Throughout the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Russell’s (DDG 59) 2016-2017 Extended Selected Restricted Availability, the ship’s navigation and bridge watch teams, led by the Navigator Lt. j.g. Leslie Beatrice, have gone to great lengths to maintain their technical proficiency. Training events have included twice weekly roundtables led by qualified division officers, weekly usage of Naval Base San Diego’s Navigation, Seamanship, and Shiphandling Trainer (NSST), San Diego harbor tugboat tours and Voyage Management System (VMS) refresher training at Afloat Training Group (ATG) San Diego.
Weekly roundtables are organized by the ship’s Training Officer Lt. j.g. Mika Tabach. These have focused on topics like bridge resource management, engineering casualties and warfare tactics integration. These discussions serve as refreshers for qualified division officers (DIVO) and opportunities for unqualified officers to continue working toward qualifications on topics such as surface warfare officer engineering and officer of the deck underway.
For Lt. j.g. Christian Andrews, who completed his first DIVO tour onboard USS Independence (LCS 2) with LCS Crew 202, the roundtables have been a welcomed opportunity. “It has been great to become more familiar with the driving and fighting nuances of the destroyer fleet,” he said.
In concert with these discussions, each week 5 to 8 watch team members complete shiphandling training at Naval Base San Diego’s NSST. At NSST, the watch standers further review shiphandling techniques and best practices with instructors- all retired commanding officers with decades of experience.
Ensign Taylor Bowden has attended multiple sessions. “In light of being in the shipyard and not underway it provides a great substitute for the real thing,” he said. “This is especially true considering that the simulator allows you to repeat evolutions like pier work and anchoring many times per hour, at a rate that would be impossible with a real vessel.”
Watch standers have also joined tugboat crews during harbor operations with naval vessels. These trips have helped Russell’s team members better understand the capabilities and limitations of San Diego‘s harbor tugs.
“It was great to see operations from the perspective of the tugboat driver; I definitely think that the experience will help to ensure that our near-pier maneuvering is seamless,” said Ensign Demond Brown. “It was also a chance to identify key harbor navigation aids.”
VMS training with ATG proved to be valuable for Russell’s DIVOs and quartermasters (QM) alike. Those who joined the crew during the shipyard period were exposed to the system for the first time and more experienced team members received a hands-on refresher. For the QMs in particular, the event was a chance to refresh their skillset and ensure that all members of the division have maintained the same high level of proficiency.