SAN DIEGO - The amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) were awarded the 2013 Admiral Flatley Memorial Award for Aviation Safety for amphibious assault (LHA/LHD) class ships, March 28.
Capt. Paul C. Spedero, Peleliu’s commanding officer, made the official announcement to the ship’s crew.
The Flatley Award is based on a comprehensive evaluation of contributions toward aviation safety and is presented annually to one amphibious assault class ship and its embarked MEU and one aircraft carrier and its embarked air wing.
"Receiving the Admiral Flatley Award is a significant accomplishment; not only for the air department and USS Peleliu, but equally important to the 15th MEU,” said Cmdr. Matthew Niedzwiecki, Peleliu’s Air Boss. “We could not have achieved our success without the assistance of the air combat element, the search and rescue detachment from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23, and Tactical Air Control Squadron 11."
In 2013, Peleliu completed an eight-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility achieving its 19th consecutive year without an aviation mishap.
“From the air operations perspective, it’s a testament to how successful air department, and the ship overall, was at conducting a very rigorous deployment safely and accomplishing every mission that we set out for,” said Marine Maj. Amy Roznowski, Peleliu’s Air Operations Officer. “The amount of effort between everybody is just amazing. We flew probably around 30 percent more flight hours than a normal deployment does.”
Peleliu performed 2,892 aircraft launch and recovery evolutions, 2,493 aircraft moves, and spent 1,091 hours at flight quarters during its deployment that contributed to the award.
"The cooperation between the blue/green team was exceptional,” said Niedzwiecki. “From the huge turnouts for foreign object damage walk downs to the vigilant application of sound ORM (operational risk management), and the professionalism in executing our daily flight operations, our team was able to complete a successful deployment to the 5th Fleet.”
Roznowski agreed, the award was due to the combined effort of the embarked Navy/Marine Corps team.
“When you break it down we have multiple checklists and policies that, as long as we follow them, will keep the ship inside the safety envelope and not give us any opportunity to sway outside,” said Roznowski. “A lot of it is the overall integration of the team training concept that all of the different air divisions do on a regular basis that make it a really well oiled machine.”
The safety-focused command climate of Peleliu enabled the ship to excel across a wide range of operational missions without a personnel injury or aircraft incident.
“It's hard to compare Peleliu to other ships that may be operating under a different set of circumstances and requirements, but one area where we placed additional safety measures was during Harrier flight operations,” said Niedzwiecki. “Our blue/green team was well briefed about the costly increasing trend in foreign object damage incidents to Harrier engines and instituted additional foreign object damage walk downs just prior to Harrier launch operations. The additional 10-15 minutes in the middle of an air plan was difficult to manage at times, but contributed greatly to the safe execution of hundreds of Harrier launch and recoveries.”
Throughout last year, Peleliu consistently carried out robust training programs, successful drills and a proactive recognition policy, while engaged in numerous operations in the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation.
Roznowski said that everyone has a vested, personal interest in making flight operations safe and successful. It doesn’t matter if personnel are junior Sailors working to get their qualifications or the most senior khaki in the Air Department. The crew follows orders and takes ownership in the mission.
“The award says a lot about the ship's crew. As with winning the Battle ‘E’; it signifies that safety is not a priority, but inherent in our daily operations,” said Niedzwiecki. “The crew has worked hard during 2013 and should be proud of each recognition bestowed by our Navy leadership.”
Peleliu is currently conducting sea trials following completion of a seven-month maintenance availability in preparation for a future deployment.