AT SEA - The thought of bombs and guns brings a lot of excitement and interest to the minds of many people. Expertise in this field is critical to the U.S. Navy accomplishing any mission it may be assigned. But what does it take for a U.S. Navy vessel to equip itself with the proper weapons and explosives for a deployment?
Weapons Department, or WEPS, Sailors aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) stay true to their name by knowing all things weapons, inside and out. WEPS consists of two rates, Gunner's Mate and Aviation Ordnanceman. Both rates have worked together during the last several months to prepare Bonhomme Richard for her 2015 spring patrol.
“Getting ready for a deployment is tough,” said Gunner's Mate 3rd Class Jesse Hardee, assistant work-center supervisor for WEPS' G-3 division. “We've been doing maintenance, preparing gun mounts, participating in drills, exercises and conducting training constantly in order to make our ship the best, and most prepared, in the fleet.”
Some of the most exciting things WEPS has to show is their strength and skill. Some of the exercises and drills they perform display the impressive fighting force Bonhomme Richard is capable of being and the equipment they use displays the strength of the U.S. Navy.
“One of my favorite drills is the small craft action team, or SCAT, drill,” said Hardee. “It prepares the ship for possible incoming attacks by multiple small boats.”
WEPS Sailors man .50-caliber guns mounted on the side of Bonhomme Richard during SCAT drills. Each of these powerful weapons is designed to defend the ship from large amounts of incoming small attack boats.
January 12, 2015 - Gunners Mate 1st Class David Jacinto, from Compton, Calif., instructs Sailors on the proper operation of a .50-caliber machine gun aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin V. Cunningham)
“Drills like these are why I love my job,” said Hardee. “Every underway is exciting and working in weapons department has given me some of the best experiences of my life. As much fun as it is, I admit that there is great responsibility in handling guns and weapons. All the training and qualifications we go through to do our job really has shown me how strong our ship can be when the time comes.”
The major evolution that comes with every deployment for WEPS is the ammo onload. Each underway, Bonhomme Richard must bring in all of the ammunition and explosives for her mission.
“Coordinating the Weapons department onload starts the moment the ordnance is offloaded,” said Lt. Sheltric Peterson, Bonhomme Richard's Weapons Department officer. “The entirety of the department comes together and discusses lessons learned, safety procedures and how we can be more efficient.”
The equipment used for the onload is managed and maintained by Weapons department and Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department.
“We use explosive proof forklifts in the hangar bay and inside the magazines we use a stand-up electrical forklift,” said Peterson.
“Armament Weapons Support Equipment, or AWSE, is also used for transporting ammunition from the magazines to the hangar bay and flight deck for use.”
After planning everything for the onload, WEPS prepares for the final steps and procedures.
“If needed, qualificationand certification boards are conducted to make sure we have the right personnel to safely conduct the evolution and also qualify the newly assigned personnel,” said Peterson. “The last step is to set a date for the operation and conduct the onload.”
After the onload, it's up to Bonhomme Richard's WEPS team to monitor all of the ammunition and equipment at all times to ensure every piece of equipment is ready for any mission the ship may take on.
“To my Sailors, no task is too big,” said Peterson. “If we have the resources to do the job, my Sailors are more than willing to accept the challenge. The Weapons department motto is ‘Attitude Determines Altitude' and if you ask a Weapons Sailor where they work, you will see what sets them above the rest.”
By U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christian M. Caldwell
USS Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs
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