Northwest Military Blogs: Fleet Talk

Posts made in: January, 2016 (6) Currently Viewing: 1 - 6 of 6

January 7, 2016 at 11:36am

LinkedIn-like for the Navy

The Chief of Naval Operations' (CNO) Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) recently developed a basic prototype for an information system that will promote more collaboration between sailors and commands during the job detailing process.

"Our goal is to build a process that is transparent, flexible and gives more influence to commands, so they can build better teams, as well as to sailors so they can have more say over their lives," said Lt. Cmdr. Mike Mabrey, CRIC project lead.

Their clickable prototype represents the progress achieved after a two-day workshop with digital-services consulting group 18F, who strive to bring the best practices from top tech companies and startups to government systems.

"User-centric design is a huge tenet at 18F; we want to build technology with end users in mind," said Alex Pandel, a user experience designer at 18F. "We gathered as many of the end users in the room as possible for these two days to sketch potential interfaces for this tool to help align user needs and get something tangible that we could start building off of."

This initiative advances the Department of Defense's vision for all the services to create smarter, more collaborative detailing systems.

"We're going to launch LinkedIn-style pilot programs that help match up servicemembers looking for their next assignment with units who are looking for qualified people to fill an opening," said Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, in a recent interview on his Force of the Future initiative.

"Think of a (sailor) logging on, setting up a profile, seeing what they're qualified for, and selecting what they want to do, while the unit looking to bring someone on sees the profiles that fit their criteria, and chooses who they're interested in," Carter said.

This prototype and the CRIC's work are at the forefront of the Navy's early efforts to develop a system in line with the DoD's Force of the Future that also strengthens the Navy team.

CRIC Project Lead Lt. Cmdr. Rollie Wicks describes the platform as a "talent marketplace" and identifies three distinct user groups: sailors, commands and Naval Personnel Command (NPC).

In collaborative detailing, Mabrey said sailors will have the ability to see the same job opportunities that the detailer sees and will have additional information on the specific requirements of the assignment as provided by the command itself.

The CRIC team also aims to create a simpler platform for sailors to maintain and update their online record, so commands have the most accurate information on their skills, experience, and needs.

"Navy personnel records exist across more than one hundred different systems right now, and so it's very difficult to update the Navy on the profile of you," said Wicks. "We're trying to fix this so the Navy can better understand who you are, what your skills are, and can then recruit you into a job that's going to match those skills."

As a separate user group, Mabrey said commands will have the ability to search these profiles, reach out directly to sailors, and use this information to put together the most compatible team for their specific mission requirements.

As the final user group, NPC's role would be to reconcile the needs and wants of both commands and sailors with any broader Navy requirements and other manning considerations, said Mabrey.

Wicks added that the CRIC is also working to leverage the modern mobile functionality already familiar to most sailors.

"We grew up using computers," said Wicks. "We want to be able to take a picture of our awards from our smart phone and use that to update our record online. We want online cloud computing services and mobile devices that make our lives easier."

After further development, the CRIC will test the system by using the information dominance corps as a trial community in the fall of 2016.

"We're going to allow them to use this information platform and we're going to work with commands, sailors and NPC to pilot this new talent marketplace concept," said Mabrey. "From the information that we'll gain over one year, we'll be able to give some good data points to senior leaders and let them decide if we can scale this up to the broader officer pool and eventually the enlisted detailing process as well."

The CRIC was established in 2012 to provide junior leaders with an opportunity to identify and rapidly field emerging technologies that address the Navy's most pressing challenges.

January 7, 2016 at 11:51am

Naval Hospital Bremerton welcomes first baby of 2016

Shawnee Kraften holds Isabella Rose Kraften, born at 11:23 p.m. Jan. 1, 2016. Photo credit: Douglas Stutz

It took Isabella almost the entire day into the new year to join her parents, but make it she did as the first baby born at Naval Hospital Bremerton for 2016.

Naval Hospital Bremerton's Northwest Beginnings Family Birth Center assisted in the delivery of Isabella Rose Kraften at 11:23 p.m. to Shawnee and Jason Kraften on Jan. 1, 2016.

Isabella weighed six pounds, 14.2 ounces and is 19 inches long.

Jason is a machinist mate 3rd class assigned to USS Ohio (SSGN 726) from El Paso, Texas, and Shawnee is from Spanaway.

Newborn Isabella and mother are doing well.

"I came in around 8 p.m. but wasn't completely ready. But then two-and-an-a-half hours later I was. The water broke and she was here," said Shawnee.

The Northwest Beginnings Family Birth Center staff were busy helping with deliveries throughout December. There were 48 new babies for December. Overall, Naval Hospital Bremerton recorded 710 births for 2015, an average of approximately 59 per month.

"The staff here were excellent. I couldn't have asked for any better. They were very helpful and patient with me," Shawnee said.

January 14, 2016 at 11:24am

Military decorations and awards program changes

Courtesy photo

The Pentagon has made a number of changes to the military decorations and awards program to ensure servicemembers receive appropriate recognition of their actions, according to a statement released Jan. 7.

The changes come after a long and deliberate review, a defense official told reporters in a Jan. 6 background briefing.

Then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel initiated the review in 2014 to improve the military awards program by harnessing lessons learned from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the official said.

"He wanted to ensure that we're appropriately recognizing our servicemembers for their services, actions and sacrifices," the defense official added.

The Pentagon statement points out key changes to the decorations and awards program:

  • Implementation of new goals and processes to improve timeliness of the Medal of Honor and other valor awards;
  • Standardization of the meaning and use of the Combat Distinguishing Device, or "V" device, as a valor-only device to ensure unambiguous and distinctive recognition for preeminent acts of combat valor;
  • Creation of a new combat device, to be represented by a "C" worn on the relevant decoration, to distinctly recognize those servicemembers performing meritoriously under the most arduous combat conditions;
  • Introduction of a "remote impacts" device, signified by an "R" to be worn on the relevant decoration, to recognize servicemembers who use remote technology to directly impact combat operations; and
  • Adoption of a common definition of Meritorious Service Under Combat Conditions to determine eligibility for personal combat awards.

Service Cross, Silver Star Review

To "ensure that those servicemembers who performed valorously were recognized at the appropriate level," the defense official said that Defense Secretary Ash Carter has directed the military departments to review Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross, and Silver Star Medal recommendations since Sept. 11, 2001, for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are approximately 1,000 Silver Star and 100 service cross recommendations under review, the official said. While there is a possibility a medal could get upgraded, no servicemember will have the award downgraded, he said.

The defense official noted "unusual Medal of Honor awards trends," as one reason for the review.

The first seven Medal of Honor awards for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan were posthumous, he said. There may have been a perception that only a fallen servicemember could receive the Nation's highest military award for valor, he said.

After the Defense Department clarified the "risk of life" portion for the Medal of Honor's criteria in 2010, all 10 recipients have been living, he noted. The review is to ensure that no one deserving of a higher honor has been overlooked, the defense official said.

The results of the reviews are due to the secretary of defense Sept. 30, 2017, he said.

January 21, 2016 at 10:02am

USS John C. Stennis deploys

Sailors man the rails on USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) flight deck as the ship gets underway for a regularly scheduled deployment. Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Andre T. Richard

Sailors aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) departed their homeport of Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton for a regularly scheduled deployment, Jan. 15.

Stennis sailors manned the rails as the ship sailed away from the pier at 8:30 a.m. and began the transit through the Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean.

While it is hard to say goodbye to loved ones, sailors are keeping a positive attitude and looking forward to all of the experiences.

"Deployment is bittersweet," said Logistics Specialist Seaman Miguel Torres, from Tacoma. "I hate having to leave my family behind, but I get to see the world. I'm excited to see all of the sites that people only get to see on TV. I get to experience the real thing."

For a quarter of the crew, this is their first deployment. For other sailors, this isn't their first rodeo.

"This is my second deployment, but I'm still really excited," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Ryan Blackwell, from Crystal Lake, Illinois. "My first deployment was a great experience, and I learned a lot. I'm mostly looking forward to port visits and experiencing all of the cultures I've never seen before."

Stennis' crew has spent 56 percent of the past year underway preparing for this deployment to the Western Pacific area of operations. They expect to participate in a number of exercises; training, integrating and building capacity with allies in that region.

"Deploying is the culmination of our training," said Capt. Mike Wettlaufer, Stennis' commanding officer. "This crew has attacked every challenge thrown their way, and as we leave to answer our Nation's call, I couldn't be any prouder of them. We are ready."

Stennis is the nuclear-powered flagship of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSSG), which will also deploy as part of an ongoing rotation of U.S. forces supporting maritime security operations in waters around the world.

The strike group will be the centerpiece of the Great Green Fleet, a year-long initiative highlighting the Navy's efforts to transform its energy use to increase operational capability. JCSSG will use energy efficiency measures, to include technologies and operational procedures and alternative fuel in the course of its normal operations.

January 22, 2016 at 10:02am

Contesting the arresting gear

ABE3 Michael Toone, assigned to Nimitz, pulls on a lanyard attached to a support beam designed to hold a main engine cylinder piston, in preparation for maintenance on the ship’s arresting gear. Photo credit: MC3 William Blees

Having an aircraft land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) is an extremely dangerous feat. Seeing the aircraft ripping through the skies, then suddenly touch down and come to an almost immediate halt is a process that few ever get to see in person. Capturing a landing aircraft involves numerous flight deck personnel utilizing four cables, called cross deck pendants, and an aircraft's tail-hook to stop the aircraft landing on the deck at full speed.

Calculating the exact pressure needed to stop every different type of aircraft landing is a science and could mean the difference between life and death. The cross deck pendants catching the planes can't do their job without the five arresting gear engines designed to take the force of each landing aircraft, making them a necessity for ship operations.

Air Department's V-2 division is currently in the process of taking apart arresting gear engine five and performing maintenance to prepare Nimitz for sea.

"This is corrective maintenance because it was leaking," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Robert Reed, the leading petty officer of V-2's arresting gear division. "It's important because if it is leaking it won't do its job, which is catching the plane properly."

The arresting gear engines on board Nimitz are hydraulic systems that need packing at the end in order to keep fluid from leaking out. In order to effectively stop an aircraft landing on the flight deck, that packing has to occasionally be replaced.

Engine five has an important role as the barricade engine. The barricade is what Nimitz uses to catch aircraft in an emergency landing. It doesn't get operated as often as the other engines, inspected as often, or used in actual landings, but it plays a vital role on board.

"Its like an emergency airbag," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Michael Toone. "So the packing on it doesn't get replaced as often as the other ones, but you need to be able to catch an aircraft in an emergency. It has to work perfectly."

The maintenance associated with the equipment is difficult and has brought on unforeseen challenges.

"The biggest challenge we've had so far was that we couldn't get the ram out of the main engine cylinder (MEC), so we had to utilize shop 740," said Reed, referring to civilian workers from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, where Nimitz is currently undergoing an extended incremental availability.

The ram, which is similar to a giant piston, acts as a syringe pushing fluid through the MEC.

"Shop 740 brought their equipment and helped us jack the ram out of the MEC. They were a big help to us," said Reed.

Even without complications, maintenance can prove to be difficult due to sheer size alone.

"It's probably the biggest, heaviest equipment we have installed on our systems," said Toone. "You're looking at around sixteen thousand pounds of equipment that you have to move more than twenty feet to access. It's big and heavy, and replacing the packing itself around a twenty-inch diameter piston is actually a pretty delicate process. If you damage, bend, or warp it in anyway, it's no good and you have to get new packing."

The challenges faced give junior and senior sailors alike an opportunity to learn more about their equipment and think on their feet in order to overcome obstacles.

"This maintenance requires all sorts of technical expertise and knowledge on how the system operates," said Toone. "Actually being able to get in there and take it apart is a great learning tool to teach them how the whole system works. This gives them hands on training."

The maintenance has no real timeline, as it could change at any time depending on what complications are faced. However, with every new complication there is another chance for sailors to learn. Reed said it could take a couple days to a couple weeks to complete, depending on whether or not things run smoothly.

Launch and recovery is essential to the success of the mission. Having aircraft catapult off of the flight deck only to come touching down later on is like a well constructed symphony with V-2 division working constantly to tune all the equipment. V-2 continues to tirelessly complete mission critical maintenance in order to get Nimitz back to sea.

January 28, 2016 at 10:21am

One community, many paths

Three MH-60R Sea Hawks assigned to the Raptors of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 prepare to land on USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) flight deck. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago

Pacific winds whip across the nonskid of the flight deck on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) as she cuts through glassy water reflecting a bright blue sky.

Pilots with steady hands on the controls of haze grey Sea Hawks, beat the JP-5 heavy air down and away in time with flight crew sailors directing each takeoff and landing. The Chargers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14 and the Raptors of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 are currently deployed with Stennis. These squadrons' pilots rely on extensive training, muscle memory, and on-the-job experience to navigate the dangers associated with their line of work.

Lt. Jason "OMG" Gaidis of HSC-14 from Brownsville, Indiana, said big mistakes can result in the loss of life, limb and equipment; which is why aviation officers must not only have the necessary skills, but also confidence in their own abilities to overcome any challenge.

People with distinct personalities seem to be attracted to, or develop within, this kind of job.

Lt. Pete "Therapist'" Listron of HSC-14, a helo pilot for four years from La Grange, Georgia, and known within HSC-14 for his energetic character, is a good example of that. He uses his emphatic personal motto, "Tight, tight, mega tight!" often but most especially to describe the huge rush he experiences when flying. He said his favorite thing about piloting helos is when he gets to fly backwards. Flying, though, requires all of a pilot's attention while using his or her whole body to operate the helo safely and smoothly.

"There's a lot more to being a pilot than just going up and flying," said Lt. Ashley "Mr. Ping" Hallford of HSM-71, a Sea Hawk pilot for four years, from Southlake, Texas. "There's a lot of time commitment involved, specifically with mission planning."

Other than the many various contingencies involved in planning a mission, the physics of flying a helo present a more fundamental challenge. Gaidis explained the complexity of rotary-winged flight as being like a balancing act that seems nearly impossible at first glance. However, due to extensive training, that skill becomes second nature, similar to riding a bike or driving a car.

"Imagine balancing three gyros on top of each other," said Gaidis. "For a helo pilot, you imagine the result you want and your hands do it."

Lt. j.g. Alex Wells of HSC-14, from Vestal, New York, explained that officers who make it through flight school and then graduate from either fixed-wing or rotary-wing training are nowhere near being finished with their education. Pilots are constantly learning and evolving to keep up with changing technologies so they can perform at the top of their game.

"It's an unbelievably large amount of work to be a pilot, but it's also a crazy amount of fun," said Gaidis.

Each pilot has to overcome many difficult obstacles to reach their goal. They must graduate from several different education courses and maintain a high standard of physical fitness while spending countless hours studying and training to eventually be able to fly.

Some are following a dream, living for a thrill, wanting to improve their lives, or modeling their life after someone they admire.

"(I wanted to be a helo pilot) when I was a kid; that's kind of what pushed me toward it," said Wells.

Few people are lucky enough to reach a childhood goal the way Wells has. Perhaps that's why some prefer to experience an individual moment up in the air to its fullest. They devote all of their attention to the helo and its surroundings, not just as a job they are tasked with but as a fluid moment.

"Flying is dynamic," said Listron. "You're in it to win it."

Some sailors view getting commissioned as a pilot to be the next step in their career. Gaidis used to be an aviation structural mechanic second class, earning his aviation warfare and naval aircrew pins before commissioning in 2010. He was a crew member aboard C-2A Greyhound cargo aircraft when he realized he wanted to be an officer. He applied to the Seaman to Adm. Officer Program several times before being accepted.

"I knew I wanted it and ‘no' means try harder," said Gaidis. "Once the opportunity came I worked hard for three years and made it happen."

Despite the wide variety of reasons people fly helicopters, pilots have formed a tight-knit group. Listron likes the community saying they have bonded over the years they've worked together and have created a culture all their own akin to a brotherhood. Like any close community, helo pilots have developed camaraderie with one another.