NORFOLK (NNS) -- Weapons and Deck Departments aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) conducted a major weapons onload evolution Feb. 7 - 10.
Various weapons -- including missiles, small arms, pyrotechnics and general purpose bombs were on-loaded to Truman by both connective replenishment (CONREP) and vertical replenishment (VERTREP) from USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).
"Over 4 million pounds of ordnance, totaling $286 million, [was] onloaded to Truman over the 96-hour evolution," said Lt. Steve A. Folsom, ordnance handling officer overseeing the evolution.
“It’s really an all-hands effort, from the Navigation Department to the Weapons Department,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class (AW) Clark B. Smithson. “I think the key to success here is communication. Without communication, you have nothing.”
Aviation Ordnance 1st Class (AW/SW) Mark C. Wilkenson said he agreed and that it was a team effort.
“The Weapons Department [was] in the spotlight to get this evolution completed, but we [had] a lot of other departments and divisions helping us out,” Wilkenson said.
Truman’s Deck department also played a vital role in the onload’s success. Their efforts ensured much of the ammunition arrived safe and secure aboard the ship.
“It’s pretty much the same between a CONREP and an ammo onload,” said Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate (AW/SW) Darrin T. Cassell. “The only thing different is you’re dealing with stuff that goes ‘boom’.”
The safety of Truman’s Sailors was a major concern during this evolution. Persistent snowfall and a harsh wind-chill added additional difficulty to the operation from the start. More than a few members of the crew involved experienced their very first onload of this kind.
With more than 2,100 lifts of ammunition loaded aboard from Lewis and Clark and Roosevelt, there was plenty of opportunity for something to go wrong.
“We don’t want to see anyone get hurt, that’s the main thing,” said Aviation Ordnance 1st Class (AW/SW) Billy-Ray Light. “We’ve got to go out there and play like champions, today and everyday.”
“If we get all this ammo onloaded but someone gets hurt, we’ll have failed as leaders,” Folsom said.
In order to maintain proper operational risk management (ORM), a crew of safety observers was tasked with troubleshooting the evolution for safety hazards.
“We’re going to have a lot of new people out there who have never done an onload before,” said safety observer AO1 (AW) Desmond J. Cary. “We’ve got to look out for our junior guys and keep them safe too.”
Cary said as long as the crew acted professionally and utilized the training they’d received, the mission would be successful.
“This is definitely one of the big things we do as aviation ordnancemen,” said AO1 (AW) Chris L. Crichton. “It will be a good wake-up call for the new guys because they haven’t up until now done anything like this.”
Smithson said Weapons Department trained extensively for the on-load operation.
“I’m confident we’re ready,” said Smithson. “We’ve prepped magazine storage units in the hangar bay levels, we’ve ensured all elevators are working properly, and we’ve mapped out where weapons are going to be stored and how we’re going to store them, to name a few things.”
Wilkinson said he’d seen Sailors training harder for this evolution than any onload or off-load operation he’d seen before it.
“The Weapons Department on the Harry S. Truman is the best in the fleet,” said Wilkinson. “There’s no doubt in my mind this evolution will be successfully completed.”
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.