AT SEA - -
On 4 May 2011, the crew of USS New Orleans (LPD 18) took her back to sea for the first time since October to perform sea trials.
Other than two “dead stick” moves back and from the yards, “The Big Easy” has been busy with repairs and modernization in a Planned Maintenance Availability (PMA).
“The maintenance team knew going into this PMA that it would be long and hard – over two dozen major repairs and nearly three dozen modernization projects was a tall order,” said New Orleans Commanding Officer Cmdr. Jeff Oakey, “Then [Naval Sea Systems Command] added some new-found class issues repairs. In all, the ship and crew spent nearly six months in its availability. The crew was itching to get back to sea to test everything out.”
The ship spent three days off the coast of her homeport of San Diego, performing much-needed trials and activities, including anchoring, firefighting foam light-off on the flight deck, underway fuel replenishment, and several general quarters drills to help the crew “knock the rust off” their seamanship.
“You can train inport all day, but you really have to get out to sea to get that hands-on with some of these systems and evolutions,” said Damage Controllman Chief (SW/AW) Erik Jackson, leading chief of repair division. “Some of what we need to do can only be done at sea.”
For many new members of the crew, this was their first time getting underway. Additionally, several Sailors from the pre-commissioning unit USS San Diego (LPD 22), still being built, joined its sister ship at sea for training and getting a feel for the LPD class.
“Last year, New Orleans took great pride in being the amphibious workhorse of the eastern Pacific,” said Oakey. “In order to get back to being a warship ready for tasking, each member of the crew really needed to get the real feedback from turning valves, starting equipment, and giving standard commands.
“A few days ago I saw uncertainty and hesitation. Today I see competence and confidence. What a great crew!”
New Orleans is scheduled to get underway again 9 May for five more days of training dedicated to supporting aircraft and landing craft.
New Orleans is a San Antonio-class ship designed and built to fight. Its warfighting capabilities include a state-of-the-art command and control suite, substantially increased vehicle lift capacity, a large flight deck, and advanced ship survivability features that enhance its ability to operate in the unforgiving littoral environment.
New Orleans provides each naval expeditionary force with greatly enhanced operational flexibility. The ship normally operates as part of an Amphibious Task Force - the "workhorse" of a three-ship Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) - organized to accomplish a broad range of military objectives; or as an element of a "Split-ARG" that has the ship detached and operating as a single ship, supporting lower-risk operations. This ship's mission flexibility fully expands the ARGs area of influence by providing an improved capability to cover multiple areas of responsibility, while responding to several crises simultaneously.