PEARL HARBOR - The guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG-73), along with 10 other surface ships and 18 submarines home ported in Hawaii, participated in the week long exercise Koa Kai in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands, March 31-April 5.
The Port Royal participated in Koa Kai, the primary integrated training event for Mid-Pacific Surface Combatant (MPSC) units with the goal of achieving deployment certifications and training.
"All the ships that are stationed here in Pearl Harbor, including those under Destroyer Squadron 31, use Koa Kai as their certifying event for the independent deployers," said Capt. Eric F. Weilenman, commanding officer of the Port Royal.
Sailors aboard the Port Royal took part in various exercises during Koa Kai, including visit, board, search and seizure drills (VBSS), anti-submarine warfare and counter piracy exercises, among others.
"This exercise has been great for getting our crew ready for deployment and certified in all the areas that we need to be prior to that deployment," Weilenman said.
Weilenman, who became the Port Royal's commanding officer March 17, said that the crew performed well during Koa Kai.
"I think they've been doing great for a ship that, 25 months ago, was in the midst of a huge maintenance challenge and now has come through that and is beginning to transition into an operational frame of mind," said Weilenman. "This is exactly what we need to get us to the level of proficiency for where we need to be when we get ready to deploy."
The Port Royal has recently been through two emergent repair availability periods in the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyards and has not been on deployment since 2008.
According to Weilenman, the current crew is nearly complete with their training cycle and certifications and is almost ready to deploy.
"We're getting to do things that we've never been able to do before as far as what we're going to need on deployment," said Electronics Technician 3rd Class Joseph Crawford. "Having 95 percent of the crew onboard never see true sea time and be able to pull together and pass all of our training exercises with flying colors and really taking control of the ship as our own is phenomenal."
Port Royal's command master chief said that after exercise Koa Kai, the crew has little more training to do before making its way to a deployment.
"We're pretty much done after this event," said Command Master Chief Michael J. Fasano. "We have an engineering assessment coming up this week to finish up."
Weilenman is optimistic about the crew and the upcoming deployment the ship has been preparing for.
"I think this crew is excited about deployment," he said. "It's the culmination of years of training, and they're looking forward to it."