Makin Island Named Recipient of Admiral Flatley Award for Aviation Safety
SAN DIEGO – The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) were named the recipients of the 2012 Admiral Flatley Memorial Award for aviation safety aboard LHA/LHD class ships, March 22.
Rear Adm. Kenneth J. Norton, the commander of the Naval Safety Center, made the official announcement to the fleet via naval message traffic.
The Flatley Award is based on a comprehensive assessment of contributions towards aviation safety and is presented to one amphibious assault ship with its associated MEU and one aircraft carrier with its associated carrier air wing each year.
Makin Island, along with the embarked 11th MEU, spent the majority of 2012 underway on the ship’s maiden deployment conducting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility.
“The working relationship between the air department and the ACE [aviation combat element] was outstanding and began well before workups,” said Cmdr. Mike Dowling, a strategic planner on the staff of Commander, Navy Region Southwest who served as Makin Island’s “Air Boss” during the 2011-2012 deployment.
Dowling said Makin Island personnel set up training with their Marine Corps counterparts at Camp Pendleton, Calif., prior to the first underway period. This training was important because the majority of ACE personnel had never deployed aboard a ship to conduct operations at sea.
“During the deployment, we operated for 72 days straight at sea with only three no-fly days and no mishaps,” said Dowling. “Maintaining that pace of operations without a mishap was a testimonial to the hard work of the air department professionals and the ACE.”
The teamwork between the blue and green personnel and their commitment to safety not only took place on the flightdeck, but also carried over into every department on board Makin Island during the deployment.
“Safety vigilance through ORM [operational risk management] saves lives,” said Lt. Harriet Johnson, Makin Island’s safety officer. “A positive safety culture means that our Sailors and Marines make the right decisions and the raise the right questions in the haze gray of day-to-day operations.”
Johnson said a culture of safety will lead any Sailor or Marine to make the right choice that gets the mission accomplished without collateral damage to people or equipment.
“All cruise long, there was a continued emphasis on the blue/green team and working together,” said Johnson. “Each side took care of their own, but we made it happen through teamwork.”
Additional Flatley Awards were presented to USS Peleliu (LHA 5) and the embarked 13th MEU as runner-ups in the LHA/LHD category. USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and embarked Carrier Air Wing 1 (CVW-1) were named winners of the aircraft carrier category while USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and embarked CVW-9 were named runner-ups.
The Flatley Award is the second major award presented to Makin Island this year. Earlier this month the ship was awarded its first Battle Efficiency (Battle “E”) Award. The Battle “E” is the Navy's top performance award presented only to the ships that achieve the highest standards of performance readiness and efficiency.
Makin Island returned from a seven-month deployment June 22, making history as the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system. By using this unique propulsion system, the ship saved over $15 million in fuel costs and the Navy expects to see fuel cost savings of more than $250 million, over the course of the ship's lifecycle. Lessons learned during Makin Island’s maiden deployment prove the Navy's commitment to energy awareness and conservation and will positively influence future ship designs for several decades.
This initiative is one of many throughout the Navy and Marine Corps that will enable the Department of the Navy to achieve the Secretary of the Navy's energy goals to improve our energy security and efficiency afloat and ashore, increase our energy independence and help lead the nation toward a clean energy economy.
The ship is currently undergoing a planned maintenance availability (PMA) at Naval Base San Diego. During this seven month PMA period, Makin Island will receive numerous equipment upgrades, modernization, and general repairs. The PMA period will also help to ensure the ship will reach the full service life of at least 40 years.