SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- USS Makin Island advanced significantly closer to full deployment readiness after completing ammunition on-load off the coast of southern California.
Makin Island's Weapons Department completed the five day evolution in four days, which included the loading, staging and storing 1,106 pallets of ordnance, valued at more than $65 million.
Chief Aviation Ordnanceman James Henry, from Fayette, Alabama, said planning was critical in conducting the on-load smoothly and efficiently. The evolution brought the ship closer to deployment readiness, while providing essential training for the crew.
"Preparations for ammo on-load started six months ago during phased maintenance availability," said Henry. "We had to get all our spaces and magazines up to standards, and make sure all our personnel were qualified to do the job. This is a warship, and getting ordnance back on board is important in getting Makin Island fully mission-ready."
MH-60S helicopters assigned to Helicopter Combat Squadron 8, the Eightballers, and HSC-21, the Blackjacks, delivered more than 1.3 million pounds of munitions to the Makin Island flight deck from Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook.
Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Ronald Pierre, from Brooklyn, New York, said teamwork and trust is paramount when working with explosive materials.
"All the hard work and training we went through leading up to this allowed us to operate very efficiently together," said Pierre. "It's an all-hands effort. It wouldn't have gone smoothly if everyone wasn't behind us."
Safety remained the main effort during the on-load. Cohesion among several departments resulted in a safe and successful evolution that finished ahead of schedule.
"There were some long days and nights, but we stayed focused and completed the mission on time, without mishap", said Pierre. "Everyone kept their heads in the game and looked out for one another."
Receiving, moving and storing the large amount of munitions required a concerted effort from all hands, explained Ordnance Handling Officer, Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Grier.
"We relied on the entire team. Every department on the ship played a key role in making sure the ordnance made it from the shore to the magazines safely," Grier said. "The Sailors get all the credit for this success. They did what needed to be done by the book. In the end, we had zero discrepancies and zero mishaps. Not even a paper cut."
Commanding Officer Capt. Jon P. Rodgers met with the weapons department after the on-load to congratulate them on a job well done.
"The crew's performance during this evolution was exemplary," Rodgers said. "The crew prepared, planned and executed a well orchestrated and potentially dangerous onload. The services of HSC 8, HSC 15, HSC 21 and HSC 23 along with the professionals at Fallbrook upheld the highest standards of safety and achieved a major milestone in getting Makin Island ready to deploy."
Makin Island's task is to embark, deploy, and land elements of a Marine landing force in an amphibious assault by helicopters, landing craft, and amphibious vehicles. The ship is midway through its training cycle as it prepares for a scheduled deployment this fall.
For more news from USS Makin Island (LHD 8), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd8/