NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Units assigned to Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10 take the culture of self-sufficiency to heart in everything they do. Sailors from two of the CSG’s guided-missile cruisers, USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Vella Gulf (CG 72), recently demonstrated this “self-unit-strike group” mentality when they collaborated on several emergent repairs Vella Gulf required to get underway and conduct local operations.
Vella Gulf experienced issues with both close-in weapons system (CIWS) mounts ahead of a planned underway, according to Vella Gulf’s commanding officer, Capt. Rob Thompson. He said the issues were addressed by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC), who made the necessary repairs to the parts and returned them to the ship to be reinstalled.
“Unfortunately, the timing of the return of those parts overlapped with some additional off-ship Naval Surface Fire Support training that some of our fire controlmen were participating in which meant we basically had more work to accomplish than we had hands to do the job,” Thompson said.
The guns can only be fired at sea and, with the last underway of the year only a week away, the pressure was on to install the repaired components and conduct in-port pre-fire checks. To get the work done quickly and correctly so the ship could take advantage of the underway, two Monterey CIWS techs volunteer to assist with the repairs.
“We were under a pretty big time constraint, and [having the Monterey fire controlmen] here allowed us to get through things quicker,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Jason Foster, Vella Gulf’s lead CIWS tech.
“We were eager to accept an opportunity to assist our peers on Vella Gulf,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Austin Sisco, assigned to Monterey. “It was clear they take a lot of pride in their equipment and we were just grateful for the opportunity to work with the Vella Gulf technicians to increase their operational readiness.”
In another instance, a bleed air discharge flex hose in Vella Gulf’s Number 2 Gas Turbine Generator (GTG) had a leak. Additional leaks were found in the Number 1 GTG. Bleed air is used to keep the GTG’s engine intake warm in the increasingly colder weather.
“That meant we could only extract bleed air from Number 3 GTG, located towards the aft end of the ship,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Fetting, Vella Gulf’s chief engineer. “With only Number 3 GTG bleed air available, we would not have enough bleed air to start the main engines.”
Again, Vella Gulf reached out to Monterey and two of the ship’s gas turbine systems mechanics (GSM) worked with their counterparts on Monterey to identify a replacement hose. When it became clear a new hose could not be manufactured in time, Naval Surface Force Atlantic approved Vella Gulf’s request to remove Monterey’s hose and use it to restore Number 2 GTG to full operation. Monterey is currently in a scheduled maintenance period, so the hose’s removal would not affect its operations.
“We tested it with SAT results, allowing us to be able to get underway,” Fetting said.
Even when underway, however, more challenges arose; as the crew prepared to conduct gunnery demonstrations with their 5-inch guns, they discovered a failed relay that prevented the proper operation of the aft gun. While Vella Gulf did not have the needed part aboard, Monterey did.
“The part was sent out to the ship via water taxi. We installed the part, got the pre-fire checks complete, and successfully shot both guns,” said Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Gabriel Vazquez, Vella Gulf’s gunnery division leading petty officer.
During the same underway, a seal blew inside the oil distribution box of a controllable reversible propeller (CRP), preventing hydraulic fluid from reaching the propeller blades to control their pitch. MARMC sent out a technician to install a replacement seal, a procedure the Sailors on board were not able to do.
But rather than stand by while the technician replaced the seal – and knowing they may have to handle such repairs while on deployment – Vella Gulf Sailors took an opportunity to learn about the inner workings of the oil distribution box, a part they don’t normally take apart. Less than 24 hours after discovering the casualty, the issue was resolved.
“It was awesome learning from the MARMC tech about something I did not know. I feel confident I could execute this repair again if ever needed,” said Gas Turbine Systems Mechanic Fireman Apprentice Brian Ramirez.
“The [Sailors who] assisted me were very interested in learning about the system and how to prevent the failure in the future,” said Jameson Benbow, the MARMC mechanical engineer who flew to the ship. “The training provided enhanced their general overall knowledge of CRP operations.”
Collaborations like this are an example of self-sufficiency within CSG-10. Building a culture of self-sufficiency means finding organic solutions within the strike group for issues before looking outside of it for help, Thompson said. Even when looking outside for help, taking advantage of “looking over the shoulder” of those outside experts strengthens the strike group when that knowledge is acquired and shared. This adds up to increased readiness, especially when the ships deploy and are not within easy reach or parts or assistance.
“When you go over the horizon, there is no easy parts delivery, and all of the tech reps that help you out are back in port,” said Thompson. “All the people you can rely on are the ones within a helicopter ride away.”
Foster agreed, adding he would like to see this type of cooperation in the fleet become the rule rather than the exception.
“Things like that should be more common,” said Foster. “It saves a lot of time and man hours being able to expedite the process like that.”
Rear Adm. John Meier, Commander Carrier Strike Group 10, sums up the culture of self-sufficiency as being, “self – unit – CSG-10.”
“It starts from within and moves outward to other units within the Strike Group,” Meier said. “Vella Gulf and Monterey know in a fight, waiting on tech support or a repair part to make its way downrange is not an option. These are great examples of collaboration and organic problem solving and the ‘fight tonight’ mindset – vital to our success in combat.”
USS Vella Gulf and USS Monterey are Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers assigned to CSG-10, also known as the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group.
For more news from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn69/.