Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

First SSGN Deployed Crew Swap

This report from Guam discusses the first overseas crew swap since her conversion for USS Ohio (SSGN 726). I've never done a crew swap, so some of what the article said surprised me:

GUAM was the site for the first crew swap between the USS Ohio's "gold crew" and the "blue crew" with each crew consisting of 165 sailors.
The "blue crew" recently arrived on Guam for a regularly scheduled port visit.
The USS Ohio is scheduled to have three crew swaps and then return to Bangor, Wash., Ohio's homeport...
...The gold crew was scheduled to relieve the blue crew. After the swap, though, the blue crew will stay for roughly three weeks and repair the submarine before they can fly home.
It's the last sentence that got me scratching my head. I would have figured the crew swap would be at the end of the maintenance period, and the oncoming crew would stand proficiency watches under the crew that had the boat prior to taking over officially. If that the way SSBN crew swaps are done, with the Trident Refit Facility or IMF available to do the toughest maintenance? Were overseas boomer crew swaps done differently? Or did the reporter just not understand what he was being told?

I'd be interested in hearing from those of you experienced in such things if the off-going crew really does turn over the boat right away, but then have to stay around for three weeks of not-very-fun maintenance help.

Update 0521 23 Jan 2008: Looks like the Blue Crew only hung around for 12 days after they pulled into Guam, and 4 days after the Gold Crew took over.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is the way it is done on SSBN's too. About 3 days after you pull in off patrol, the oncoming crew relieves. A portion of the off-going crew is then used to "augment" the onwatch crew as they complete their refit prior to leaving on patrol. These augmentees typically make up teh paint team, spruce team, and some maintenance. Although most of the work is done by the onwatch crew. They went to this model in 1999 and it has worked ever since. I was a JO in Bangor from 2000-2003.

1/17/2008 12:07 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gn's have a bit different Schedule than the Tridents too.

But yes the crew "turn over" is done prior to the end of the major maintenance period on the west coast and east coast.

Main difference is in Kbay the off going crew was turned into a clean up crew and did most the paint chipping and repainting, In Bangor te crews more or less combine for a while.

1/17/2008 1:21 AM

Blogger Lou said...

I was on a older boomer that was based out of Holy Loch. As soon as turnover was over, we got the hell out of Dodge.

1/17/2008 4:38 AM

Anonymous ex-lelt said...

This sounds like the way we did it when I was in Bangor (91-93). Crew turnover was done within a few days of RTP, the off-going crew got a few days off, then returned to help with maintenance and cleaning. People in divisions with a heavy workload (like M, E, and A) were assigned to perform mainenance and most others were sent to a paint team. The off-going crew was never used to stand watch back then, but I hear that several boats use both crews on the watchbill now, at least back in the engineroom.

1/17/2008 10:22 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A "typical" SSBN crew turnover in the 70's alongside the tender at ROTA or HOLY LOCH amounted to a basic 3 - 5 day parallel of crews - a change of command & departure of the off-going crew - followed by a 3 week RE-FIT period conducted by the oncoming crew before fast cruise, sea trials & final loadout.

1/17/2008 10:36 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was on Nevada in the late 80’s. When we returned to port and did a turnover. The off going crew got a few days off and then came back for maintenance. Like ex-lelt said, the most of the off going engineering divisions did maintenance. It was really nice because it eliminated “the other crew” problem because you were the other crew. Of course a lot of equipment was TRIPER’ed out and quite a few repairs were remove and replace. That was nice.

1/17/2008 2:43 PM

Anonymous stsc(ss) said...

I just retired a few months ago, after a long tour on my very first Trident. That's the same schedule we had, in both King's Bay and Bangor.
It was awful. For the off-going crew, it was called "refit assist". The offgoing crew augmented the inport watchbill, and assisted in all the refit maintenance. The off going crew blue shirts reported to the other crew during this period, which was a complete nightmare. There was no easy way to do it, and we tried everything.
Morale during refit assist was typically the lowest, and there seemed to always be at least one "incident" (DUI, domestic violence, etc.) for the refit assist crew during this time. And yes, it even sucked for the CPOs. I don't know how it was for the officers,...they were always mysteriously not there...attending a school or something. lol

1/17/2008 6:18 PM

Blogger SonarMan said...

STSC/SS just bumped my comment. Just like a damned goat. I tried to submit the same time he did, and mine didn't go through.

Anyway, what he said.

1/17/2008 6:28 PM

Blogger SonarMan said...

Oh yeah, forgot to mention:

"...The gold crew was scheduled to relieve the blue crew. After the swap, though, the blue crew will stay for roughly three weeks and repair the submarine before they can fly home."

THAT has to be hell on earth.

1/17/2008 6:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Retired Trident Officer and Lafyette Class Sailor: The older boomers relieved after 4 days and flew home. But the Trident has so many more sq inches of surface area that needs painting and cleaning that the on coming crew does not have sufficient manpower to complete the expected spucing up in the 3-4 week refit. I think they make the on coming crew responsible for the refit because they have to live with it.

1/17/2008 7:41 PM

Blogger Subvet said...

sonarman put it very nicely, "hell on earth".

"Air in the banks, shit in the tanks, I had it and you've got it" had it's drawbacks but at least there weren't two commands competing for who could look good while making the other guy look bad. A scenario I can see plain as day.

1/17/2008 9:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't mind refit assist in the late 90's - it was better than being at sea, and you wanted to make sure nothing kept the other crew from taking the boat back out (and out of YOUR life) on time. The last three refit assists I did at Bangor I ran the team at the powder coat shop - the more crap we could powder coat, the less crap we had to paint. Plus, after that floating turd left the pier, you got a few weeks off, followed by half-days and softball games.

Now the zeroes, in their infinite wisdom, have turned off crew into one long fast cruise, albeit in simulators. It's still better than a fast boat, but far more gruelling than it's ever been.

Vote with your feet, people. Your life doesn't have to suck just so some zero can make captain one day. The civilian nuclear world is gearing up for a major comeback; in a few years you'll have headhunters camped outside every base. There are no shortage of jobs for someone who could hack it on a boat.

1/18/2008 7:34 AM

Anonymous trf said...

"The civilian nuclear world is gearing up for a major comeback; in a few years you'll have headhunters camped outside every base. There are no shortage of jobs for someone who could hack it on a boat."

Yes, commercial nuclear power is making a comeback, but it will be years before any new plants even start construction. The action now seems to be in licensing and arranging financing. On the operational side it seems to be holding steady or shrinking.

Back in the early '90s I did two patrols out of Holy Loch, and the turnovers were one day of info stretched over about four days. Maybe it was better for other folks. I couldn't imagine living on that barge for more than a few days.

In off crew we did very little. Sometimes I even felt guilty about doing so little. Then I went to new construction on an SSN and could only dream of time off, let alone an off crew. As we said "one Friday we went into shift work, and came out three months later."

1/18/2008 2:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, new construction won't happen for a few years, but I'm sure a lot of people reading this have about that much time left on their sentence... er, "enlistment". The industry is ramping up now; every few days I get another offer from, and I'm not even looking.

1/19/2008 7:47 AM

Blogger Chap said...

I was watching and occasionally throwing junior level bureaucratic hand grenades as everybody fibrillated about where to put the boats, where to fix 'em, how to man 'em, et cet. A guy I served with on his JO shore tour provided ammo for CSP to get Guam opened to SSN homeporting again; someone else figured out how to kill the objections to dredging, et cetera.

Tyranny of distance is important; these boats won't be Seawolf Speed Demons with shelters on them, so it will take a huge chunk of operational time merely to get the boat from point A to point B.

I particularly remember a big ol' fight about homeporting SSGN in Bangor versus somewhere else; I had my opinions but wasn't in the decision game for this one (entirely too junior, thanks). Best HP for maximizing the operation time for a boat would have been right up against an operational area; worst would be across the Pacific--and that's Bangor.

So the submarine leadership figured out some compromises and put the boats somewhere. One of the downsides to this compromise is that all the stuff to fix Tridents, train on the systems, etc., was not at Guam. I bet that has something to do with the repair schedule. Especially since the freekin' new training junior enlisted go through means a first tour sonar PO can be qualified on the boat and never have used an oscilloscope!

Kam lasted 38 plus years because of good maintenance, and at the end a lot of scrambling and making do and skilled sweat on the part of the crew. Important example safety tip: If your head clogs up all the time, and the pipe was original equipment, after 30+ years the uric salts and whatever almost completely occlude the pipe--only way to fix it is to replace.

Re nuke civilian jobs: In Omaha they sure were hirin'. Pay was merely okay at the start but got impressive fairly soon after. It's not my choice of post-Navy work but it sure would buy a good size house.

1/19/2008 9:01 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Use to ride the John Marshall when it was a SSN, did the same role the Ohio is doing now, we never had a crew swap, why are they bothering with it?

1/21/2008 8:38 AM

Anonymous grumpy old ldo said...

Crew swap is required due to the boat's deployment schedule. From the article cited in the original post: "The Ohio is completing the first underway period of a one-year deployment to 7th Fleet."

I find the entire two-crew model distasteful and think that it etablishes two classes of submariners in the USN, with grossly different quality of life. Even taking into consideration the ramped up off-crew SSBN training discussed above, the two do ot even compare.

However, as a fast boat sailor, I don't another way to maintain crew morale with regular year-long deployments.

Grumpy Old LDO

1/21/2008 12:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GN sailor here, and have done two crew swaps in diego garcia, and swap was done at the begining, with the off going crew becomeing the cleanup crew.

11/22/2008 6:42 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey GN Sailor, I may be future GN Sailor myself.....curious, why Diego Garcia, & how did you like it there?

1/31/2009 7:47 AM


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