SAN DIEGO – The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) returned to port, Oct. 27 following nine days at sea concluding with an ammunition off-load off the coast of Southern California.
During the offload, Boxer Sailors prepared and moved 941 pallets of ammo and ordnance for transportation off the ship via helicopter to a secured location in the vicinity of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, where it was placed on trucks and shipped to Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach Detachment Fallbrook .
“The ammo offload involved many moving parts and impacted almost every single department aboard Boxer,” said Capt. Mike Ruth, Boxer’s commanding officer. “Because of the high standards set by all Boxer personnel, I am proud to say that we once again completed a high-risk special evolution with textbook precision and safety.”
Planning for this evolution began while Boxer was still on its recent deployment to the U.S. 3rd, 5th, and 7th Fleet areas of operation.
“There were a lot of meetings, a lot of emails, and a lot of planning beforehand,” said Ensign Ronald Fawson, Boxer’s Ordnance Handling Officer. “We went through to make sure that all the inventory numbers matched. Then, we had to schedule proper helicopter support, ship’s support, and know where the ammo was going. We also had to be clear on how the beach wanted to receive the ammo.”
Prior to the start of the off-load, Weapons department staged ordnance on the flight deck. From there pallets of bombs, small arms ammunition, and missiles were secured in cargo nets in preparation to be hooked to helicopters and flown ashore.
“It is of course the job of Weapons department to handle ordnance and these types of evolutions are a part of our routine,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jefrey Rosario, Leading Petty Officer of G1 division. “This is what we do and we take it seriously. Like every major Navy evolution, there were a lot of calculated risks that came with the ammunition offload and it took a vast amount of work and supervision in order to complete successfully.”
With the help of Sailors from Boxer’s Air department, MH-60S Knight Hawks from the "Blackjacks" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC 21), “Red Lions” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC 15), “Indians” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC-6), “Chargers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC-14) and “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC 23), ordnance was transferred via vertical replenishment, from Boxer to a secured location ashore. Several departments throughout Boxer were engaged in this evolution providing support.
“When it comes to an evolution of this magnitude, I can say that Weapons department couldn’t have successfully finished this mission on its own,” said Rosario. “Air department provided us with the capability to receive the helicopters safely, Engineering department continuously maintained the weapons cargo elevators, and Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance department provided us with forklifts and maintainers in order to move the ordnance.
To ensure an operation of this scale is executed successfully, safety must be the top priority of all involved.
“We do a safety brief every day and our quality safety observers oversee the whole evolution. We want to make sure that everyone goes home with ten fingers and ten toes,” said Chief Petty Officer Donta Wills, Leading Chief Petty Officer of G3 division .
Overall the Weapons department chain of command was highly impressed with the commitment that their Sailors showed toward the job.
“Weapons [Department] has done outstanding work,” said Wills. “Everybody has played a part from the ‘Gun Boss’ [Weapons department head] down to our most junior Sailor, from preparation to execution.”
Upon returning to San Diego, Boxer will begin to make preparations for a planned maintenance availability or PMA.