Category: Deployment

Navy Band Orchestrates Partnerships in Africa

The band exists at the tactical level of relationship building. At the boundary between cultures, the band is the bridge. –Adm. James G. Foggo, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa

 

By Musician 1st Class Joseph Schoonmaker

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band’s brass band, “Topside,” just returned from a six-week deployment to the Gulf of Guinea aboard USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) in support of Africa Partnership Station (APS). The deployment took us to Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cabo Verde, each country providing unforgettable opportunities to make connections with people from all walks of life, with diverse cultural backgrounds, using the universal language of music.

ROTA, Spain (July 2, 2019) The Spearhead-class expeditionary transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) departing Rota, Spain for an Africa Partnership Station deployment to the Gulf of Guinea. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Travis Simmons/Released)

 

The purpose of this deployment was to strengthen partnerships and demonstrate U.S. commitment to West African partners. The mission focused on small boat maintenance, maritime law enforcement, Navy medicine, and community relations outreach, with embarked teams from the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard as well as Sailors from the Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish navies.

“Topside” is a traditional “New Orleans-style” brass band. We take great pride in the diversity of music we represent, and in preparation for our performances in Africa, we tried to learn at least one song from each country on the deployment schedule. We do this to demonstrate respect for their culture and to grow as musicians. It also opens the door to collaborating with local musicians, creating unique moments in live performances. We have found audiences from Italy to Latvia to West Africa to be very appreciative that we have invested the time and energy to engage with their music. When we visit countries where language provides a barrier to interaction, music acts as an international language. With the connection of music, the band helps build true and lasting partnerships. As I like to say during concerts and workshops, we are not there to impose our culture but rather to offer a true exchange where each side learns and grows.

DAKAR, Senegal (July 9, 2019) – Musicians from the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band Topside perform with local musicians during an Africa Partnership Station community engagement at the Blaise Senghor Regional Culture Center of Dakar, Senegal. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Travis Simmons/Released)

 

We met the USNS Carson City in Dakar, Senegal. At the U.S. Embassy’s 4th of July celebration, we were joined onstage by the popular djembe drummer “Papis.” We also enjoyed a collaborative performance with musicians, dancers, and actors from the National School of Arts, during which they taught us a Senegalese folk song. Our African music education became a theme and the key to our relationships during APS. Prior to the trip, we learned “Conquer the World” by Youssou Ndour featuring Akon. We used both songs throughout the deployment. The highlight event in Dakar was a concert at the African Renaissance Monument during the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament. The crowd, watching the matches on a big-screen TV, joined us for a rousing rendition of “7 Nation Army,” which is used worldwide as a stadium chant, just as Benin won a penalty shootout. The energy was electric and created a truly memorable experience for the band and the crowd.

DAKAR, Senegal (July 4, 2019) The Naval Forces Europe Band’s New Orleans brass band, Topside, performs during a 4th of July celebration at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, July 4, 2019. The NAVEUR Band supports commander, Naval Forces Europe and Africa/Joint Forces Command Naples, and commander, U.S. 6th Fleet priorities, which serve to enhance international community relations among partner nations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams/Released)

 

The next leg of the trip was in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. For our performances and radio interviews, the band was accompanied by two French-speaking U.S. Navy Sailors with local connections. The diversity of the band provided us with an opportunity for genuine local interaction. One of the Sailors, a naval reservist who grew up in Abidjan, taught us an Ivorian folk melody. We played it for the radio shows as well as live audiences. The students from the University of Felix Houphouet Boigny gave us one of the most enthusiastic receptions we’ve ever seen, singing, dancing, and chanting, “USA! USA!”

ABIDJAN, Cote D’Ivoire (July 16, 2019) The Naval Forces Europe Band’s New Orleans brass band, “Topside”, is interviewed by local media during a tour of the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) while the ship is in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams/Released)

 

ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire (July 17, 2019) – Lt. Lynda Amegee, from Lome, Togo, dances while U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band, Topside, performs during an audio recording for Al Bayane 95.7 FM radio station in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, while the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) is in port. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Travis Simmons/Released)

 

ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire (July 18, 2019) – The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band New Orlean’s brass band, Topside, performs alongside a child during a community relations project at the SOS Children’s Village Abobo Gare. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

 

Our next stop, Sekondi, Ghana, offered further proof of West African hospitality with a welcome party featuring Ghanaian bands accompanied by traditional dancers, gifts of soccer-style scarves, and a red, white, and blue cake. We teamed up for a reggae jam session with a Ghanaian Navy Band in Tema, having a musical conversation. Previously, while underway from Cote d’Ivoire to Ghana, we learned a folk melody from several Ghanaian Sailors who joined Carson City for a few days. As with each country on this trip, audiences immediately recognized the tune and sang along. The music not only brings the musicians together but also, through dancing and singing, encourages the relationships of the other APS crew members with our host-nation partners.

SEKONDI, Ghana (July 21, 2019) Chief Musician Justin Belka, a trumpeter for the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band’s New Orleans brass band, Topside, plays alongside the Ghanian band Rhythm 360 while the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) is in Sekondi, Ghana. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams/Released)

 

TAKORADI, Ghana (July 22, 2019) – Takoradi residents dance as the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band, Topside, embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7), parades through the streets of Takoradi, Ghana. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

 

Nigeria brought a welcomed return to Lagos for our band, as we had previously visited during exercise Obangame Express, a large collaborative naval exercise in March of this year. During that exercise, we were introduced to Freedom Park, a special place in the life of the city. We thought it would be a great place to perform, not knowing we would get that opportunity just five months later. Our Nigerian song of choice was “Water No Get Enemy” by afro-beat legend Fela Kuti. Rehearsal leading up to our first performance had a different energy as everyone understood the significance of playing the music of such a significant cultural icon as Fela Kuti, while in the very place he had cultivated a following that would eventually spread throughout Africa and the world. Even understanding the significance of the moment, we could have never imagined the reaction we received. The audience practically jumped out of their seats when we hit the first note! The next day, we performed the same song on Silverbird TV, reaching millions of viewers in and beyond Lagos. Playing Fela Kuti in that city and getting that reaction was a special, unforgettable moment in our musical careers. This demonstrates the power and impact of maintaining relationships with our partners. Our previous trip to Nigeria served to enhance our visit during APS.

LAGOS, Nigeria (July 28, 2019) – U.S. Naval Forces Europe’s New Orleans brass band “Topside,” embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) performs at Johnson Jakande Tinubu Park in Lagos, Nigeria. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

 

LAGOS, Nigeria (July 30, 2019) – Band members from U.S. Naval Forces Europe’s New Orleans brass band, “Topside,” embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7), perform as musical guests on the television show “Today on STV” at SilverbirdTV in Lagos, Nigeria. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

 

Cabo Verde closed out the deployment for us. We were privileged to play “Sodade,” a beautiful Cabo Verdean ballad, outside the municipal market in downtown Mindelo. The band played softly and let the crowd carry the tune. It was a special moment and a wonderful reflective way to close out our time in Africa. It was the last in a series of outstanding, often unscripted, shared experiences that served as the lasting hallmarks of our deployment.

MINDELO, Cabo Verde (Aug. 8, 2019) – U.S. Naval Forces Europe’s New Orleans brass band “Topside,” embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7), performs on the streets of Mindelo, Cabo Verde. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

 

MINDELO, Cabo Verde (Aug. 8, 2019) – U.S. Naval Forces Europe’s New Orleans brass band “Topside” performs during a media tour on the flight deck of the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) in Mindelo, Cabo Verde. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

 

All told, we performed 40 times for live and broadcast audiences exceeding 15 million. The social media impact has been significant and is, in fact, ongoing. This mission was a pitch-perfect example of what Navy bands are capable of and how they can contribute to broader goals of the Navy and the United States. On a personal note, this deployment has been the highlight of my career thus far and an experience for which I am profoundly grateful.

Navy Band Orchestrates Partnerships in Africa

The band exists at the tactical level of relationship building. At the boundary between cultures, the band is the bridge. –Adm. James G. Foggo, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa

 

By Musician 1st Class Joseph Schoonmaker

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band’s brass band, “Topside,” just returned from a six-week deployment to the Gulf of Guinea aboard USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) in support of Africa Partnership Station (APS). The deployment took us to Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cabo Verde, each country providing unforgettable opportunities to make connections with people from all walks of life, with diverse cultural backgrounds, using the universal language of music.

ROTA, Spain (July 2, 2019) The Spearhead-class expeditionary transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) departing Rota, Spain for an Africa Partnership Station deployment to the Gulf of Guinea. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Travis Simmons/Released)

 

The purpose of this deployment was to strengthen partnerships and demonstrate U.S. commitment to West African partners. The mission focused on small boat maintenance, maritime law enforcement, Navy medicine, and community relations outreach, with embarked teams from the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard as well as Sailors from the Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish navies.

“Topside” is a traditional “New Orleans-style” brass band. We take great pride in the diversity of music we represent, and in preparation for our performances in Africa, we tried to learn at least one song from each country on the deployment schedule. We do this to demonstrate respect for their culture and to grow as musicians. It also opens the door to collaborating with local musicians, creating unique moments in live performances. We have found audiences from Italy to Latvia to West Africa to be very appreciative that we have invested the time and energy to engage with their music. When we visit countries where language provides a barrier to interaction, music acts as an international language. With the connection of music, the band helps build true and lasting partnerships. As I like to say during concerts and workshops, we are not there to impose our culture but rather to offer a true exchange where each side learns and grows.

DAKAR, Senegal (July 9, 2019) – Musicians from the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band Topside perform with local musicians during an Africa Partnership Station community engagement at the Blaise Senghor Regional Culture Center of Dakar, Senegal. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Travis Simmons/Released)

 

We met the USNS Carson City in Dakar, Senegal. At the U.S. Embassy’s 4th of July celebration, we were joined onstage by the popular djembe drummer “Papis.” We also enjoyed a collaborative performance with musicians, dancers, and actors from the National School of Arts, during which they taught us a Senegalese folk song. Our African music education became a theme and the key to our relationships during APS. Prior to the trip, we learned “Conquer the World” by Youssou Ndour featuring Akon. We used both songs throughout the deployment. The highlight event in Dakar was a concert at the African Renaissance Monument during the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament. The crowd, watching the matches on a big-screen TV, joined us for a rousing rendition of “7 Nation Army,” which is used worldwide as a stadium chant, just as Benin won a penalty shootout. The energy was electric and created a truly memorable experience for the band and the crowd.

DAKAR, Senegal (July 4, 2019) The Naval Forces Europe Band’s New Orleans brass band, Topside, performs during a 4th of July celebration at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, July 4, 2019. The NAVEUR Band supports commander, Naval Forces Europe and Africa/Joint Forces Command Naples, and commander, U.S. 6th Fleet priorities, which serve to enhance international community relations among partner nations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams/Released)

 

The next leg of the trip was in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. For our performances and radio interviews, the band was accompanied by two French-speaking U.S. Navy Sailors with local connections. The diversity of the band provided us with an opportunity for genuine local interaction. One of the Sailors, a naval reservist who grew up in Abidjan, taught us an Ivorian folk melody. We played it for the radio shows as well as live audiences. The students from the University of Felix Houphouet Boigny gave us one of the most enthusiastic receptions we’ve ever seen, singing, dancing, and chanting, “USA! USA!”

ABIDJAN, Cote D’Ivoire (July 16, 2019) The Naval Forces Europe Band’s New Orleans brass band, “Topside”, is interviewed by local media during a tour of the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) while the ship is in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams/Released)

 

ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire (July 17, 2019) – Lt. Lynda Amegee, from Lome, Togo, dances while U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band, Topside, performs during an audio recording for Al Bayane 95.7 FM radio station in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, while the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) is in port. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Travis Simmons/Released)

 

ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire (July 18, 2019) – The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band New Orlean’s brass band, Topside, performs alongside a child during a community relations project at the SOS Children’s Village Abobo Gare. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

 

Our next stop, Sekondi, Ghana, offered further proof of West African hospitality with a welcome party featuring Ghanaian bands accompanied by traditional dancers, gifts of soccer-style scarves, and a red, white, and blue cake. We teamed up for a reggae jam session with a Ghanaian Navy Band in Tema, having a musical conversation. Previously, while underway from Cote d’Ivoire to Ghana, we learned a folk melody from several Ghanaian Sailors who joined Carson City for a few days. As with each country on this trip, audiences immediately recognized the tune and sang along. The music not only brings the musicians together but also, through dancing and singing, encourages the relationships of the other APS crew members with our host-nation partners.

SEKONDI, Ghana (July 21, 2019) Chief Musician Justin Belka, a trumpeter for the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band’s New Orleans brass band, Topside, plays alongside the Ghanian band Rhythm 360 while the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) is in Sekondi, Ghana. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams/Released)

 

TAKORADI, Ghana (July 22, 2019) – Takoradi residents dance as the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band, Topside, embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7), parades through the streets of Takoradi, Ghana. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

 

Nigeria brought a welcomed return to Lagos for our band, as we had previously visited during exercise Obangame Express, a large collaborative naval exercise in March of this year. During that exercise, we were introduced to Freedom Park, a special place in the life of the city. We thought it would be a great place to perform, not knowing we would get that opportunity just five months later. Our Nigerian song of choice was “Water No Get Enemy” by afro-beat legend Fela Kuti. Rehearsal leading up to our first performance had a different energy as everyone understood the significance of playing the music of such a significant cultural icon as Fela Kuti, while in the very place he had cultivated a following that would eventually spread throughout Africa and the world. Even understanding the significance of the moment, we could have never imagined the reaction we received. The audience practically jumped out of their seats when we hit the first note! The next day, we performed the same song on Silverbird TV, reaching millions of viewers in and beyond Lagos. Playing Fela Kuti in that city and getting that reaction was a special, unforgettable moment in our musical careers. This demonstrates the power and impact of maintaining relationships with our partners. Our previous trip to Nigeria served to enhance our visit during APS.

LAGOS, Nigeria (July 28, 2019) – U.S. Naval Forces Europe’s New Orleans brass band “Topside,” embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) performs at Johnson Jakande Tinubu Park in Lagos, Nigeria. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

 

LAGOS, Nigeria (July 30, 2019) – Band members from U.S. Naval Forces Europe’s New Orleans brass band, “Topside,” embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7), perform as musical guests on the television show “Today on STV” at SilverbirdTV in Lagos, Nigeria. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

 

Cabo Verde closed out the deployment for us. We were privileged to play “Sodade,” a beautiful Cabo Verdean ballad, outside the municipal market in downtown Mindelo. The band played softly and let the crowd carry the tune. It was a special moment and a wonderful reflective way to close out our time in Africa. It was the last in a series of outstanding, often unscripted, shared experiences that served as the lasting hallmarks of our deployment.

MINDELO, Cabo Verde (Aug. 8, 2019) – U.S. Naval Forces Europe’s New Orleans brass band “Topside,” embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7), performs on the streets of Mindelo, Cabo Verde. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

 

MINDELO, Cabo Verde (Aug. 8, 2019) – U.S. Naval Forces Europe’s New Orleans brass band “Topside” performs during a media tour on the flight deck of the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) in Mindelo, Cabo Verde. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

 

All told, we performed 40 times for live and broadcast audiences exceeding 15 million. The social media impact has been significant and is, in fact, ongoing. This mission was a pitch-perfect example of what Navy bands are capable of and how they can contribute to broader goals of the Navy and the United States. On a personal note, this deployment has been the highlight of my career thus far and an experience for which I am profoundly grateful.

Navy Band Orchestrates Partnerships in Africa

The band exists at the tactical level of relationship building. At the boundary between cultures, the band is the bridge. –Adm. James G. Foggo, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa

By Musician 1st Class Joseph Schoonmaker

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band’s brass band, “Topside,” just returned from a six-week deployment to the Gulf of Guinea aboard USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) in support of Africa Partnership Station (APS). The deployment took us to Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cabo Verde, each country providing unforgettable opportunities to make connections with people from all walks of life, with diverse cultural backgrounds, using the universal language of music.

ROTA, Spain (July 2, 2019) The Spearhead-class expeditionary transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) departing Rota, Spain for an Africa Partnership Station deployment to the Gulf of Guinea. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Travis Simmons/Released)

The purpose of this deployment was to strengthen partnerships and demonstrate U.S. commitment to West African partners. The mission focused on small boat maintenance, maritime law enforcement, Navy medicine, and community relations outreach, with embarked teams from the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard as well as Sailors from the Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish navies.

“Topside” is a traditional “New Orleans-style” brass band. We take great pride in the diversity of music we represent, and in preparation for our performances in Africa, we tried to learn at least one song from each country on the deployment schedule. We do this to demonstrate respect for their culture and to grow as musicians. It also opens the door to collaborating with local musicians, creating unique moments in live performances. We have found audiences from Italy to Latvia to West Africa to be very appreciative that we have invested the time and energy to engage with their music. When we visit countries where language provides a barrier to interaction, music acts as an international language. With the connection of music, the band helps build true and lasting partnerships. As I like to say during concerts and workshops, we are not there to impose our culture but rather to offer a true exchange where each side learns and grows.

DAKAR, Senegal (July 9, 2019) – Musicians from the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band Topside perform with local musicians during an Africa Partnership Station community engagement at the Blaise Senghor Regional Culture Center of Dakar, Senegal. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Travis Simmons/Released)

We met the USNS Carson City in Dakar, Senegal. At the U.S. Embassy’s 4th of July celebration, we were joined onstage by the popular djembe drummer “Papis.” We also enjoyed a collaborative performance with musicians, dancers, and actors from the National School of Arts, during which they taught us a Senegalese folk song. Our African music education became a theme and the key to our relationships during APS. Prior to the trip, we learned “Conquer the World” by Youssou Ndour featuring Akon. We used both songs throughout the deployment. The highlight event in Dakar was a concert at the African Renaissance Monument during the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament. The crowd, watching the matches on a big-screen TV, joined us for a rousing rendition of “7 Nation Army,” which is used worldwide as a stadium chant, just as Benin won a penalty shootout. The energy was electric and created a truly memorable experience for the band and the crowd.

DAKAR, Senegal (July 4, 2019) The Naval Forces Europe Band’s New Orleans brass band, Topside, performs during a 4th of July celebration at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, July 4, 2019. The NAVEUR Band supports commander, Naval Forces Europe and Africa/Joint Forces Command Naples, and commander, U.S. 6th Fleet priorities, which serve to enhance international community relations among partner nations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams/Released)

The next leg of the trip was in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. For our performances and radio interviews, the band was accompanied by two French-speaking U.S. Navy Sailors with local connections. The diversity of the band provided us with an opportunity for genuine local interaction. One of the Sailors, a naval reservist who grew up in Abidjan, taught us an Ivorian folk melody. We played it for the radio shows as well as live audiences. The students from the University of Felix Houphouet Boigny gave us one of the most enthusiastic receptions we’ve ever seen, singing, dancing, and chanting, “USA! USA!”

ABIDJAN, Cote D’Ivoire (July 16, 2019) The Naval Forces Europe Band’s New Orleans brass band, “Topside”, is interviewed by local media during a tour of the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) while the ship is in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams/Released)
ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire (July 17, 2019) – Lt. Lynda Amegee, from Lome, Togo, dances while U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band, Topside, performs during an audio recording for Al Bayane 95.7 FM radio station in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, while the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) is in port. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Travis Simmons/Released)
ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire (July 18, 2019) – The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band New Orlean’s brass band, Topside, performs alongside a child during a community relations project at the SOS Children’s Village Abobo Gare. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

Our next stop, Sekondi, Ghana, offered further proof of West African hospitality with a welcome party featuring Ghanaian bands accompanied by traditional dancers, gifts of soccer-style scarves, and a red, white, and blue cake. We teamed up for a reggae jam session with a Ghanaian Navy Band in Tema, having a musical conversation. Previously, while underway from Cote d’Ivoire to Ghana, we learned a folk melody from several Ghanaian Sailors who joined Carson City for a few days. As with each country on this trip, audiences immediately recognized the tune and sang along. The music not only brings the musicians together but also, through dancing and singing, encourages the relationships of the other APS crew members with our host-nation partners.

SEKONDI, Ghana (July 21, 2019) Chief Musician Justin Belka, a trumpeter for the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band’s New Orleans brass band, Topside, plays alongside the Ghanian band Rhythm 360 while the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) is in Sekondi, Ghana. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams/Released)
TAKORADI, Ghana (July 22, 2019) – Takoradi residents dance as the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band, Topside, embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7), parades through the streets of Takoradi, Ghana. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

Nigeria brought a welcomed return to Lagos for our band, as we had previously visited during exercise Obangame Express, a large collaborative naval exercise in March of this year. During that exercise, we were introduced to Freedom Park, a special place in the life of the city. We thought it would be a great place to perform, not knowing we would get that opportunity just five months later. Our Nigerian song of choice was “Water No Get Enemy” by afro-beat legend Fela Kuti. Rehearsal leading up to our first performance had a different energy as everyone understood the significance of playing the music of such a significant cultural icon as Fela Kuti, while in the very place he had cultivated a following that would eventually spread throughout Africa and the world. Even understanding the significance of the moment, we could have never imagined the reaction we received. The audience practically jumped out of their seats when we hit the first note! The next day, we performed the same song on Silverbird TV, reaching millions of viewers in and beyond Lagos. Playing Fela Kuti in that city and getting that reaction was a special, unforgettable moment in our musical careers. This demonstrates the power and impact of maintaining relationships with our partners. Our previous trip to Nigeria served to enhance our visit during APS.

LAGOS, Nigeria (July 28, 2019) – U.S. Naval Forces Europe’s New Orleans brass band “Topside,” embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) performs at Johnson Jakande Tinubu Park in Lagos, Nigeria. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)
LAGOS, Nigeria (July 30, 2019) – Band members from U.S. Naval Forces Europe’s New Orleans brass band, “Topside,” embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7), perform as musical guests on the television show “Today on STV” at SilverbirdTV in Lagos, Nigeria. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

Cabo Verde closed out the deployment for us. We were privileged to play “Sodade,” a beautiful Cabo Verdean ballad, outside the municipal market in downtown Mindelo. The band played softly and let the crowd carry the tune. It was a special moment and a wonderful reflective way to close out our time in Africa. It was the last in a series of outstanding, often unscripted, shared experiences that served as the lasting hallmarks of our deployment.

MINDELO, Cabo Verde (Aug. 8, 2019) – U.S. Naval Forces Europe’s New Orleans brass band “Topside,” embarked aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7), performs on the streets of Mindelo, Cabo Verde. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)
MINDELO, Cabo Verde (Aug. 8, 2019) – U.S. Naval Forces Europe’s New Orleans brass band “Topside” performs during a media tour on the flight deck of the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) in Mindelo, Cabo Verde. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Released)

All told, we performed 40 times for live and broadcast audiences exceeding 15 million. The social media impact has been significant and is, in fact, ongoing. This mission was a pitch-perfect example of what Navy bands are capable of and how they can contribute to broader goals of the Navy and the United States. On a personal note, this deployment has been the highlight of my career thus far and an experience for which I am profoundly grateful.

U.S. Navy Carriers Keep Freedom Safe

This week, Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) have been conducting operations around the globe, demonstrating the inherent capacity of the aircraft carrier and embarked Carrier Air Wing.

U.S. Navy aircraft carriers maintain unmatched responsiveness, flexibility, and mobility as well as the unique ability to operate forward, far away from American shores, unconstrained by the need to refuel. The nuclear-powered ship provides extra capacity for aircraft fuel, armament, and additional warfighting capability — a growth margin for future technology in shipboard warfighting systems and advanced aircraft. This asymmetric advantage grants us access to maritime domains that no other country can influence across the full range of military options. Check more details below:

Article: USS John C. Stennis Arrives in Norfolk (May 16, 2019)

Blog: John C. Stennis Joins the Norfolk CVN Family (May 15, 2019)

In the fall of 2018, quietly and with a purpose, USS John C. Stennis departed Bremerton, Washington, with little notice and less fanfare… Not an easy task for 100,000 tons of steel. —  Rear Adm. Roy Kelley

NORFOLK (May 16, 2019) The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk, May 16, 2019. John C. Stennis arrived in its new homeport at Naval Station Norfolk, following a deployment to the U.S. 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility and having conducted a homeport shift from Bremerton, Washington. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kody A. Phillips/Released)

 

Article: USS Theodore Roosevelt Participates in Exercise Northern Edge 2019 (May 14, 2019)

Article: Exercise Northern Edge 2019 kicks off in Alaska (May 13, 2019)

GULF OF ALASKA (May 14, 2019) An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the “Blue Diamonds” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 146 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) while participating in Exercise Northern Edge 2019. Northern Edge is one in a series of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command exercises in 2019 that prepares joint forces to respond to crisis in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Olympia O. McCoy/Released)

 

Article: Abraham Lincoln Transits Suez Canal (May 9, 2019)

Video: USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group Completes Southbound Suez Transit (May 9, 2019)

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and carrier strike group completes a southbound Suez Canal transit.

Video: Flight Operations Aboard USS Abraham Lincoln in the Mediterranean Sea (April 25, 2019)

U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets launch and recover aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently deployed in defense of American forces and interests in the 5th and 6th fleet areas of operation.

 

 

First CVN to Complete an OFRP Cycle: Ike enters Newport News Shipyards for maintenance and modernization to start her second OFRP Cycle

By Rear Admiral Bruce H. Lindsey
Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) transited from Naval Station Norfolk to the Norfolk Naval Shipyards on Aug. 5 to begin her second Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) Maintenance Phase. Her first OFRP Sustainment Phase is now complete, and after much success supporting the fleet, the ship will now undergo maintenance and modernization.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (Aug. 5, 2017) The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) transits the Elizabeth River during the ship's transit to Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard/Released)
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (Aug. 5, 2017) The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) transits the Elizabeth River during the ship’s transit to Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard/Released)

 

What an amazing job Ike and her crew did during the second portion of her Sustainment Phase, which came directly on the heels of a combat deployment that lasted from June 1 to December 30, 2016. During her seven months of post deployment Sustainment Phase, Ike maintained its ability to deploy fully combat ready within 30 days or less. Twice during this period, the carrier was called upon to execute a Fleet Synthetic Exercise – Sustainment (FST-S) and an at-sea Sustainment Exercise (SUSTEX) that included an Integrated Live Fire (ILF) event. These two exercises demonstrated Ike’s ability to deploy and conduct integrated planning and execution of at-sea combat operations. To accomplish this, every department aboard the ship had to be at the top of their game and constantly maintain the highest standards of readiness for months on end.

As any Sailor can tell you, maintaining this level of readiness for an aircraft carrier, let alone an entire carrier strike group, is no easy task. Between seven underway periods to conduct carrier qualification requirements to ensure proficiency and train the next generation of aviators, as well as the integrated sea combat exercises, Ike CSG worked around the clock to stay proficient in the event they were needed by the National Command Authorities.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (Aug. 9, 2017) Aviation Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Sasha Holcomb uses a needle gun to remove the deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Marques M. Franklin/Released)
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (Aug. 9, 2017) Aviation Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Sasha Holcomb uses a needle gun to remove the deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Marques M. Franklin/Released)

In addition to training requirements, we also kept Ike maintained as if she was on deployment. This meant that any time there was an issue with equipment, we jumped on fixing it. We maintained manning levels at deployment levels and kept them there throughout the entire Sustainment Phase.

Now, with USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) scheduled to return from deployment on Aug. 21 and enter into the second half of her Sustainment Phase, Ike’s crew can now focus on the beginning of her second OFRP cycle – a six-month Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) in which Sailors and shipyard workers will work together to upgrade systems and rehabilitate spaces throughout the ship.

The numerous accomplishments of Ike’s Sailors during all phases of her first OFRP cycle have illustrated that OFRP is making a critical difference in the Navy’s ability to generate highly trained and lethal combat forces to meet the threats of today, and the threats of the future.

As Ike begins her second OFRP cycle with her induction into the Maintenance Phase at Norfolk Naval Shipyards, we must ensure OFRP’s four functions of:

  1. Rotating the force
  2. Surging the force if required
  3. Maintaining and modernizing the force
  4. Resetting the force in stride such that the fleet remains operationally ready to respond to world events.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (June 27, 2017) The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56), the dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Robert E. Perry (T-AKE 5) transit the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jessica L. Dowell/Released)
ATLANTIC OCEAN (June 27, 2017) The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56), the dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Robert E. Perry (T-AKE 5) transit the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jessica L. Dowell/Released)

 

First CVN to Complete an OFRP Cycle: Ike enters Newport News Shipyards for maintenance and modernization to start her second OFRP Cycle

By Rear Admiral Bruce H. Lindsey
Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) transited from Naval Station Norfolk to the Norfolk Naval Shipyards on Aug. 5 to begin her second Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) Maintenance Phase. Her first OFRP Sustainment Phase is now complete, and after much success supporting the fleet, the ship will now undergo maintenance and modernization.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (Aug. 5, 2017) The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) transits the Elizabeth River during the ship's transit to Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard/Released)
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (Aug. 5, 2017) The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) transits the Elizabeth River during the ship’s transit to Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard/Released)

 

What an amazing job Ike and her crew did during the second portion of her Sustainment Phase, which came directly on the heels of a combat deployment that lasted from June 1 to December 30, 2016. During her seven months of post deployment Sustainment Phase, Ike maintained its ability to deploy fully combat ready within 30 days or less. Twice during this period, the carrier was called upon to execute a Fleet Synthetic Exercise – Sustainment (FST-S) and an at-sea Sustainment Exercise (SUSTEX) that included an Integrated Live Fire (ILF) event. These two exercises demonstrated Ike’s ability to deploy and conduct integrated planning and execution of at-sea combat operations. To accomplish this, every department aboard the ship had to be at the top of their game and constantly maintain the highest standards of readiness for months on end.

As any Sailor can tell you, maintaining this level of readiness for an aircraft carrier, let alone an entire carrier strike group, is no easy task. Between seven underway periods to conduct carrier qualification requirements to ensure proficiency and train the next generation of aviators, as well as the integrated sea combat exercises, Ike CSG worked around the clock to stay proficient in the event they were needed by the National Command Authorities.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (Aug. 9, 2017) Aviation Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Sasha Holcomb uses a needle gun to remove the deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Marques M. Franklin/Released)
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (Aug. 9, 2017) Aviation Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Sasha Holcomb uses a needle gun to remove the deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Marques M. Franklin/Released)

In addition to training requirements, we also kept Ike maintained as if she was on deployment. This meant that any time there was an issue with equipment, we jumped on fixing it. We maintained manning levels at deployment levels and kept them there throughout the entire Sustainment Phase.

Now, with USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) scheduled to return from deployment on Aug. 21 and enter into the second half of her Sustainment Phase, Ike’s crew can now focus on the beginning of her second OFRP cycle – a six-month Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) in which Sailors and shipyard workers will work together to upgrade systems and rehabilitate spaces throughout the ship.

The numerous accomplishments of Ike’s Sailors during all phases of her first OFRP cycle have illustrated that OFRP is making a critical difference in the Navy’s ability to generate highly trained and lethal combat forces to meet the threats of today, and the threats of the future.

As Ike begins her second OFRP cycle with her induction into the Maintenance Phase at Norfolk Naval Shipyards, we must ensure OFRP’s four functions of:

  1. Rotating the force
  2. Surging the force if required
  3. Maintaining and modernizing the force
  4. Resetting the force in stride such that the fleet remains operationally ready to respond to world events.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (June 27, 2017) The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56), the dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Robert E. Perry (T-AKE 5) transit the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jessica L. Dowell/Released)
ATLANTIC OCEAN (June 27, 2017) The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), the guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56), the dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Robert E. Perry (T-AKE 5) transit the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jessica L. Dowell/Released)

 

USS Somerset Shines on Maiden Deployment

By Capt. Darren Glaser
Commanding Officer, USS Somerset (LPD 25)

SAN DIEGO (Oct. 14, 2016) — Line handlers assigned to Naval Station San Diego release the mooring lines as the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), departs for a scheduled deployment. Somerset is a part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, which will serve in the U.S. 3rd, 5th, and 7th Fleet area of operation, providing maritime security operations, crisis response capability, theater security cooperation and forward naval presence. (U.S. Navy Photo by Seaman Kelsey Hockenberger/Released)
SAN DIEGO (Oct. 14, 2016) — Line handlers assigned to Naval Station San Diego release the mooring lines as the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), departs for a scheduled deployment. (U.S. Navy Photo by Seaman Kelsey Hockenberger/Released)

As we departed Naval Base San Diego Oct. 14, 2016, for USS Somerset’s (LPD 25) maiden deployment, along with USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and USS Comstock (LSD 45) for operations in the U.S. 3rd, 5th and 7th, I knew the ship and crew were more than ready. Now, as we prepare to return to San Diego on May 15, I want to share how Somerset shined on our maiden deployment.

We worked very hard transitioning from a pre-commissioning unit to a deployment ready U.S. Navy warship – first through the basic phase of training and then into the intermediate phase as integrated members of the Amphibious Squadron  5/11th Marine Expeditionary Unit team and the ‘Makin Island’ Amphibious Readiness Group. During this training, Somerset Sailors and Marines quickly learned to work together and completed certification in all mission areas we could be assigned to perform throughout a deployment. Since setting sail, the Makin Island Amphibious Readiness Group has collectively been engaged in numerous operations defending U.S. interests and maintaining freedom of the seas.

APRA HARBOR, GUAM (April 20, 2017) The amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25) heads towards Guam for a scheduled liberty port visit. Somerset, with the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (11th MEU), was operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance amphibious capability with regional partners and to serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob I. Allison/Released)
APRA HARBOR, GUAM (April 20, 2017) The amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25) heads towards Guam for a scheduled liberty port visit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob I. Allison/Released)

 

As a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock (LPD) ship, Somerset offers the kind of innovation and cutting edge technology the surface Navy needs to meet future challenges at sea – both during this initial deployment and for years to come. The ship includes innovations in its external design that reduces the ship’s appearance on radars and a state-of-the-art command and control network. San Antonio-class ships were designed to be stealthy, have significant survivability features and an advanced computer technology to accomplish a broad range of missions. This class is the first amphibious ships in the U.S. Navy to feature these design innovations. High-tech systems, an integrated Ship Wide Area Network, video cameras located throughout the ship, and technology like the Consolidated Visual Information System allow the crew to monitor the vast array of systems onboard, while requiring fewer personnel at watch stations.

WATERS NEAR TRINCOMALEE, SRI LANKA (Nov. 22, 2016) Sailors aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25) lower a rigid-hull inflatable boat with a knuckle-boom crane of the coast of Sri Lanka in preparation for a theater security cooperation exchange with the Sri Lankan military. Somerset and embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit were conducting the exchange with Sri Lankan forces in order to enhance tactical skill sets and disaster relief capabilities while strengthening the overall relationship between the two forces (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Chavez/Released)
WATERS NEAR TRINCOMALEE, SRI LANKA (Nov. 22, 2016) Sailors aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25) lower a rigid-hull inflatable boat with a knuckle-boom crane of the coast of Sri Lanka in preparation for a theater security cooperation exchange with the Sri Lankan military. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Chavez/Released)

These advanced systems facilitate both external and internal flexibility to not only serve as a warfare commander in a strike group, but also gives the crew the ability to monitor vital ship system’s from traditional controlling stations like the bridge, as well as in other places like a joint planning room, the wardroom lounge or even the ship’s library and chapel. With shipboard innovations in technology like the Consolidated Visual Information System, it’s possible to be in the helo control tower and review all the parameters of online equipment in the engine rooms, keep an eye on all surface/air contacts while sitting in the wardroom or even steer the ship all the way back by the flight deck in our These unique capabilities have been in high demand and we have participated in major operational tasking throughout the deployment. A true testament to our resolve, we remained on station and at sea for as long as 76 consecutive days supporting missions.

Through our work, we demonstrated our commitment to readiness. Operations included several firsts for the United States and our partnering nation, Sri Lanka, as the first and largest U.S. Navy warship to conduct both Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) and air ship-to-shore operations on a Sri Lankan Naval Base and first ever theater security cooperation exercise with the Sri Lankan Navy (Marines). This enabled a first major military-to-military exercise, multiple exchanges and training events with the U.S. Marines and Sri Lanka forces. While Somerset already has three of its own rigid-hull inflatable boats, we embarked an additional two rigid-hull inflatable boats crewed by Assault Craft Unit 5 to support the Marine’s Maritime Raid Force operations. Our LCACs from Beach Master Unit 5 moved Marines and their equipment to beaches around the world during this deployment. Our ability to rapidly embark diverse joint forces, integrate them, deploy them close to the mission objective and support them in the execution of their mission sets has been critical to getting the job done this deployment. Additionally, we also took part in exercises and engagements with our valuable strategic partners in Oman and Djibouti.

SALALAH, OMAN (March 4, 2017) Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Brandon Kellum, from Harlem, N.Y., signals a vehicle onto a landing craft, air cushion (LCAC), assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5, during exercise Sea Soldier 17. The annual, bilateral exercise is conducted with the Royal Army of Oman and is designed to demonstrate the cooperative skill and will of U.S. and partner nations to work together in maintaining regional stability and security. The amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), with the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners, preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce and enhance regional stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda Chavez/Released)
SALALAH, OMAN (March 4, 2017) Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Brandon Kellum, from Harlem, N.Y., signals a vehicle onto a landing craft, air cushion (LCAC), assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5, during exercise Sea Soldier 17. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda Chavez/Released)

 

GULF OF ADEN (Dec. 21, 2016) Lt. Taryn Cazzolii, right, the senior medical officer aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), and Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Donahue, a Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 5 surgeon, operate on a patient during Somerset’s first ever onboard surgery. FST 5 is embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) in order to enhance surgical, casualty receiving and trauma treatment capabilities across the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). Somerset was deployed with the Makin Island and 11th MEU to support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda Chavez/Released)
GULF OF ADEN (Dec. 21, 2016) Lt. Taryn Cazzolii, right, the senior medical officer aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), and Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Donahue, a Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 5 surgeon, operate on a patient during Somerset’s first ever onboard surgery. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda Chavez/Released)

Using this technology, all of the impressive work is accomplished with a ship operating with lower manning levels than traditional ships of its size. Somerset, and the other San Antonio-class ships like it, are unique and forward-thinking surface warfare ships that bring a wide array of naval warfighting and Defense Support of Civil Authorities capabilities together in one package. Her distinctive characteristics make Somerset worldwide deployable for almost any mission – but I am the first to admit, the ship would only be a shell without the devoted Sailors and Marines. Each LPD-17 class can support up to 800 additional personnel, provide medical care (we have both surgical and dental capability) and it encompasses more than 23,000 square feet of vehicle storage space, more than double of the previous LPD-4 class it replaced. Somerset’s crew is both highly trained and prepared to support command and control, to on load and offload people, provisions and/or special equipment ashore.

Dedicated, highly trained and professional, the Somerset team is united to defend our country and to keep the seas safe and free. The ship’s array of accomplishments on this first deployment, from naval firsts with other countries to successfully carrying out traditional mission tasking, are a direct result of the hard work and service of the crew and their embarked 11th MEU counterparts on board. They are the heart of the ship – without them, the ship could not move operate and fight to deliver concentrated, projected combat power ashore or execute the vast number of humanitarian missions we have the flexibility to support.

Having served on several different ship classes in my career, I could not ask to serve on a more powerful surface warship or with a better crew! As one of the Navy’s three 9/11 Memorial ships, the memory of Flight 93’s courage and sacrifice lives on, embodied by Somerset’s Sailors and embarked Marines. Somerset has 22 tons of steel from one of two mining excavators present at the crash site, which stood witness to the crash of Flight 93, and later where an American flag was flown by first responders during the recovery operation. That steel was melted down and incorporated into the bow stem of this ship during its construction. That piece of history and courage through adversity is now a part of the backbone of this ship, it cutting through the water for both this crew as we return from our maiden deployment and future crews who will serve aboard this ship.

 

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Nov. 10, 2016) Capt. Darren Glaser, commanding officer of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), and Lt. Col. Matthew Lundgren, commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (11th MEU), salute during a ceremony for the 241st birthday of the Marine Corps aboard Somerset.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Nov. 10, 2016) Capt. Darren Glaser, commanding officer of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), and Lt. Col. Matthew Lundgren, commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (11th MEU), salute during a ceremony for the 241st birthday of the Marine Corps aboard Somerset. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob I. Allison/Released)

Editor’s Note: Capt. Glaser’s service aboard Somerset began as this ship’s executive officer in October 2015 before assuming his current role as the ship’s third commanding officer.

The Decision and Drive to Serve in the U.S. Navy

By Jason Kelly
U.S. Navy Digital Media Engagement Director

Over the past eight months, more than 6,000 Carrier Strike Group 8 Sailors served in the 5th and 6th U.S. Fleet areas of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Syria.

ARABIAN GULF (May 5, 2016) An F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Pukin’ Dogs” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143, launches from the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Lindsay A. Preston/Released)

ARABIAN GULF (May 5, 2016) An F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Pukin’ Dogs” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143, launches from the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Lindsay A. Preston/Released)

 

While we shared a variety of imagery from their deployment on our flagship social media sites, many of those images showed Truman’s flight deck because it is the most visual representation. However, there were so many more Sailors below the flight deck because each of our Sailors has a mission as they serve to protect and defend America.

We want to share two of their stories about their decision to serve and how they’re doing it. We encourage you to add your own stories in the comments at the bottom of this blog.


Everyone Has a Mission

By SN (SW/AW) Sasha L. Blair
USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75)

I was born on the Naval Base in Rota, Cadiz, Spain, in 1987. I came to the United States when I was 3 years old and graduated from North High School in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 2006. After high school, I worked various jobs successfully climbing up the chain in each one but was never satisfied. On August 17, 2014, I made the decision to join the United States Navy. Two months later, I graduated boot camp at the age of 27. I came in the Navy as an undesignated seaman, meaning I was without a rate for a long time. Coming in without a rating was the best choice I could have made in my naval career. I believe that everything happens for a reason and this has been the most amazing journey I have ever taken–and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Getting orders to USS Truman (CVN 75) has proved to be a great start to my naval career. The first time I ever saw Trumanwas in the shipyards in 2014, after she had just come back from a nine-month deployment. She was massive and the feeling was overwhelming. I was lucky to have the opportunity to start my journey on a ship with a family member, because it meant I wouldn’t be alone. My cousin was also stationed on Truman as a boatswain’s mate (BM) in the Deck Department. Luckily for me, as an undesignated seaman I would be starting out in the Deck Department working with the BMs. Being in the Deck wasn’t the most glamorous job. It wasn’t even close to the job I wanted but I loved it. I chipped paint, sanded down rust and swabbed the decks. I painted everything from bits to chocks and chains and everything in between and learned how to complete maintenance throughout the ship. The maintenance is extremely important because doing that job helps preserve the ship and better enables it to complete its missions.

In November 2015, Truman started to get underway for another deployment and I was finally able to get my sea legs for the first time. This is my first deployment and I learned what it really meant to be a Sailor in Deck, while underway. I didn’t handle any aircraft, ordnance or deal with any top-secret information but instead I was part of a smaller department doing a job that was just as essential to support the mission. Deck Department is truly a team. Nothing can be done alone without the shipmate next to you. While underway we executed some of the most dangerous and mission essential evolutions as underway replenishment (UNREP) is just an example. During an UNREP, the ship takes on fuel that helps us complete our mission and takes on food that feeds the crew allowing our souls to feel connected to loved ones even when far from home. Deck Department is also in charge of the man overboard evolutions. We work as a team to man and ready the rigid hull inflatable boat to be dropped into the water within three minutes if a shipmate is in need. We ensure that the ship is moored properly and safely to the pier, whether it’s in a foreign port or our homeport. We even had the opportunity to drop the anchors, when we anchored out to sea. We stood watch 24/7 as lookouts when the ship steamed into stormy or hazy weather.

As a helmsman, I safely drove this great warship in every sea state and during flight operations. Of all the evolutions that we accomplished, the biggest one was bonding with my shipmates. This experience was built during this deployment and will forever be part of my naval career. My first Navy family and some of the best friends I’ve made were in Deck but this was only the beginning of my journey.

In December, the next chapter of my life started when I got picked up through C-Way and I applied to become a legalman (LN). I was so excited when I found out that I got the job. I now finally have the opportunity to have a rate. For the past few months, I have worked hard putting together my package and learning what it means to work in the legalman rating. This experience has been just as amazing as working in Deck and it has definitely been challenging. I am still learning and I have been working in the legal office to gain leadership skills and on-the-job training before heading to “A” School. I do not stand watch, drive the ship, paint nor man the boats anymore. Those tasks have been replaced with learning how to draft notaries and power of attorneys and provide legal assistance to Sailors. My new mission in legal is to help support good order and discipline and uphold naval standards.

Now my first deployment has come to an end. Although this journey was long and challenging, I was lucky that I didn’t have to do it alone I had my shipmates there with me through every challenge, as I was there for them. With the support of both Deck and Legal Department, I have seen the world and grown in my naval career. For me, this is only the beginning but it was a great beginning.


I’ve Always Been a Patriot

By PSSN Edwin Diaz
Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140

 

I remember attending a Veteran’s Day ceremony at school when I was nine years old. All the classes gathered in the courtyard which was decorated with American flags, wreaths and countless other items. Several older men joined us; walking in they took their seats with a roar of applause from the teachers and staff. They were war veterans, many of them with disabilities.

I recall one man in particular who had difficulty walking. When the National Anthem played, he was instructed to stay seated to avoid the further pain and discomfort. But, as the National Anthem played, there he stood. No look of pain in his eyes, just pride.

Since both my parents both served in the Army I guess their patriotism rubbed off on me because that image stuck with me. From that point forward I knew I wanted to do one thing—serve my country.

Fast forward seven years later and it’s my senior year in high school. I’m sitting in math class as our teacher went around the room asking about life after graduation. All the students answered with the same response: “I’m going to college.”

Then it was my turn.

“What about you Mr. Diaz,” Mr. O asked. “What do you plan on doing?”

Without hesitation I responded, “I’m going to join the Navy.”

The class erupted with laughter. Some people even made nasty comments, but that was the norm for our high school. Lyman High rarely hosted military recruiters and most of the staff pushed the idea that going to college was the only way to be successful.

Time passed from that day and, once again, I’m approached by Mr. O.

“Edwin,” he said. “Why haven’t you submitted any college applications yet?”

Before the word “Navy” had a chance to leave my mouth, he cut me off.

“If you would have studied, you wouldn’t have to join the military,” said Mr. O.

“I don’t have to join,” I said. “I want to join!”

I kept my cool with Mr. O then called my parents and asked for a ride to the Navy recruiter’s office. They were so excited and supportive, I couldn’t wait to get there. When we arrived, the recruiters were welcoming and informative but they didn’t sugar coat what I would be getting into.

That night at dinner, I discussed my decision with the support of my family. They knew I had a long road ahead but they were proud and just wanted the best for me.

When it came time to sign my paper work, I was nervous. Looking at the jobs I’m thinking corpsman or ordnanceman, but neither was available. Seeing that didn’t help with my nerves, so I asked the Sailor helping me about his job.

He talked to me about his duties as a personnel specialist. It may not be the traditional job you think of when you think Navy, he said, but every rate contributes to the overall success – everybody has a mission.

In my time of uncertainty, he was there to help. It was at that moment I knew what I wanted to do.

Two days later, I graduated high school and soon after was off to boot camp with aspirations of becoming a personnel specialist. Standing there in my cap and gown, I’ll never forget my father’s words.

“This chapter’s closed,” he said. “Another one is immediately going to open.”

My parents are proud of me, my brother looks up to me and I can’t wait to see what my career holds.