SAN DIEGO - Amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) completed its ammunition four-day off-load near the coast of Camp Pendelton, Calif., July 15-19, ahead of its planned maintenance availability.
Weapons department's 70 Sailors, combining aviation ordnancemen (AO) and gunner's mates (GM), worked nearly 17 hours a day to stage, move and ready for lift 960 tons of ordnance from ship to shore depots. With the help of Air department and other ship teams, the ordnance moved without incident and on-time.
"They're tired but they know what it means and they know the ship is counting on them and that keeps them motivated," Peleliu's Gun Boss Lt. Michael Dasch said. "I have not heard one complaint and there are smiles on people's faces. They love it."
As with many evolutions onboard, safety trumps speed, staying paramount in process and procedure.
"We have a lot of safety personnel on deck to make sure people aren't getting run over or walking in restricted areas," said Peleliu's armory leading petty officer Gunner's Mate 1st Class James O'Day. "We held safety meetings every morning to ensure everyone was aware of the concerns we have when moving ordnance." Teams assembled with personal protective equipment and extra safety personnel observed the stages of the ordnance movement.
"We can't have enough people looking out for any discrepancies as far as safety is concerned," added O'Day.
Long hours and high-stress evolutions can impact crew's morale. Leadership and social events help reduce this impact.
"We had an ice cream social at  last night for the Weapons department family," said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Claire Arnold. The teams had "a chance to rest, relax and come together as a team without all the stress of the day."
Arnold added jokingly that caffeinated drinks proved to be an important asset throughout the week.
The Weapons department upper chain of command acknowledges the hard work of their junior Sailors.
"I keep telling all the guys every chance I get that they're doing a great job and to keep it up," said O'Day. "We have Gun Boss and chiefs ... pushing everybody."
Amunitions off-loads are one of the few occasions where the AOs and GMs come together entirely to complete an evolution, at times, adding unfamiliarity.
"It's been outstanding working with the AOs," said O'Day. "We have been doing a lot of banding, integrating with the flight deck crew, picking the helicopters and a lot of forklift driving."
Though new to the ship, O'Day is experienced with a off-loads. Some of his team is green like Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Apprentice Julia Dennison.
"My chain of command prepared me on what it was going to be like so I was expecting it to be hectic and crazy, and it has been," Dennison said. "It's exciting. I got here in the middle of deployment so I wasn't able to be here for the on-load, so this is my first time moving ordnance. We're handling it well."
"The off-load went great," said Dasch. "I couldn't have asked for a better crew. Nobody had to be asked or told to do something. We're aviation ordnancemen and gunner's mates. We move ordnance and we do it well."
Peleliu plans to enter a six-month planned maintenance availability shortly after returning to Naval Base San Diego.