By Larry “E” Crutchfield
|USNS Coronado gets ‘all dressed-up’ for her decommissioning and transition ceremony held Feb. 25 at Naval Base Point Loma, Calif. Now a permanent member of Military Sealift Command’s fleet, Coronado will remain in San Diego in reduced operating status – ready to return to full active service within 30 days.|
Larry “E” Crutchfield photos
|Civil service mariner Capt. Robert H. Jaeger, assumes command of Coronado, the first Navy command ship to employ a joint military and civilian crew.|
What began as an innovative idea to reduce crewing requirements on U.S. Navy command ships entered new phase when USS Coronado was decommissioned and transitioned to the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command as USNS Coronado during a Feb. 25 ceremony held in San Diego.
This was actually the second time in the past 16 months that Coronado was decommissioned and transferred to MSC.
In November 2003, USS Coronado became the Navy's first command ship to transition to a joint crewing concept where civil service mariners perform navigation, deck, engineering, food service and supply duties, while active-duty Sailors concentrate on operating the command, control and combat systems aboard ship.
Originally, the ship had a 481-member crew; after the transition the crew was reduced to 263 – 146 civil service mariners and 117 Sailors.
In order to complete the transition process, the ship had to be decommissioned and transferred to MSC to undergo a two-month-long shipyard conversion period where the ship was modified to meet civilian specifications. Coronado was re-commissioned in February 2004.
In early March 2004, Coronado deployed to the western Pacific Ocean to temporarily replace command ship USS Blue Ridge during her maintenance period. Coronado was crewed by a joint military and civilian crew and commanded by Capt. Christopher Noble, USN.
"This pilot needed an innovative leader. We found one in Capt. Chris Noble," said Vice Adm. David L. Brewer III, USN, Commander, Military Sealift Command, during his remarks at the February decommissioning and transition ceremony.
"When Chris visited me in my office before taking command of Coronado, I could see the excitement in his eyes. I knew we had the right man. He is an out-of-the-box thinker and a great naval leader.
|Members of command ship USNS Coronado’s military crew participate in the ship’s decommissioning and transition ceremony. While in reduced operating status, crew consists of 21 civil service mariners and 25 active-duty Sailors.|
"During Coronado's deployment with 7th Fleet, the combined crew accomplished every mission action required and some in record time," the admiral said. "Like going from C-5 reduced readiness status to certified and forward deployed in just 29 days."
"From theater engagement port calls to executing the maritime component of Exercise Ulchi Focus Lens, the crew performed flawlessly, including safe conduct of flight operations with the Republic of Korea's navy and the U.S. Army's 17th Air Brigade," said Vice Adm. Brewer.
The ‘new' USNS Coronado will remain in San Diego in reduced operating status, or ROS, ready to return to full active service within 30 days. While in ROS, the ship will be crewed by 21 civil service mariners and 25 active-duty Sailors.
Chief engineer Andy Busk, the senior civilian mariner aboard Coronado, will be the officer in charge while the ship is in ROS. Busk was Coronado's chief engineer while the ship was in the shipyard for her civilian modification and for half of the ship's last deployment.
"The ROS crew's main responsibility is to ensure the ship's systems will be ready to activate on short notice," explained Busk.
"Military members will maintain the weapons, communications and computer systems, and civilian mariners will take care of the hull, mechanical and electrical systems," he said. "We'll make sure she's in fighting condition."