deck and hangar bay to the ship’s magazines using lower stage weapons elevators.
“We did a tremendous amount of pre-work in order to prepare our weapons elevators for this event,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Andrew Leinneweber, from Newalla, Okla. “In order to properly disperse the ammunition, we completed a large amount of planned maintenance to ensure proper operation.”
Sailors transported the ammunition to the magazines using the weapons elevators where it is stored until used by the air wing during patrol.
“This is our biggest exercise other than the ammunition off-load,” said Leinneweber. “It took proper training and team effort to make this event run as smooth as it did.”
New Sailors, composing 40 percent of the on-load working party, are brought in at the lowest level to train and are put through a process called qualification and certification for ammunition handling.
“We teach our Sailors the principles, characteristics and basics of safety well before participating in an evolution like this,” said Lt. Cmdr. Marcus Creighton, George Washington’s ordnance handling officer.
Sailors operate under direct supervision while practicing for their qualifications and certifications.
“Hands-on training begins during actual evolutions,” said Creighton. “They will learn what to do, when to do it and ultimately, how to be a more valuable member of the team.”
According to Creighton, even experienced Sailors are put into new roles during each patrol. They upgrade to the next higher certification level where they will lead based on the experience they gained from previous ammunition handling evolutions.
“We have not had any near misses, accidents, incidents, or damage to equipment from mishandling,” said Creighton. “These indicators illustrate how efficient our Sailors work and how their training aboard George Washington pays off.”
Press Release, May 23, 2014; Image: Wikimedia