U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) entered dry dock at Naval Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF JRMC) to begin its scheduled extended dry-docking selected restricted availability (EDSRA) period after a successful spring patrol June 1.
Blue Ridge visited 10 ports in eight different countries, strengthening and fostering relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, through various theater security cooperation activities, staff talks and ship tours.
"The patrol has been a huge accomplishment in the joint effort between Blue Ridge and 7th Fleet," said Lt. Daniel Kohlbeck, Blue Ridge's Operations Officer. "From the outside, it looks likes nothing but good times to have 10 port visits in two and a half months. But, to achieve that takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of coordination, a lot of effort and a lot of communication."
During the spring, the ship made port calls in Osaka, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Mumbai, Goa, Thailand, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Yokohama, covering more than 13,000 nautical miles during its more than 80-day patrol.
"While everyone was focused on the ship's mission while we were on patrol, we also started having extended talks and engagements about this yard period," said Kohlbeck. "It started even before we went underway, but the closer the EDSRA period approached, the more hands we had to involve in the planning."
The ship got underway June 1 from the ship's homeport pier at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, and made its way into the flooded dry dock utilizing tugboats for the transit. After entering the flooded dock, the ship was then lowered onto support blocks via the water being drained from the dock.
"As the navigation officer, my sole purpose is to get the ship from point A to point B and without hitting anything," said Lt.j.g. Melissa Avidano, Blue Ridge's navigation officer and EDSRA tiger team lead. "It was actually the captain's and my first time pulling a ship in for dry dock and we had no one piloting the ship. So, it was a surreal evolution."
The dry dock period will provide Sailors and shipyard workers access to the ship below the waterline as well as cleared spaces for various maintenance, repairs, refurbishments and system upgrades.
Kohlbeck said Blue Ridge is slated for a 70-year service life and that this 14-month EDSRA is a critical piece of achieving that.
"To think about that, especially for a ship over 45 years old, you need to be in a yard period, an extended yard period, like dry dock, to accomplish big Navy's goal of keeping Blue Ridge at the tip of the spear, in 7th Fleet's area of responsibility, operating forward," said Avidano.
Avidano is in charge of 14 tiger teams consisting of 85 personnel from the ship, performing specialized maintenance, such decking, painting or lagging. "I'm excited about getting to learn my way around the ship and getting to know Sailors from other divisions," said Yeoman Seaman Apprentice Thomas Lattanzio, a member of the corrosion control tiger team. "I view this as an opportunity to help the ship, the command and myself."