SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The crew of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) successfully executed a light off assessment (LOA), Jan. 19, moving one step closer to going back to sea by demonstrating they are ready and able to safely operate the ship's engineering plant.
All U.S. Navy ships are required to conduct an LOA prior to going to sea at the conclusion of a Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Phased-Maintenance Availability (PMA) or any significant maintenance period that is 120 days or greater in length.
Boxer's LOA was scheduled at the end of a 14-month PMA, and is one of several Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CNSP)-led readiness evaluation (READ-E) events that are designed to assess the full spectrum of the ship's manning, materiel and training.
"I could not be prouder of the crew effort in achieving this important schedule milestone. Every problem on Boxer is a 'Boxer' problem. Several departments were critical to the Engineering Department's success including Supply, C5I, and AIMD departments," said Capt. Benjamin J. Allbritton, Boxer's commanding officer.
The culminating event for Boxer's LOA was a main space fire drill in which members of Engineering Assessments Pacific (EAP) and Afloat Training Group (ATG)-Pacific observed and evaluated Boxer Sailors' ability to contain and combat a simulated class "Bravo" fire in one of the main machinery spaces.
"We do a specific group of checks and tests during this 3-day evolution called light off assessment," said Capt. Tony Anglin, the officer-in-charge of the EAP team that evaluated Boxer. "We test the ship's firefighting capability. We test their material condition, their ability to attain what's called 'minimum equipment' [the minimum equipment to be able to operate the ship] and we test their programs - their safety and occupational health programs and all the other programs that are required to safely and correctly operate the engineering plant."
Due to the danger a fire in a main machinery space poses to the entire crew, nearly half of the ship's damage control repair lockers respond to this type of casualty. Sailors from many different enlisted ratings are called upon to help fight the ship, assuming roles and responsibilities outside of their primary jobs in the Navy.
"On a big deck like this, your damage control organization is almost a third of the ship, so everybody has a part to play. When new Sailors come in and I check them in, I tell them that everybody here is a firefighter," said Lt. Cmdr. Patricia Palmer, Boxer's damage control assistant. "Everyone's business is damage control, whether you're a damage controlman or not. The goal has always been to try to train every Sailor aboard here to be a damage controlman."
Another part of LOA included verifying that Boxer's power plant was able to ignite the boilers in the main machinery spaces, which produce steam for Boxer's propulsion, electrical power, hotel services and potable water, all requisites to getting the ship underway.
"Passing LOA means we can assess ourselves; we can train our own people," said Damage Controlman 1st Class Joseph Branson, leading petty officer of engineering repair division, and a member of Boxer's Damage Control Training Team (DCTT). "Now that we have the ability to light off with our own crew and not someone else telling us how to light off, it means we've gained that trust."
Although Boxer's engineering department was primarily in the spotlight for LOA, Senior Chief Machinist's Mate Shawn Seabron, Boxer's engineering department leading chief petty officer, considers passing the assessment a ship-wide success.
"Every other department has helped Engineering prepare for this inspection," said Seabron. "It may seem that engineering department
exercises intrusive leadership, but we couldn't have gotten there without the rest of the ship, and I say that confidently. I'm looking forward to getting underway. I'm looking forward to steaming and, as they say, 'doing God's work.'"
Completion of LOA marks a shift in focus for Boxer Sailors moving forward. As Boxer moves into the Basic Phase of the training cycle, more will be required of every Sailor aboard to ensure qualification, training and readiness requirements are met.
"Passing LOA is huge for Boxer because now that we've passed LOA we can continue to do Boxer's mission," said Seabron. "Even though the inspection focused on engineering [department], passing LOA means we can go out to sea. Now we can do sea trials and we can conduct all the different certifications for combat systems, deck, air [departments]. Everything is driven from LOA."
The crew is now able to witness all of their hard work during the previous 14 months come to fruition, especially Sailors assigned to Boxer's "tiger teams." Tiger teams were staffed by Sailors from different departments throughout the ship and trained to perform shipboard maintenance and preservation.
"The ship's force accomplished a lot during PMA. The tiger teams did a phenomenal job," said Master Chief Electronics Technician Steve Williams, an assistant PMA coordinator. "We had 10 teams composed of more than 100 Sailors who worked together. I think that the most noticeable effort was put into the deck preservation and the berthing teams. That habitability improvement was huge."
The work performed by the crew during PMA was essential to address known maintenance requirements throughout the ship, thus increasing Boxer's mission readiness capability.
"We have to ensure the structural integrity of the ship and its systems aboard the ship are up-to-date," said Williams. "Ships, by nature, take a lot of wear and tear while underway. When we're operational, there's a lot that impacts the upkeep of this ship. Conducting availability periods like this allows us to take a break from routine operations, and address many of the problems we have aboard the ship, so we can turn around and continue performing Boxer's mission."
The completion of PMA and LOA enable Boxer to switch gears from maintenance to mission, and puts her crew one step closer to what they've been itching to do for over a year: getting back out to sea.
Boxer's crew is currently preparing for the remainder of READ-E 4 events to include crew certification, Dock Trials/Fast Cruise, Squadron/Group Staff Navigation Assessment and Contractor Sea Trials.
For more news from USS Boxer (LHD 4), visit http://www.navy.mil/local/lhd4/.