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140428-N-CU914-065 SAN DIEGO (April 28, 2014) – The amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) transits the San Diego Bay. Essex is currently underway conducting sea trials as the final step of a $200 million, 20 month Dry-dock Planned Maintenance Availability (DPMA). Sea trials are necessary for testing multiple ship functions after extended shipyard periods. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Lenny LaCrosse/Released)
“Iron Gator” Underway for First Time in Nearly Two Years
SAN DIEGO – The amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) departed Naval Base San Diego April 28 for the first time in almost two years to conduct sea trials after completion of a historic 20-month Dry-Dock Planned Maintenance Availability (DPMA).

The “Iron Gator” received more than $200 million worth of DPMA related repairs and upgrades including complete overhauls on the flight deck, boilers, communication systems and the hull.

“It’s great to be underway again,” said Capt. Joker Jenkins, Essex’s commanding officer. “This is our first big step for Essex in 2014 - getting underway. Thank you for all your hard work!”

Jenkins emphasized the importance of safety and situational awareness while underway. He also praised the efforts and contributions of each department, especially the ship’s engineers.

“Thank you for working through the weekends and for keeping our plant up to speed,” Jenkins told the crew. “I appreciate what you’ve done to get the last couple of things taken care of to get the ship back up and running.”

Sailors from the repair, electrical, auxiliary and main propulsion divisions worked around the clock for more than two weeks in order to ensure the ships boilers were functioning properly prior to leaving the pier.

In addition, calibration technicians from the aviation intermediate maintenance department and interior communications electricians from the combat systems department worked hand in hand with the engineers to test and evaluate the equipment.

“There is no greater satisfaction for an engineer than to make turns on time while out to sea,” said Chief Warrant Officer Torrence Morgan, Essex’s underway engineering officer of the watch. “We had a nearly flawless underway evolution this morning and I’m extremely proud of everyone involved.”

For some of Essex’s more seasoned Sailors, getting underway was a long time coming. Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Nicholas Rhodes, who stands the lee helm, and Quartermaster 3rd Class Kyle Hill, the master helm, were both on board prior to the DPMA period and said they couldn’t wait to get back out to sea.

“It put a smile on my face to finally leave the pier again,” said Rhodes. “Now we can do training with our folks that have never been out to sea and help them get the qualifications they need. This is the beginning of something great for our crew.”

“Our transition through the San Diego Bay and out into the ocean felt good,” said Hill. “It was smooth like we had been going out to sea all year and not in DPMA. It’s like we are meant to be on station patrolling the waters.”

Essex was commissioned Oct. 17, 1992 and called Naval Base San Diego its home until 2000 when the ship joined other forward-deployed naval forces in Sasebo, Japan. The ship returned to San Diego on May 17, 2012 after completing 12 years of service as the Navy’s forward-deployed amphibious assault ship. The DPMA period started shortly afterward.

Providing warships ready for combat, developing Sailors, and training crews to fight and win are the subjects of Vice Adm. Thomas H. Copeman III, commander of Naval Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet’s “Vision for the 2026 Surface Fleet.” This vision consolidates a set of objectives and policies to maximize surface force readiness by concentrating on war fighting ability, sustainable excellence and wholeness over time.
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