PACIFIC OCEAN -- Two years of training and maintenance prepared the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) to deploy with Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.
Amid operations in U.S. 7th Fleet, Damage Control Assistant Lt. David Jimenez recalled the preparations toward the June departure from San Diego for deployment and the ship’s Fleet Response Training Plan, beginning when Sterett first arrived in the yards in 2018.
“We were certifying seven warfare areas at the same time,” said Jimenez. “We had execution plans that were essential and we had to deconflict at every level to the minute. Every hoop we gave Sterett Sailors, they jumped through.”
During what is known as the basic phase, Sterett completed tiers one and two certifications in 19 weeks. Afloat Training Group (ATG) trained and evaluated watchstanders and training teams to ensure the destroyer was ready to execute missions at the unit level.
Following basic phase, Sterett was ready to work with other units. The ship completed initial ship aviation team training (ISATT) with the "Magicians" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35. For the advanced phase, the Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) presented a challenging surface warfare advanced tactical training (SWATT) which is designed to allow ships to train in a high-velocity environment that facilitates a full spectrum quality “plan, brief, execute, debrief” (PBED) process that was previously unseen in the Surface community.
“The implementation of SWATT is a refreshing addition to the training cycle,” said Lt. Nathan Neher, the combat systems officer onboard. “Through a variety of events, SWATT allowed the ship, watchstanders and crew to gain confidence in their equipment. The ability to engage UAVs with guns and targets with SM-2s [standard missiles] provided us with an opportunity to see that our equipment worked as advertised.”
Following SWATT, Sterett was ready to join the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group for a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX), the definitive, final training to determine if a strike group and its units are deployment-ready. Prior to departing, Sterett’s crew began a pre-movement sequester in accordance with U.S. Navy pre-deployment guidelines—compliance with Navy and CDC guidance is critical to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
After a rigorous month of training, Sterett’s crew completed the exercise, incorporating lessons learned during SWATT and the basic phase.
“Our teams built off of the foundation provided by external training organizations in the PBED process to create and execute challenging and realistic scenarios to improve our watchstander responses,” said Sterett Executive Officer Cmdr. Jessica Morera, “I look forward to our teams developing and executing valuable training for our ship to maintain and improve our mission readiness and combat effectiveness.”
Sterett Sailors, both junior and senior, voiced satisfaction with the experiences they have gained and shared excitement at what the future holds for the rest of deployment.
“All of the equipment, all the way down to the last bolt and nut, is good to go,” said Boatwain’s Mate 3rd Class David Mashburn. “It’s good to finally be embarked on my first deployment.”
The training officer onboard Sterett shared the sentiment of being underway.
“There is a lot of value in going on deployment. It’s what we are here for, this is the best part of being in the Navy,” said Lt. Blake Rothermel.
The commanding officer of Sterett was proud of the work the crew put in to prepare for deployment.
“My Dauntless crew has been the beneficiary of some exceptional training throughout this cycle,” said Cmdr. Andrew Koy. “I’m proud to say that Sterett is a combat-ready warship, deployed as an assurance to our allies and partners and a credible deterrent to our enemies.”