A Navy flotilla of steel warships is conducting an exercise to prepare the Hamilton for action
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 13, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 9:42 p.m. HST, Nov 13, 2010
» The graduate dates for Lt. Makana Young were incorrect in an earlier version of this story.
While on an exercise in the western Pacific with the Pearl Harbor-based destroyer USS Paul Hamilton, Navy Cmdr. Ed Eder was ordered by his fleet headquarters to check out a "suspicious" 30,000-ton merchant vessel.
The "auto information system" did not generate any data about the origin of the merchant vessel that matched the data Eder's headquarters had on file. So he was ordered to immediately dispatch a 10-man security team to board the 100-foot vessel and inspect its crew and cargo.
From the bridge of the 8,400-ton Hamilton, Eder's crew watched a 27-foot security craft do a horseshoe maneuver around the merchant vessel looking for "unusual activity," which Eder said could be anything from things being discarded over the side to movements by the crew or the ship itself.
From 600 yards one of Hamilton's gunner's mates, Petty Officer 2nd Class Cong Ma, used a long-range video camera from the destroyer's bridge to watch as Hamilton's security team boarded the vessel. The high-power optics were connected to a 25 mm chain machine gun so Ma would be able to target the vessel's engines without damaging other portions of the ship.
USS PAUL HAMILTONClass and type: Arleigh Burke-class destroyer
Commanding officer: Cmdr. Edward Eder
Namesake: Third secretary of the Navy
Length: 505 feet
Speed: More than 30 knots
Displacement: 8,400 tons
Crew: 260 officers and enlisted sailors
Propulsion: Four gas turbine engines
Armament: Tomahawk cruise and anti-submarine missiles, one 5-inch .54-caliber gun, two 25 mm chain machine guns, four .50-caliber machine guns, two 20 mm Phalanx high-speed machine guns, two torpedo tubes
Aircraft: One SH-60 Seahawk helicopter
Commissioned: May 27, 1995
Ship's motto: "The Courage to Prevail"
Source: U.S. Navy
The exercise, called "Koa Kai 11-1," also involved other Pearl Harbor warships: two other destroyers, the USS Chung Hoon and USS Russell; cruiser Lake Erie; frigate USS Reuben James; and four submarines. Also participating were two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters, two P-3 Orion sub hunter aircraft and a Hawaii Civil Air Patrol Cessna aircraft. There also was a P-3 Orion from the Canadian navy participating.
In the past, Pearl Harbor-based warships would have been forced to spend up to a month in similar pre-deployment training exercises in Southern California waters.
Lt. Chris White, Hamilton's training officer, said this type of multiship training, which also involves the use of helicopters and anti-submarine aircraft and submarines, is the "intermediate and advanced-level training" the destroyer needs before the upcoming deployment.
"The savings is huge," said White, who was on the Hamilton when it went to San Diego in 2006 for a similar pre-deployment exercise.
"It's a 3,000-mile journey to San Diego," said White. "That means up to two weeks in transit to there, about a week of training and then another two weeks in transit to return home."
Training in Hawaii means the sailors get "more family time. ... That means more time to be with their families and more quality time."
Capt. Richard Clemmons, who heads Destroyer Squadron 3, said although the Navy here has not determined the exact savings, he believes "it is fairly significant."
"In the past, most of the training that is being conducted during Koa Kai would be done off the California coast, which meant that the ship was away from Hawaii for up to four or six weeks," said Clemmons, who was aboard the destroyer Chung Hoon yesterday to observe the training. Koa Kai lasts five days.
Besides the news media, Eder invited elementary school teachers — Derek Santos and Berlynn Matsumoto from Ewa Beach Elementary School and Herman Leong from Nimitz Elementary School — to get a feel of a destroyer underway. For the past two years, Hamilton sailors have given their off-duty hours to tutor Ewa Beach students and to work on projects to beautify the campus. Hamilton sailors have also donated school supplies and books.
Matsumoto said the visit gave her "a new respect for the military."
Santos said his impression was that "everyone is so focused on the mission. It was very impressive."