USS STETHEM, At Sea (NNS) -- In today's Navy, advanced weapons systems and complex command and control architecture often take the spotlight. As guided missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) took to sea, March 18-26, from Yokosuka, her crew demonstrated more traditional Naval heritage - deck seamanship.
Since the manning of the first Continental Navy ship, boatswain's mates have been the vanguards of seamanship. As part of its recent training cycle, Stethem's boatswain's mates and her steelworkers showed off their well-honed skill sets.
In one week, Stethem conducted both day and night underway replenishments (UNREP), moored to a buoy, executed a Mediterranean-style mooring and towed another ship while finishing her Tailored Ship's Training Availability - Integrated Training Team (TSTA-ITT) and Final Evaluation Period (FEP).
The underway replenishment exercise took place soon after Stethem departed from Yokosuka, en route to Sasebo. There was a sense of excitement and a twinge of nervous energy for those Sailors participating for the first time.
"The day and night UNREPs were my first evolutions on the ship," said Boatswain's Mate Seaman Recruit Richard Jett. "Even though everything was busy, it was still exciting."
As Stethem entered Sasebo, a buoy mooring exercise presented another chance to for steelworkers to excel. Mooring to a buoy is a very complex evolution; choreographing precise ship handling and seamanship expertise are the linchpins to a successful evolution.
As Stethem approached the buoy, the officer of the deck and conning officer took station on the foc'sle and maintained the ship's position until the anchor was firmly attached to the buoy and the ship was moored.
"I learned more about ship handling, environmentals and engine and rudder responsiveness while mooring to the buoy than I have during any other evolution," Ensign Matthew Guyton said. "I was surprised at how much fine-tuning it took to keep the ship in position."
After leaving Sasebo, Stethem prepared to tow a commercial tug. With many junior deck division personnel standing under instruction watches for the first time, Stethem began the evolution in earnest. After towing the tug for just short of an hour and completing several turns, the exercise was successfully completed and Stethem began hauling in her lines.
"I learned a lot about how the bridge, the line-handlers and the towed vessel work together to make the towing go smoothly," said Boatswain's Mate Seaman Joshua Cuevas, a towing rigger (under instruction) for the towing evolution. "If the ship goes too fast or too slow as we pay out the towing hawser (line), then the catenary can become too taut and unsafe."
In preparation for an upcoming port visit, Stethem executed a "Med-Moor" upon returning to Yokosuka.
"We have only a few people on board who have done this kind of mooring evolution, so it really was a learning experience for everyone," said Lt. j.g. Andrew Brown, Stethem's first lieutenant. "The bridge, the flight deck, the line-handlers - all of them were well-briefed on their responsibilities."
The deck seamanship events were conducted as part of the training cycle to ensure that Stethem could safely and satisfactorily conduct UNREPs, towing exercises and mooring evolutions.
"We have a lot of junior Sailors in deck division and they will be the petty officers-in-charge the next time Stethem does these evolutions," said Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Timothy Noon. "It was definitely a good opportunity to show all the deck seamen that the job of a boatswain's mate is really important - we make sure that the ship can take on stores, moor to piers, operate small boats and assist other ships by towing."
"A lot of people say that the way boatswain's mates train their peers and subordinates is a bit rough, but the fast pace and pressure is necessary," added Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Riley Nunley. "Boatswain's mates have to be able to work well under pressure and to work quickly - it's a matter of life and death for everyone involved in the evolution."
Stethem's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Paul J. Lyons, could not be more proud of the steelworkers' performance during each evolution.
"Each evolution we did, in its own right, required meticulous planning, expert seamanship, and symmetry between all controlling stations," Lyons remarked.
"These evolutions are bedrock core competencies and hallmarks of our business. The training was invaluable to polishing skill sets that potentially atrophied since deployment and in training new team members to execute."
For more news from Stethem, visit www.navy.mil/local/ddg63/.