MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy has 276 ships manned by the 322,390 active Sailors. The fleet includes 11 mine countermeasure ships (MCM), four of which are in Bahrain, each manned by approximately 90 Sailors. Of the 360 MCM Sailors in Bahrain, one in particular was needed to make an urgent repair aboard USS Dextrous (MCM 13).
On April 23, Mineman 2nd Class Tyler Smith, a Munford, Alabama native assigned to USS Devastator (MCM 6), flew on short notice to Duqm, Oman, to repair the lifeline for Dextrous's mine countermeasure abilities: its sweep wire.
For Smith, who had learned this valuable skill six years ago in San Diego, the sudden tasking caught him by surprise.
"I didn't even know where I was going at first," said Smith. "It wasn't until I got my ticket that I figured out I was going to Duqm, which I never had heard of. But it didn't matter if it was San Diego, Bahrain or Oman. I knew I could fix it."
Smith enrolled in a course that taught him how to care for and fix the sweep wire. The students in the class initially trained on small wires and tested their ties with small weights. Once they accomplished that task, they practiced on larger wires testing greater weights.
"I had only fixed anything that large or that had to hold that much tension once, but I knew that I could do it," said Smith.
The sweep wire is a thick metal wire made up of smaller wires wrapped cohesively around one another, and is looped at one end in an eyelet which is secured by a heavy metal clasp called the swage. It is responsible for dragging mine sweeping gear behind the ship, equipment which allows the crew to fulfill their mission of classifying and neutralizing moored and bottomed mines that can be found in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
While underway, Dextrous' swage cracked. Its sweep wire is responsible for holding up to 18,000 pounds of pressure, so it is crucial for the integrity of the swage to be maintained. If the swage were to completely sever, it would threaten not only the safety of the state-of-the-art mine countermeasure equipment, but the safety of the crew as well.
After successfully creating the new swage, Smith took the time to train four of the Dextrous crew on sweep wire and swage maintenance.
Capt. Michael Egan, commander of Task Force (TF) 52 and Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCMRON) 5, reached out to Dextrous' sister ships and asked for qualified crew members to go to Dextrous, which was brought in to port out of necessity to fix its swage.
"This is what I love; getting Sailors out in the fight to do what they are trained to do," said Egan. "We were fortunate that Petty Officer Smith had the expertise and was able to fly out at a moment's notice to apply his skill set in order to keep Dextrous in the fight."
This is Smith's fourth time being stationed on an MCM in Bahrain. Currently, his ship, Devastator, is in dry dock undergoing maintenance and getting its systems updated.
After this tour, Smith will have spent a total of four of his nine years in the Navy forward operating in the Middle East. He joined the Navy with the intention of handling munitions and grasped hold of the opportunity to detonate mines.
"I love being a mineman," said Smith. "My recruiter told a kid from Alabama that he could blow stuff up, and I was all in. The reason I want to keep coming back to Bahrain is to do the job I was trained for. Minesweeping in this region is so important for the safety of ships traveling, whether they're U.S. vessels or not. I feel like the work the MCM crews do really works toward the missions of all ships that deploy out here."
Although Smith joined Devastator in March, he is already making an impact.
"My leadership is looking to me to lead the way to get my crew qualified and to better prepare the minesweepers in this area," Smith said. "You never know...when it will really come in handy and when you'll be that one person that is relied upon to get the job done."
TF 52 is the MCM force of the Coalition Forces Maritime Component Command overseen by the U.S. 5th Fleet. It operates regularly to ensure free and unfettered use of the sea lanes in the central Arabian Gulf, one of the world's critical stretches of sea for international commerce.
U.S. 5th Fleet's area of operations 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 and includes 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.
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For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.