The Engineering Department on board Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) America (LHA 6) successfully completed their Light-Off Assessment (LOA) June 27, bringing the ship one step closer to beginning its transit from Pascagoula, Miss. to San Diego where the ship will be homeported.
During the weeklong inspection, the engineers had to prove that the ship’s damage control (DC) systems could be self-sustaining at sea. Once the assessors came aboard, they began checking the material condition and safety of engineering spaces and equipment.
“The Engineering Assessment Pacific Team out of San Diego came over and basically did a safety walkthrough,” said Senior Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician Abel Barrazza, main propulsion leading chief petty officer. “They validate if our spaces are safe to train in. Then the Sailors get on the deckplates with the assessor and demonstrate material checks on our equipment.”
The assessors also presented shipboard casualty simulations where the Engineering Department needed to effectively respond with the appropriate equipment and personnel.
“We had to demonstrate a main space fire, a bravo (petroleum product) fire, utilizing our repair lockers, basically saying that we know how to combat a casualty without any outside assistance,” said Damage Controlman 1st Class Ryanne Clingersmith. “We needed to make sure the repair lockers knew what to do from the initial leak to the gas-free engineer deeming the space safe for normal use.”
The Engineering Department as a whole completed more than 1,700 checks in just two days in preparation for the inspection. The Sailors performing these checks are trained engineers, but many of them are relatively new to the Navy.
Clingersmith, Engineering Repair Division 09 (ER09) work center supervisor, oversees 25 Sailors from various departments and divisions around the ship by training them to properly maintain the ship’s DC fittings. She and her division played a significant role in the inspection.
“They showed their level of knowledge, even though they’re young in the Navy,” Barrazza said. “That right there in itself is an accomplishment, aside from all the percentages and numbers. Day one they didn’t know anything, but NKO [Navy Knowledge Online courses]. Now here we are at day 90 and they’ve gained the experience that goes along with that technical knowledge.”
As a result, Engineering Department earned an overall score of 99.32 percent.
“It was a two-month process to go from taking over the ship to making sure our equipment and spaces were good to go,” said Master Chief Engineman Steve Kennedy, Engineering Department leading chief petty officer. “We practiced safety checks and conducted drill after drill in order to get ready for this inspection.”
Prior to the LOA, Engineering Department had just undergone the two-week long Damage Control Material Assessment, which was another in-depth evaluation of the crew’s damage control fittings. After three weeks of inspections, the Sailors were finally able to relax a little.
“It was a huge weight off our chest,” said Clingersmith. “Because I know that the work we had put in – the long, grueling hours – from move aboard back in April up until that point, was all worth it. It was just a breath of fresh air.”
After Engineering passed the inspection, they were able to properly run America’s engineering plant on their own.
“I was proud to look my Sailors in the face [knowing] they persevered through all the ‘pain’ and ‘punishment’ [associated with an assessment like this],” said Barrazza. “Now, we’re one step closer to getting underway.”
America is the first ship of its class, replacing the Tawara-class of amphibious assault ships. As the next generation “big-deck” amphibious ship, America is optimized for aviation, capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey and F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. The ship is scheduled to be commissioned Oct. 11 in San Francisco.