Atlantic Ocean - The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) completed the final portion of its first deployment in 12 years when it finished offloading the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), December 22.
While deployed, Wasp's crew completed a certification validation (CV) enabling the ship to forward deploy to Sasebo, Japan, next year. The rotation is the latest move in the Navy's ongoing Pacific rebalance.
"This crew did their jobs in amazing fashion during this deployment," said Wasp Commanding Officer Capt. Andrew Smith. "They often had to do deployment certification drills part of the day and fight ISIL the other. Not to mention, we simultaneously carried out the massive day-to-day operations that are required to run a deployed Navy warship."
CVs are designed to support deployment certification extensions when necessary. They include a comprehensive assessment of most mission areas to make sure a ship is ready to get underway quickly.
"We do certification validations on the rare occasion that a ship needs to get underway within a short time frame after deployment for events such as re-deployment," said Afloat Training Group (ATG) Tactical Mentor Lt. Cmdr. Michael Myers. "The fact that we completed CV testing phases while the ship was also doing real-world operations is unprecedented both for a ship and for ATG. We had to de-conflict with replenishments-at-sea, flight operations, and normal ship operations."
Areas tested during the CV included navigation, seamanship, communications, explosive safety, search-and-rescue plotting, engineering, and damage control.
"We went at least 14 weeks at a minimum of 14-20 hour days," said Master at Arms 1st Class Jeffery Martinez. "My crew is exhausted, but at the end of the day we passed, we got our recertification done. It required a lot of work and a lot of effort by my crew to get the job done and I'm very proud of them. Now it's time to go home and get some time off, some well-deserved liberty earned by everybody."
A large portion of the drills were completed while the crew was simultaneously carrying out Operation Odyssey Lightning (OOL). On Aug. 1 the 22nd MEU was ordered carry to out precision air strikes against ISIL targets in Sirte, Libya, in support of the Government of National Accord (GNA) forces fighting there.
Wasp was initially on station supporting OOL for 100 consecutive days before being relieved by the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17), another ship in the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).
"It's amazing to see what the American Sailor can do," said Wasp Command Master Chief Gregory Carlson. "I think it was amazing that we not only focused on combat operations but also focus on our own training repetition. Whether it was damage control, force protection, or the IT training done for radio, it's nice to go back to basics and make sure we can execute the core fundamentals of the ship."
On Dec. 6 GNA-aligned forces claimed liberation of the city.
"I'm very humbled by what we've been able to accomplish," Carlson continued. "I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what these Sailors and Marines have done."
Over the course of the 180-day deployment, Wasp transited more than 34,000 nautical miles, and logged more than 14,300 flight hours. The crew also took on more than 1,280 pallets of cargo during 18 replenishment-at-sea evolutions.
Additionally, Wasp, Amphibious Squadron Six (PHIBRON Six), and the 22nd MEU took part in Exercise African Sea Lion, a bi-lateral cooperation exercise with the Moroccan Royal Navy, and supported maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
Wasp was deployed as part of the Wasp ARG to both the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations. Commander, PHIBRON Six commands the Wasp ARG, which consists of San Antonio, Wasp, and amphibious dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41).