On April 15th, General Dynamics-Bath Iron Works (BIW) formally transferred custody of Pre Commissioning Unit SPRUANCE (DDG 111) to the U.S. Navy in a ceremony held at the shipyard in Bath, ME.
This Aegis Guided Missile Destroyer is the latest in the line of Arleigh Burke-Class Destroyers and was named in honor of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, commander of Task Force 16 at the Battle of Midway in WWII, and leader of many of the pivotal naval battles that won the war in the Pacific.
Friday’s ceremony marked a major milestone in SPRUANCE’s path to becoming a commissioned and operational warship. The ship was christened SPRUANCE in June of 2010 and is on schedule for her commissioning later this fall. The transfer of custody from BIW to the Navy signifies the end of the construction phase and the beginning of the counterpart training phase in the ongoing process of bringing the ship to life.
Delivery occurs once the ship’s baseline construction contract is determined to be complete. It is up to the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) to make that determination through a series of Sea Trials designed to assess the progress of the construction and the readiness of the ship to enter the fleet. SPRUANCE completed her final Sea Trials in March and was deemed fit for the scheduled transfer date a month later.
Upon custody transfer, “hull 505” –the designation assigned by BIW- officially became PCU SPRUANCE (DDG 111), with Commander Tate Westbrook, USN as her inaugural Commanding Officer. CDR Westbrook, a native of Murfreesboro, TN, assumed command of the crew in March of 2010. When he accepted the ship on behalf of the U.S. Navy, CDR Westbrook officially took command of the physical ship as well.
“A successful series of Sea Trials demonstrated that SPRUANCE represents yet another excellent product of BIW and was ready for transfer to the fleet,” said CDR Westbrook. “The on-time delivery of the ship and the superb quality of the construction are a continued testament to the fact that ‘Bath Built is Best Built’™.”
As captain, CDR Westbrook is ultimately responsible for the well being of the ship and the 267 officers and enlisted men and women onboard. It is the captain’s job to preside over the maintenance and material condition of the ship and the training of the crew, ensuring that the command is fit to carry out its duties at sea.
Prior to ship’s custody transfer, the focus of the crew’s training has been on administrative systems and basic level qualifications. With the ship’s delivery, the focus will transition to advanced-level team training in an effort to qualify in the areas of Navigation, Engineering, and Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection, in addition to counterpart training on the ship’s equipment with BIW personnel. The Crew Certification process ensures the ship and crew are ready and able to depart Maine and make the voyage to San Diego, CA, SPRUANCE’s homeport.
As of Friday, 98% of the SPRUANCE crew had made the transition from the Pre Commissioning Detachment in San Diego to Bath, Maine. While the crew continues to train for their qualifications, their responsibilities onboard are beginning to increase as they sequentially take over ownership of the ship’s spaces from the shipyard.
Upon the completion of Sea Trials in March, SPRUANCE began the process of accepting over 700 spaces, tanks, and passageways. This will continue throughout the next two months. Though the ship has been officially delivered to the Navy, every space must be thoroughly inspected and any minor discrepancies corrected before the crew accepts final ownership. Having accepted a space, the responsibility falls to the crew to maintain it to Navy standards.
Once spaces are accepted and cleaned by the crew to Navy standards, the crew begins to load-out those spaces with the tools and consumable equipment required to manage the ship. Eighteen million dollars worth of materials -14,000 individual inventory line items- will be loaded by the crew into their spaces throughout the ship. Tools, damage control gear, test equipment, office supplies and everything else the crew need onboard to do their jobs must be moved aboard and stowed. Every tool, and every piece of gear has its proper place in the appropriate space and it is up to the crew to ensure that it gets there.
The next significant step in SPRUANCE’s journey is scheduled to occur this summer when the crew moves aboard their floating home. The majority of the crew is currently living in military housing in the city of Brunswick, ME. In June, the sailors will start living and eating onboard and begin standing their in-port watches. They will continue to live and work on board until the ship is ready to depart in September.