SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The newly-commissioned Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) entered its Post-Shakedown Availability (PSA) period Jan. 17 completely certified and surge-deployable in the shortest time period in Navy history.
PSA, a maintenance and repair check period, has traditionally been the time when new-construction ships begin their certification process to become surge-deployable.
"Halsey was the first ship we used to see if we could certify a ship right out of the yards," said Capt. Faris Farwell, commodore of Afloat Training Group (ATG), Pacific. "There were some skeptics, including me."
According to Farwell, three days after Halsey left the builders' yard in Pascagoula, Miss., it had already completed its Command Assessment of Readiness and Training (CART II) and Initial Assessment, more than a year ahead of schedule.
"Halsey also finished its Underway Demonstration prior to commissioning; that's amazing," said Master Chief Fire Controlman (SW) Robert J. Shifflett, who was the readiness and training officer with Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 1. "The trend was that it would take about 18 months from the time they left the shipyard to the time they were deployable. Capt. Buzz Little then-commander of DESRON-1, and Vice Adm. Tim LaFleur then-commander of Naval Surface Forces, challenged Halsey's crew, COMDESRON 1 and ATG Pacific to complete their CART II prior to 'sail-away.'"
Prior to completing CART II, ATG Mayport and COMDESRON 1 conducted Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection training to certify Halsey while they were still in the shipyard.
"We were about a year to a year-and-a-half ahead of where most ships would have been at the time (at CART II)," said Cmdr. James L. Autrey, commanding officer of Halsey. "How we did it was by cross-decking Sailors to similar ships and sending them to train on simulators. We also started an aggressive training program in which we brought aboard Afloat Training Group teams before we left Pascagoula."
The primary challenge to Halsey was to come together as a team within the few months it had to train. According to Farwell, the previous four DDGs took an average of 420 days between sail-away from the shipyard and delivery to the fleet commander as a surge-ready asset; but Halsey did it in 145 days, or 65 percent faster than the previous DDGs.
"They worked hard," said Farwell. "It would've been impossible without a terrific attitude, leadership and esprit within the lifelines of Halsey. Now the taxpayers and the Navy have an operational ship two years before they would have normally had it."
Farwell went on to say that ATG has cut the cost of training a pre-commissioning crew by three-fourths. The ship itself has also saved money on training days, taking approximately 13 percent of the time it traditionally takes.
"We were able to do it because of the crew," said Autrey. "They made it happen. Each Sailor took a lot of pride and ownership in what they did. It was a challenge for them, but now I think they can walk away saying that they are one of the most well-trained groups to ever come out of a pre-commissioning unit."
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