NAVAL AIR STATION NORTH ISLAND, Calif. (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines aboard USS Makin Island (LHD 8) returned to port Oct. 16 having completed three more critical certifications prior to the ship's commissioning.
During the three-day underway, inspectors from Afloat Training Group (ATG) Pacific were onboard to evaluate and qualify Makin Island crew members to operate the ship's well deck for landing craft air cushion (LCAC) operations and to execute both underway replenishment (UNREP) and vertical replenishment (VERTREP) evolutions.
Makin Island Sailors and Marines completed their first well deck operations since mid-September, when they debarked landing craft utilities (LCUs) prior to pulling in after the ship's two month maiden voyage. Although LCAC operations are similar, it is a separate and necessary qualification for LHD 8's well deck.
"Working with the LCUs was definitely great preparation for the LCACs," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW/AW) Ian De Leos. "It's a more dangerous evolution because of the line handling that's involved, but it helped us, particularly my junior Sailors, get familiar with the process of well deck operations out at sea."
LHD 8's Deck Department has been preparing for the UNREP evolution since 2008 when 22 Sailors were sent to a team trainer in Norfolk, Va. During this fueling evolution, Makin Island successfully received more than 27,000 gallons of fuel from the USNS Guadalupe (T-AO 200).
"I've been on land training for this day for the last two years," said Boatswain's Mate Seaman Liliana Serrano. "Once you get underway and know that you actually accomplished it with no incidents, it's a good feeling."
On day three of the ship's underway, Combat Cargo worked with Air Department to prep and maneuver 16 separate cargo loads during flight operations. The crew completed 11 lifts/drops; more than ATG requires for a VERTREP certification.
"The inspectors and pilots were shocked by how well our rookie crew executed these evolutions," said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (AW/SW) Eddy Enriquez. "I would say that we worked together flawlessly and the 'Gung-Ho Spirit' shined through!"
"The success of the wide-variety of underway evolutions is a culmination of the crew's intense efforts to maximize training opportunities before, during and after ship delivery, as well as hone those skills during the Sail Around," said Capt. Robert Kopas, Makin Island's commanding officer. "I know that the crew will turn-out a commissioning ceremony second to none, and one that will live on in the memory of all who attend."
Makin Island's crew is preparing for the ship's commissioning ceremony at Naval Air Station Coronado Oct. 24.
For more news from USS Makin Island (LHD 8), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd8/.