ABOARD USS NASSAU (NNS) -- More than nine months after having entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard for an extended repair availability, USS Nassau (LHA 4) has completed sea trials April 2-4 and is once again berthed at Naval Station Norfolk.
"The sea trials went above and beyond my expectations, and I had very high expectations," said Capt. John L. Green, Nassau's commanding officer, while speaking to the Nassau chief's mess April 8. "Our goal was to make Nassau more combat ready coming out of the yards than we were going into the yards, and we are."
The sea trials were challenging in several ways. However, no department in the ship was more challenged than Nassau's engineering crew, who were kept very busy throughout the evolution. The engineering department was fully engaged in a ballast/deballast test, Level I Flex test for both boilers and a high power demonstration, all while testing several other underway critical pumps and machinery that had been repaired or replaced during the repair availability.
According to Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Mania, Nassau's chief engineer, one of the biggest challenges his team faced was crew proficiency.
"The last time Nassau was under way under her own power was May 29, 2003," said the native of Boyne City, Mich. "To me, it seems like yesterday, but a large number of our Sailors are new, and we were not sure how the watch teams would react in the event of a major casualty during the transit to sea."
To Mania's relief, everyone performed as if Nassau's power plant had never been shut down. "By the end of the first day, I was comfortable with their ability to operate the plant under way," he said. "While in the shipyards, everyone had grown accustomed to having everything provided from the pier, and for the first time, we were totally reliant on ourselves and our shipmates to generate everything from power for lights to water for drinking."
As successful as the sea trials were, they weren't without strong challenges. Major flooding in the starboard shaft alley had the potential to terminate the sea trials and force Nassau to return to port with power to only one shaft. However, a team effort by the ship's crew repaired the problem and allowed Nassau to continue with the sea trials.
For Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Amidon, Nassau's navigation officer, the challenges faced were primarily in planning and coordinating. "Rescheduling of operating areas, air services and the under way replenishment made things more challenging to ensure we could accomplish all the required events," he said.
In addition to receiving more than 900,000 gallons of fuel from USNS Patuxent (T-AO 201) during a replenishment at sea on day three of the evolution, the navigation department successfully completed several tests during the sea trials. They included the completion of the anchor drop tests for both anchors, and safe transits both into and out of port.
While NASSAU's senior leadership is proud of the successful sea trials, the ship's crew is happy for another reason: the end of life on board a ship in "the yards". From the 08 level to the bilges, Sailors were once again working in their specialties instead of chipping paint and laying non-skid.
So while many Nassau Sailors get back to doing what they were trained to do at "A" School, everyone aboard the Navy's top gator is working hard to prepare the ship for deployment at a moment's notice.
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