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    WASP wraps up year filled with accomplishments



    Courtesy Story

    USS WASP (LHD 1)   

    AT SEA – As the officers and crew of USS Wasp conduct unit level training underway during their last scheduled at sea period in 2011, they can look back on an eventful year filled with numerous accomplishments.

    The accomplishments began with a dead stick move to BAE Shipyard in January for a four-month maintenance availability that included upgrades and modifications in support of Joint Strike Fighter testing to come later in the summer.

    When USS Wasp’s availability ended April 27, so did its eight-month in-port period. After leaving the shipyard, Wasp shook the rust off and returned to sea for a brief six-day sea-trials before returning to its homeport of Naval Station Norfolk.

    “We had a great underway. It was a very productive period of completing contracted sea trials, maintenance requirements, and checks,” said Capt. Brenda Holdener, Wasp commanding officer. “After eight months of not being at sea, we knocked the rust off. Overall, I was impressed with the crew of Wasp in executing this evolution.”

    Those six days represent only a fraction of Wasp’s at sea time for the year. The amphibious assault ship spent 76 days underway over 10 underway periods in 2011.

    One of the first big events for Wasp came in June when the number one ship in the fleet tested new joint-precision approach and landing system technology underway. The JPALS is a global positioning system-based technology designed to assist pilots in making a precise approach and landing, more precise than ever before, on land or at sea, anywhere in the world. Several engineers from Raytheon Company monitored data gathered for JPALS June 14 aboard Wasp.

    During its next underway period, Wasp sailors laid to rest 13 military veterans during two separate burial at sea ceremonies, July 10 and 17, off the coast of Virginia.

    Wasp sailors committed the remains of 12 former sailors and one former Marine to the sea, each with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute.

    During that same underway period, Wasp also tested her phalanx close-in weapons system by firing 300 rounds during a PRE-AIM calibration firing exercise July 9, and safely embarked and disembarked several LCUs July 11.

    On their next at sea period less than a week later, Wasp sailors celebrated the 22nd anniversary of the ship’s commissioning July 29 with a ceremony held on Wasp’s mess decks. The ceremony featured a cake cutting by Wasp Commanding Officer Capt. Brenda M. Holdener and Command Master Chief Jim Jones, along with Machinist's Mate Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Stamos, the ship's longest tenured sailor, on board since Sept. 2005, and Fireman Jordan Bohn, the ship's shortest tenured sailor, who arrived on board July 22.

    Without missing a beat, Wasp returned to sea and served as center stage for the numerous technological experiments involved in Trident Warrior 2011, July 26 to Aug. 1. The annual experiment, designed to test mature emerging technologies, and tactics, techniques, and procedures, was hosted on board the amphibious assault ship for the first time and was played out on six other ships also underway in the Virginia Capes area of operation.

    After enjoying only a week back in port, Wasp sailors set to sea again and participated in the Afloat Training Group Medical 1.3 training exercise on board Wasp to test their ability to assist in treating shipmates Aug. 8-10. ATG Medical 1.3, is a follow-up to ATG Medical 1.2, which served as a pre-test to measure whether the ship’s crew is prepared to respond to medical emergencies.

    Later that month, as Hurricane Irene made its way up the Atlantic coast, Wasp, along with 27 other Naval Station Norfolk-based ships, got underway to avoid potential damage from the storm.

    The ships and sailors of Amphibious Task Force 26, consisting of the Expeditionary Strike Group 2 command staff, Wasp, and amphibious transport ships USS San Antonio and USS New York, departed Norfolk Aug. 25 and transited 608 nautical miles due east to steer clear of the storm. Once Irene no longer impeded safe navigation, ATF 26 immediately headed back toward the East Coast to be prepared to assist several states that had been devastated by the storms affects.

    The storm hit North Carolina Aug. 27 and left widespread power outages and massive flooding throughout the U.S. Northeast. By Aug. 29 the task force was stationed 45 nautical miles off the New Jersey coast in case the Defense Department asked the Navy to provide assistance, which fortunately was never required.

    Almost three weeks later, Wasp again made history with another first. The Navy and Marine Corps team made naval aviation history Oct. 3 as the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter test aircraft BF-2 landed safely on USS Wasp's flight deck, the first at-sea vertical landing for the Marine Corps' F-35 JSF version. Marine Corps test pilot Lt. Col. Fred Schenk landed BF-2 at 3:12 pm.

    "It was exactly like we predicted," said Schenk. "But that's because of all the hard work and extensive preparation done by the Wasp and JSF team."

    The first vertical landing is part of the initial ship trials for the F-35B which ran Oct. 3-17. The tests are scheduled to collect data on the aircraft's ability to perform short take-offs and vertical landings on a ship at sea, as well as determine how the aircraft integrates with the ship's landing systems, and deck and hangar operations.

    Wasp officers and crew moved into the fall by again bringing training to the forefront. USS Wasp participated in five days of training from Afloat Training Group Norfolk in preparation of the ship’s upcoming ATG 1.4B assessment for full certification in mid-December.

    ATG’s Fleet Training Continuum is a pilot program that affects 20 different ships in the Atlantic Fleet ranging from FFGs to amphibs in a new program in support of the Navy’s Fleet Response Training Plan.

    ATG’s purpose is to deliver the Fleet Training Continuum to prepare Wasp to achieve Fleet Response Plan readiness through basic training across all of its mission areas.

    Wasp is participating in practice evolutions with focus on engineering, seamanship, damage control and navigation in preparation for future deployments.

    “We’re looking to ensure that the engineers down in the [main] spaces can properly run drills,” said Senior Chief Machinist Mate Anthony Selph, an ATG trainer. “We’re here to train them to respond to casualties that may happen at sea or in port, and to deal with them and do their jobs correctly using practiced engineering procedures.”

    Before the year is over, Wasp sailors will experience at least one more first… the turnover of command of the ship’s first female commanding officer, Capt. Brenda M. Holdener to the ship’s current executive officer, Capt. Gary M. Boardman.

    The ceremony is slated to take place on board Wasp Dec. 13 underway, bringing to conclusion an event-filled chapter in Wasp history as the crew of the "Number one ship in the fleet" readies themselves for another event-filled year ahead in 2012.



    Date Taken: 12.11.2011
    Date Posted: 12.11.2011 23:49
    Story ID: 81212
    Location: USAFRICOM, AT SEA

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