Hawaiian Operating Area, Pacific Ocean – Thirteen midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy (USNA) and various Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) units are embarked in USS Benfold (DDG 65) during the 22nd Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise.
Throughout each summer, groups of midshipmen have the opportunity to embark surface ships to experience life at sea. During their stay, midshipmen shadow an enlisted or officer running mate, are integrated into the ship’s crew, and have the opportunity to participate in evolutions, such as damage control training, watchstanding, combat system scenarios, and seamanship drills.
“At the Naval Academy we learn a lot about leadership and Naval Science and this cruise has given me a realistic snapshot of how junior officers in the SWO (Surface Warfare) community uphold these standards on a daily basis,” said Midshipman 1/C Tyler Whitmore. “Specifically, I learned a lot from the different levels of experience; from the most junior Sailor to the first and second tour division officers, all the way to the Commanding Officer.”
The 2010 RIMPAC, a biennial event hosted by Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, involves 14 nations, 32 ships, 5 submarines, over 170 aircraft and 20,000 personnel from June 23 through August 1 around the Hawaiian Operating Areas and islands. RIMPAC is a multinational exercise that prepares forces to be interoperable and ready for a wide range of potential operations. This, in turn, helps ensure stability through the Pacific Rim, aiding the development and prosperity of all participating nations.
“I cannot emphasize how lucky these midshipmen are to be witnessing RIMPAC. The ability to see how multinational forces operate together and establish a working relationship, coupled with the numerous live firing exercises, specifically the Harpoon, is beneficial to their professional knowledge and experience,” said Cmdr. Kevin Brand, Benfold’s Commanding Officer. “In addition to the plethora of evolutions during RIMPAC, midshipmen have also benefited from following our crew around, learning their job and how they all contribute to ensuring our operational schedule is executed.”
Midshipmen have participated in three of the four phases, including: schedule of events (SOE), force integration training (FIT), and tactical phases. During the SOE phase, multiple gunnery, missile, anti-submarine, air defense, and maritime security operation (MSO) exercises were conducted. The FIT phase consists of integrated training within the air, land, and maritime forces in preparation for the tactical phase. In the culminating RIMPAC phase, units participate in a warlike scenario, allowing operating forces to react to real world contingencies and combat operations.
Through all of the evolutions, Benfold will have launched two, Standard Missiles (SM-2); a Harpoon; a Vertically Launched Anti-Submarine Rocket (VLA) torpedo; an over-the-side torpedo; and over 100, 5-inch rounds.
“The amount of evolutions within the RIMPAC exercise has been an eye-opening experience for me. The multiple live fire evolutions combined with the number of warfare scenarios has brought my professional knowledge from text to reality,” said Midshipman 1/C Eric Smith. “A significant chunk of the crew has never seen some of the missile or torpedo launches and I consider myself lucky that I am witnessing these events first-hand and with less than four years in the Navy.”
While underway for RIMPAC, Benfold hosted a film crew from the upcoming movie “Battleship.” A handful of midshipmen were provided the opportunity to act as background personnel in a few of the scenes.
Benfold is one of 32 ships that participated in the RIMPAC 2010 exercise in the Commander, U.S. Third Fleet Area of Responsibility and is a part of Commander, Carrier Strike Group Seven and Commander, Destroyer Squadron Seven. For more information on RIMPAC, visit http://www.c3f.navy.mil/rimpac_2010.html or “RIMPAC 2010” on Facebook. For more information on USS Benfold, visit http://www.benfold.navy.mil.