EARLE, N.J. (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) successfully completed an ammunition on load Jan. 21 in Earle, N.J., bringing the ship one step closer to its scheduled deployment in 2011.
Bataan's Weapons Department, partnered with personnel from Naval Weapons Station Earle, took on nearly 1,000 pallets of ordnance during the four-day evolution.
"As an amphibious ready group, it is essential to have our ammunition on board in case we are called upon for any mission," said Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Troy King, one of Weapons Department's roving supervisors.
Sailors used a number of techniques to maneuver the ammunition from the pier to the ship.
"We used two cranes, diesel fork lifts, electric forklifts, pallet jacks and good old aviation ordnancemen muscle," said King. "We on loaded an assortment of ammunition including bombs, aircraft missiles, ship launched missiles, rockets, small arms ammunition, demolition materials and ship's defense ammunition."
The goal aboard Bataan was to be expeditious without compromising safety. The event was meticulously planned for months and when it came time for execution, safety remained at the forefront.
Hazards of electromagnetic radiation to ordnance conditions were set throughout the ship. Every fork-lift driver had a spotter, and every elevator operator had a quality-assurance safety observer. Everyone involved in the on load was required to wear the proper personal protective equipment. The hangar bay was secured to nonessential personnel to keep the crew safe and to contribute to a more efficient ammunition on load.
"As always safety is a major part of any evolution we do," said King. "The priority is to bring all ammunition on board and send everyone home with all of their fingers and toes. We are counter productive to mission readiness if we damage equipment or injure personnel."
Multiple departments worked together to seamlessly accomplish the on load.
Machinist's mates worked the elevators, the fire controlmen helped with traffic control and rigging ammo and supply provided hot meals and extended the chow hours when necessary.
"Of course Weapons Department and our fire controlmen played a major role in the on load, but we couldn't have done it without the support of a lot of people," said King. "There are a lot of moving parts involved with preparing for and executing a major on load such as this one. I personally want to thank everyone that supported us and made it a successful and safe evolution."
The on load also gave Sailors the opportunity to receive some in-rate training that isn't available everyday.
"The fire controlmen received on the job training; the new Sailors now know how to properly secure hazardous ammunitions such as the closed in weapons system while transporting it and securing it for sea," said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Charlie Whorton, a flight deck communication rigger.
"We have a bunch of young Sailors. It's my first on load, and we learned a lot from the senior guys - our supervisors," said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Derek Curtsinger, a magazine assistance supervisor.
Sailors involved with the load, sometimes worked 15 hour shifts, but the hard work paid off, and Bataan wrapped up the on load a day early.
"They worked extremely hard," said King. We had to force some of them to go to bed, or they would have worked through the night. As the command master chief would say, 'they are all rock stars!'"
For more news from USS Bataan (LHD 5), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd5/.