The UNREP test site is configured with all the same equipment found on both sending and receiving ships in the fleet, which makes it realistic and ideal for practical, hands-on training for any surface fleet sailor. It also offers an opportunity to train in a controlled environment where the risk to trainees and training personnel is mitigated.
Port Hueneme offers familiarization training to the deck crews from a variety of ships: carriers, amphibious ships, surface combatants, Military Sealift Command (MSC) ships, and the ships MSC charters. In general, training is conducted for sailors whose ships are home ported on the West Coast and visit Port Hueneme for a ship assessment. On an annual basis, Port Hueneme personnel provide approximately 8-12 UNREP training sessions.
“Most of the trainees that come here have never experienced an actual UNREP evolution,” said Hilger. “Our job is to give them a thorough understanding of the procedures with hands-on learning from our team of professionals.”
While Port Hueneme provides practical, applied training, there is also an UNREP school in Little Creek, Va., that provides classroom instruction.
“Although the school in Virginia provides textbook training and some hands-on training,” said Hilger, “Port Hueneme has full capability to provide sailors the training they need for their specific equipment. In other words, they can practice at our test site with hoses, rigging, machinery and controls that are identical to what they will find on their ship – and that is very valuable.”
Training usually lasts about four to five days. It starts with classroom training in standard operating procedures for UNREP maneuvers. The sailors learn about rig team organization, safety procedures and communications. The instruction is often provided by the same engineer or technician that will be providing shipboard training.
Then, trainees receive hands-on machinery practice for fuel and cargo rig-sending and receiving, which can be tailored to their ships’ specific configuration. During the training, sailors get the rare opportunity to operate and rig both the delivery side machinery and the receiving stations. This hands-on training gives them an appreciation for the choreography that is required to conduct a safe UNREP evolution.
“For me, the most important part of the training was learning the delivery side,” said BM2 Adam Garnett from LCS 3 who attended training in February 2014. “You can’t find this kind of training anywhere.”
Another LCS 3 sailor described his most valuable lesson this way.
“Learning how to operate the Robb Coupling [an alternative fuel rig arrangement] was something we really needed to know,” said BMC Dan Robertson. “It is really an important procedure and it’s best to practice that on land.”
When sailors leave Port Hueneme, they have confidence in their ability to receive fuel and cargo rigs at sea; they understand their ship-specific rigging arrangement and drawings; and they comprehend the value of maintaining UNREP station weight-testing documentation.
“Underway replenishment maneuvers are challenging, even for the most experienced individuals,” said Hilger. “There are many things to consider for a successful replenishment evolution – and they all must come together seamlessly while two ships move along side-by-side, approximately 120-140 feet apart, in various sea states.”
While at sea, sailors continue their dialog with UNREP personnel through distance support capability. This exchange of information between the crew and Port Hueneme personnel ensures the onboard UNREP system works properly when needed anywhere, anytime in support of the ship’s assigned mission.
NSWC Port Hueneme also offers maintenance training for sailors from aircraft carriers and large deck amphibious ships with onboard fuel delivery stations. These crews come to Port Hueneme for hands-on maintenance training for UNREP system machinery and fueling at sea probe repair. At the UNREP test site, sailors learn how to accomplish the basic planned maintenance requirements and the checkout procedures of the safety features inherent in the UNREP system design.