NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY, Bahrain
- Mine countermeasures ships USS Pioneer (MCM 9) and USS Warrior (MCM 10) are redeploying from the 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR). Homeported in San Diego, CA, Pioneer and Warrior arrived in the AOR in June, along with USS Sentry (MCM 3) and USS Devastator (MCM 6), to conduct operations with coalition forces, ensuring the continued, safe flow of maritime traffic in international waterways. Pioneer will return to San Diego, while Warrior will find a new home at Commander, Mine Countermeasure (MCM) Squadron 7, in Sasebo, Japan, to replace USS Guardian (MCM 5).
"Having eight MCMs here in Bahrain gave us incredible operational flexibility in the 5th Fleet, we rapidly employed the ships and crews in fleet operations as well as the highly successful International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) in September of last year," said Vice Adm. John W. Miller, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet. "The redeployment of Warrior and Pioneer now is an indication of the positive results of Navy investment in mine warfare."
The Navy has recognized the need for enduring MCM capacity in the Gulf.
Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Greenert ordered acceleration of delivery and integration of emerging MCM technology in 2012. These systems allow the U.S. Navy to maintain MCM capacity and improve MCM capability with new and improved technology.
"We are committed to maintaining capabilities and capacities needed to meet theater requirements efficiently. We will continue to introduce emerging technologies into the CENTCOM area of responsibility," said Miller. "A mix of manned and unmanned MCM systems, like Sea Fox, MK 18 underwater unmanned vehicle (UUV) systems, as well as the teamwork between the U.S. and our allies will bolster an already strong MCM presence in the region."
The rapid capability growth in the area of unmanned MCM systems will continue to provide the fleet commander with a formidable MCM capability as the MCM ships redeploy to Japan and San Diego.
Unlike most U.S. Navy vessels that make a trans-ocean move easily, the small mine countermeasures ships must be transported via heavy lift vessel. The ships are braced on board heavy lift vessel and provided with power to run engineering systems, vital lighting and low pressure air. In order to ensure the ships are fully-functional and mission ready upon arrival, they are maintained by a crew of ten Sailors each.
The process requires precise coordination between the Navy, Military Sealift Command and Naval Sea Systems Command; a process that Lt. Brett Whorley, MCM Squadron 3 heavy lift project officer, knows well.
"This is my third move so far," said Whorley. "This whole operation is a multi-national and multi-organizational coordination effort, which can be a real handful. Like with anything though, you get better with experience, and this has been our most efficient operation yet."
MCM crews rotate frequently. Aside from the skeleton crews that are onboard the heavy lift vessel, the remaining crew members will return home to San Diego. A new crew, also deploying from San Diego, will meet the ships when they make port in their new location.
U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse comprises 20 countries, including three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.