Bringing a Ship to Life: Build and Sustain, Pt. 3: Life at Sea
190529-N-XN1779-031 (May 29, 2019) Capt. Lonnie L. Appleget, executive officer of the Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Tripoli (LHA 7), observes operations while underway onboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). America is conducting routine operations in preparation for its homeport shift to Japan. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart/Released).

As the Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Tripoli (LHA 7) moves closer to joining the fleet, its Sailors continue along the path towards bringing the ship to life.

For the Sailors assigned to the Navy’s newest amphibious assault ship, it starts small with basic in-port watches, and then progresses to on the job training or OJT.

The next step in training our Sailors attached to a Pre-Commissioning Unit is having them go underway. For some, these short periods at sea are a refresher, but for many, it’s their first taste of the Navy’s primary mission.

“It can be intimidating at first and you think you know what’s going to happen, but just go with the flow” said Boatswain’s Mate Seaman Apprentice Hope Horn. Horn added that it was nice because, “You have leadership above you that helps you and guides you along the way.”

Like any temporary assigned duty (TAD), Sailors are sent to ships based on the needs of Tripoli, the needs of the Sailors and the needs of the ship they are going to. The schedule of the TAD ships also plays a factor in determining when the Sailors are sent underway and for how long.

To capitalize on opportunities for underway periods on the same platform, a majority of Tripoli Sailors have spent time onboard Tripoli’s sister ship, USS America (LHA 6) before its homeport shift to Japan.

“It felt good to be back on the flight deck and launching aircraft,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Christopher Innocent from New York. “It gives them an idea what their job is. Showing is better than telling.”

Getting underway gives Sailors a chance to experience the rhythm of life at sea first hand, and how it differs from when the ship is pier-side.

“It’s very helpful because I get to actually see how things are done,” said Horn. “I did line handling, some maintenance, I’ve driven the ship a few times.” For Sailors who aren’t on their first tour, getting back out to sea is equally important. Many are heading back to sea after shore duty, while others are changing to a completely new platform or both.

“The most surprising thing was how different they do things compared to other ships I’ve been on and been TAD to,” said Innocent.

Another advantage of getting underway for Sailors is finding out how they will work with each other to execute their primary mission in a shipboard environment. The Sailors also get a chance to see what the challenges of life at sea really are when they become part of a crew that exceeds 1,200 service members.

“Being TAD, you’re kind of the new guy on different ships over and over again which is kind of difficult,” said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Justin Coffey. “I liked the bonding you have and you get to see a lot of cool things.”

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