January 23rd, 2007 09:56 EST
USS Ohio Sailors Depart NBK for Historic Forward Deployed Crew Swap
SILVERDALE, Wash. (NNS) -- USS Ohio (SSGN 726) (Gold) Sailors departed Naval Base Kitsap (NBK), Bangor, Jan. 21, for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to conduct a crew swap with USS Ohio (Blue) crew.
The Gold crew gathered at NBK’s liberty center before traveling to McChord Air Force Base to catch their plane to Hawaii.
“One of the goals of the SSGN program is to keep the ship forward deployed for extended periods of time,” said Lt. Cmdr. Al Ventura, USS Ohio (Gold) executive officer. “In the future we will be doing the crew exchanges in Guam.”
This is the first time in approximately 20 years that a submarine crew has done a crew swap in this fashion.
In order to complete the crew swap, 160 Sailors from each crew must transfer more than 50 large water tight boxes of supplies, paperwork and tools of the SSGN submarine trade. Along with these shipboard items, Sailors are also accountable for their sea bags and other personal items.
This swap will test both the crews’ ability to complete a full crew swap for future swaps while the submarine remains forward deployed.
“It’s a very exciting time for us,” said Ventura. “Everything we do is basically a new experience for us, the submarine force, and the SSGN program.”
Eventually, the submarine crews will fly out to Guam and swap about every three months, and the ship will return home approximately once a year.
While the gold crew is in Hawaii for this crew swap, they will be going through a qualification process, testing the crew’s and the submarines ability to conduct different types of special operations forces (SOF) operations.
“We will be doing an evaluation of the new dry deck shelter system, and we are also getting a chance to operate the ship after not having it for three months,” said Capt. Andrew Hale, USS Ohio (Gold) commanding officer.
Though this type of crew swap is rare, some of the Sailors believe they prepared for some of the challenges they may face.
“Both the Trident Training Facility (TTF) and Commander Submarine Squadron 19 staff did a fabulous job getting us ready to take on these challenges as we go to Hawaii,” said Hale. “The level of training my crew has been exposed to has been at a much higher level than I have seen previously, when you don’t have a ship.”
Some crew members are looking forward to the opportunity to try their new technical training, while others are ready to travel.
“I’m ready to go out and do some cool stuff, and see some ports,” said Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Erik Gribler, USS Ohio (Gold).
“I’m excited to just go do what we have been training for,” said Yeoman 2nd Class (SS) Andrew Hillman, USS Ohio (Gold) administration petty officer.
For related news, visit the Naval Base Kitsap Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/kitsap.
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW/NAC) Eric J. Rowley, Fleet Public Affairs Center Detachment Northwest