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    From Shipyard to Shoreline: Getting a new military ship and its crew ready for sea

    USCGC Stone cranes aboard equipment

    Photo By Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower | The crew aboard the USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) crane aboard stores Dec. 21, 2020, in...... read more read more

    One might think that commissioning a new Coast Guard cutter is as simple as assembling it, dropping it in the water, and putting the crew on board, right? Not exactly.

    The USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) is the ninth and newest Legend-class National Security Cutter in the U.S. Coast Guard’s arsenal. The NSC is the most technologically advanced ship in the Coast Guard's fleet, enabling it to meet the high demands required for maritime and homeland security, law enforcement, marine safety, environmental protection, and national defense missions.

    The Stone’s first underway patrol was going to be an important one: Operation Southern Cross, a two month trip through the South Atlantic to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing and strengthen partnerships with foreign agencies while doing so. Preparing for such lofty expectations is no simple task.

    The cutter’s main structures and fixtures were assembled at the Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The vessel's steel framework and the necessary plumbing, electrical, and machinery systems were all assembled.

    Each compartment had to be meticulously inspected before it could be fully outfitted for the Coast Guard mission it was built for, and nearly every surface needed to be painted to prevent rust. However, that was only the beginning. A military vessel with countless responsibilities and missions ahead of it needs to be filled to the brim with equipment to fulfill such duties.

    The first wave of the Stone’s crew arrived at the still-being-built cutter in June of 2020, with the rest arriving in October of that year. They worked tirelessly with contractors from the shipyard for nearly two months to bring aboard and install all of the equipment and supplies needed to operate the vessel properly. Every folder, fork, and firehose was craned onto the Stone’s flight deck or carried over the brow and put into its proper place in preparation to house over 120 Coast Guard members for up to several months at a time.

    An important part of this story is the circumstance under which it took place: during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every member had to wear medical masks and constantly sanitize to prevent a local outbreak. The cutter’s first mission was to conduct a two-month international patrol; a full two-week “restriction of movement” was enforced for the crew.
    Even with such careful planning, several members received positive COVID-19 test results that kept them from joining the rest of the crew on the first few days underway.

    Another significant challenge the crew faced was being ready to take control of such a complex machine. Only a portion of the oncoming crew had ever been underway on a Coast Guard cutter before, with some arriving directly from basic training, and fewer still had experience on an NSC like the Stone.
    The Coast Guard has a detailed system of qualifications in every necessary position for a given unit, and the Stone’s crew had to follow that system very carefully. However, learning the in’s and out’s of such positions takes time, and getting so many members qualified at once is not easy.

    Previously qualified crew members often had to stand two four-hour watches per day on top of regular daily work while the new members were trained. Every crew member needed to learn how to operate all the equipment necessary for their daily duties and how to handle nearly any emergency that might arise.

    Despite this, alongside the fact that each crew member had to qualify for multiple duties, almost every crew member managed to certify for their respective positions in just a few short weeks.

    "Between COVID-19 delaying pretty much everything, vital crew members not making patrol, and a few hurricanes plowing through Pascagoula, getting STONE off the pier seemed impossible,” said Lt. j. g. Alicen Rè, of the operations department. “Lucky for us, the crew is so hardworking and dedicated that we accomplished the impossible and put in the work to make it happen. The crew really stuck together and pushed through. There is something to be said about putting in the work to make something new, and that we did."

    The Stone crew was only able to overcome all of these challenges through an immense amount of cooperation and determination. They came together like a well-oiled machine, not unlike the Stone itself, and paved the way for many more crew members to come.



    Date Taken: 01.20.2021
    Date Posted: 01.22.2021 09:32
    Story ID: 387367
    Location: US

    Web Views: 296
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