PACIFIC OCEAN - The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates USS Underwood (FFG 36) and USS Curts (FFG 38) conducted vertical replenishments at sea with USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2), July 5.
During the six-hour evolution Underwood took on 60 pallets of stores, supplies and ammunition.
The original plan called for Underwood to complete a connected replenishment (CONREP), but because of engineering issues, Cmdr. Peter Mirisola, commanding officer of Underwood, decided it was safer to do a vertical replenishment (VERTREP) utilizing an SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the "Vipers" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 48.
"Right now we only have control of one of our gas turbine engines," said Lt. Michael Hellard, chief engineer aboard Underwood. "It's not safe to go alongside a ship in such close proximity at 150 to 180 feet away from them with one engine. We've had to cancel our CONREP and move it all to VERTREP so we're farther away from the UNREP [underway replenishment] ship. It's a safer distance, and it gives us more time to stop [the ship if needed]."
Two HSL 48 crews flew between Underwood and Sacagawea during stormy conditions to load palletized cargo.
"The weather is obviously playing a big role in today's events, causing us to have to turn, but the ship is doing a good job at keeping us out of it as much as they can," said Lt. j.g. Lance Herndon, HSL 48 pilot.
The aircrew was able to establish a steady pattern in conjunction with the helicopter from Curts.
"Both ships are doing the VERTREP with the Sacagawea at the same time," continued Herndon. "You get into a rhythm when one aircraft is there picking up a load; you have the other aircraft back at their own ship dropping off a load. So you just rotate back and forth, and it requires a lot of communication between both aircraft, as well as an understanding of how our inter-aircraft operations work."
On board Underwood, it was an all hands evolution as Sailors lined the centerline passageway to haul pallets from the flight deck, break down supplies and distribute them to their appropriate locations aboard the ship.
"Since we've been out to sea, we haven't done [an UNREP]," said Chief Logistics Specialist (SW) Laking Brooks, the supply chief of Underwood. "This allows for the whole ship to get together to bring on everything from food, toilet paper, consumables; the whole nine yards. I'm surprised because the atmosphere right now is very uplifting. Everybody's happy to have received all their parts. That's what we look for when we do operations like this."
Underwood is deployed to Central and South America, and the Caribbean in support of Southern Seas 2012.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (COMUSNAVSO/C4F) support USSOUTHCOM joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.