ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- It's a multi-billion dollar warship, outfitted with some of the world's most advanced technology. Radar, sonar and global positioning systems (GPS) screens fill the navigation bridge.
Many of the tools of the trade have changed through time, but today's Sailor relies heavily on yesterday's concepts to get the ship from one location to another.
In the center of the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge's (LHD 3) navigation bridge is a quartermaster with his eyes glued to a screen. He and his department are responsible for the safe navigation of the ship.
"The safe navigation of the ship is priority number one," said Lt. Cmdr. Sam Herbst, the ship's navigation officer. "And that is my and the Quartermaster's (QM) job to accomplish."
Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (KSGARG) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are currently conducting scenario-based exercises, involving synthetic geography, called ARGMEUEX.
"The quartermasters and I are making sure the ship stays in safe water and doesn't stand any danger," said Herbst. "We are also charged with making sure the ship doesn't violate anyone's territorial waters."
To make safe transit possible, they have a number of tools at their disposal.
"We are using the latest Voyage Managing System (VMS) there is. The equipment is cutting edge. The days of paper maps are pretty much gone," said Quartermaster 1st Class James Dyke. "We have four different GPS systems, we have three different radars just on the bridge alone, and the equipment is very easy to use. In just a few weeks, I could train someone to make voyages across the world by themselves."
Replenishments-at-sea (RAS) are an integral part of a naval mission. During a RAS two ships are sailing more than ten knots, completely parallel, while transferring fuel and cargo. For this reason, a RAS requires very complicated maneuvering.
"If the ship is just a few degrees off, you could end up being a case study," said Dyke. "It is the QM's job to maintain complete accuracy of the deck log during a RAS. If anything were to happen, that's the first thing the Navy would want to see."
Navigation could be considered one of the most important jobs on any ship. According to Herbst, there is no room for error.
"Our Sailors can never make a mistake," said Herbst. "There is no small navigational error. You don't sort of hit a buoy or sort of run aground. It's all or nothing. Our Sailors are either performing at the absolute top of their game, or it's going to be their worst day in the Navy."
Dyke explains he holds a lot of pride for what he does for the Navy.
"I love everything about being a QM," said Dyke. "I like the history behind the rate; we are one of the oldest rates in the navy. What's more nautical than navigation?"
The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are participating in ARG/MEUEX, a scenario-based amphibious integration exercise, in preparation for a future deployment.
For more news from USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd3/.