Port Hueneme is on the list of best kept secrets of the West Coast Fleet. Ironic considering it is also one of the most beneficial stops a ship can make, especially when preparing for deployment.
The majority of shipboard Sailors are not familiar with Naval Base Ventura County which is primarily a Sea Bee base. After a first visit, however, it is something most Sailors wish to repeat due to all the benefits. A week long visit to Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme Division is to complete Combat and Weapons Systems grooms. It is one of the few West Coast ports where all the technical representatives who assist in troubleshooting may also be the same engineers who originally designed the equipment. From the AEGIS Weapons System to the consoles in Combat Information Center that display the information, to any system that uses the information to fire missiles or guns, everything is given a complete inspection with any broken or degraded parts identified and in most cases, replaced. Through the technical expertise of the Naval Base Ventura County personnel who came on board, we were able to correct many long standing material issues on board and some unanticipated improvements were included as well
Port Hueneme is amazing for the support the Combat Systems and Weapons departments receive, but that is only a small part of the benefits the crew receives. The Deck Division Personnel received training on underway replenishment evolutions to ensure the safest transfer of food and stores. The entire crew participated in large amounts of damage control training to be better prepared in the event of a fire or flooding casualty on board. All members of the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Team attended intense training that allowed HIGGINS to prepare for the Practical ASW Readiness Review.
Even all of those items are a portion of the perks to the trip as they only focus on things related to the ship. The in-depth assessment and correction of equipment means there will be fewer material issues to address during future Total Ship Readiness Availabilities (TSRA). Through the assistance of the Port Hueneme Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Team, HIGGINS MWR was able to schedule outings for the crew: a chartered bus to watch a Dodger’s game, a trip to a go-kart track and a rock climbing adventure. These outings would not have been possible without the much appreciated coordination and support we received. There were many other opportunities provided to the crew to schedule for themselves if they piqued their interest: kayaking, snorkeling with sea lions, parasailing, wine trails, and golfing to name a few.
For a small time investment out of home port, a ship visit to Port Hueneme pays huge dividends in combat readiness, Sailor quality of life and further strengthens the teamwork between deploying fleet units and the expert technical organizations ashore.