First Los Angeles-Class SSN Gets
Dry-Deck Shelter

by JO2 Joseph Rehana, USN

When USS Dallas (SSN-700) heads to sea this spring, she’ll operate in exercises unlike any other USS Los Angeles (SSN-688)-class submarine has before. Dallas recently completed all necessary sea trials and is now in the final phases of pre-deployment to become the first attack submarine to carry a dry-deck shelter (DDS).

As its name implies, the DDS is a deck-mounted cylindrical shelter large enough to house a SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) or a complement of rubber raiding craft. This installation gives Dallas the capability to launch and recover Special Operations Forces (SOF) anywhere she can operate. "DDS allows us to bring special warfare presence anywhere in the world, enhance our boat’s mission capabilities, and increase Dallas’s useful lifetime," said CDR Joseph McBrearty, the Commanding Officer. "We’ve already conducted two major exercises for certifications with the SEAL teams onboard, and they are every bit a part of Dallas as the crew."

The Los Angeles–class was originally designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships, collect intelligence, conduct anti-ship and strike warfare, and support special forces. The addition of the DDS will increase the types of missions Dallas will perform but not diminish her ability to respond to traditional commitments, said McBrearty. "It has been a long road," he noted. "The actual installation was completed in August of ‘98, and we’ve been doing work-ups ever since. Our biggest challenge has been to fashion gasoline storage pods and mount them onboard."

With this new role for Dallas, the challenges have come from all directions. The number of personnel onboard will increase by 26 percent while underway, adding close to 35 bodies for berthing and messing. The submarine’s unique capabilities will also increase her time at sea, and operating and maintaining the DDS will require part of the crew to learn new skills and accept new taskings onboard. But ask the crew about this, and they see only opportunity, not additional demands.

"I agree with spending more time out to sea because that’s where training really gets done, not here in port," said MM1(SS) Kevin Murray, the leading petty officer of A-Division and DDS-Division. "I would also like to send more of my guys to school, because the learning and training curves are steeper. We have new Sailors who don’t see the DDS in school, and we have older men who’ve been on subs their whole career but still find it very new to them."

Murray has been a part of the team taking care of the DDS for the past year and emphasized the importance of safety for the crew both inside the boat and out. He noted that the SEAL team brings specially qualified technicians with them for underway periods and sends them to Dallas for familiarization while in port. This helps greatly to get his own team up to speed. "Overall it’s really amazing what we’ve brought together here," said Murray. "Without seeing outside, or in complete darkness, we drive by and pick up a raft out of nowhere. It’s amazing what these SEALS can do."

"I’m excited for our next deployment," said MS3(SS) Vincent Gregonis, Dallas galley watch captain. "It will definitely be different around here from now on." He noted particularly that "...with the odd hours the SEALS keep to execute their missions, the galley has had to become very flexible with serving times," and added that the SOF personnel can certainly eat their fair share.

Not everyone will notice all the changes. "Life’s pretty much the same for us," observed the Leading Sonar Chief Petty Officer, STSC(SS) Joseph Gioello. "We’re always working."

"Submariners are always proud of what they do. There’s a silent pride in all our work, and adding this new mystique to our conventional role really expands the envelope," said CDR McBrearty. "We expect to continue our work with foreign navies and are excited about Dallas and her crew having the opportunity to show their capabilities anywhere in the world."

Petty Officer Rehana is with the Sublant Public Affairs Office.

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