Build and Sustain, Pt. 1: Waterfront Qualifications
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190506-N-LY160-0002 - Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) 2nd Class Christina Santiago, assigned to Pre-Commissioning Detachment Tripoli (LHA 7), reviews study material for the Petty Officer of the Watch qualification aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), May 2.

SAN DIEGO – A qualified crew is essential for a warship and the Sailors who man them, but how do Sailors get qualifications without a ship?

For the Sailors of the future USS Tripoli (LHA 7), that means getting a helping hand from the ships stationed at Naval Base San Diego.

One of the primary qualifications Tripoli Sailors across all levels need to start with are their basic deck watch qualifications like Messenger of the Watch, Petty Officer of the Watch, and In-Port Officer of the Deck. Most only need to requalify, while others are qualifying for the first time.

“It’s been very helpful. I feel like I understand the ship more,” said Quartermaster Seaman Apprentice Sophia Puentes.

Tripoli’s Sailors primarily get their qualifications from other large deck amphibious assault ships, such as the America-class USS America (LHA 6) or the Wasp-class USS Boxer (LHD 4). There are other ships providing a helping hand, to include USS New Orleans (LPD 18), USS Portland (LPD 27) and USS Lake Champlain (CG 57). "Standing deck watches on other ships allows me to get insight from Sailors on that ship, and since we're on the same platform (America), we can share a lot of information," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Apprentice Kristi Hall. "We're supposed to set a good example, so we need to be prepared when we go on deployment." Hall added.

The qualification process includes training in classroom settings, one on one training, and hands-on training standing the actual watches ‘under instruction’ or UI. Sailors must stand all watches during all time periods and must also pass either a written or oral exam, or oftentimes both.

“All the Sailors that are out here in San Diego seem to be very helpful and knowledgeable about the watches that they are standing to give us the training that we need,” said Aviation Support Equipment Technician 2nd Class Jessica Sturgeon. Sturgeon also added that it was important that the Sailors getting the training and knowledge not only understand it, but also pass it on once they qualify.

Another crucial part of obtaining these qualifications from other ships on the waterfront is communication between Tripoli and other ships. Tripoli Officers, Chiefs, and Petty Officers ensure their Sailors have the correct Personal Qualification Standard (PQS) documents. They coordinate with their counterparts on the waterfront and arrange times when the Sailors can get training and signatures for their qualifications. They also conduct final knowledge checks and in some cases, an oral board, to ensure the Sailors know the watch, understand the material and meet all the requirements. But getting the Sailors out to the ships is not without its challenges.

“The most challenging part has been getting the Sailors who need initial qualifications out to the ships,” said Senior Chief Quartermaster David Rodriguez.

Once Tripoli Sailors have earned their qualifications, they can then assist other Sailors at the detachment with the qualification process. As Sailors continue to qualify with these watches, they bring the whole crew one step further in being ready to move aboard.

“Going to the ship allows you to actually stand a watch on a quarterdeck, which is going to be invaluable as far as experience and being exposed to the things you can’t expose them to in a building,” said Rodriguez.

For many Tripoli Sailors, both experienced and new to the Navy, there are more steps down the road. Part two in this series will cover Sailors getting underway on ships to get additional job training.

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