TRAINING DAY: USS Sioux City crew endures five-week training program to operate their ship

By the end of this year, the U.S. Navy will commission the USS Sioux City. It’s the latest of a new breed of warship… the littoral combat ship. But, before the crew can take command, they have to learn how to operate the ship.

“This simulator allows us to exercise our pre-planned responses for anything as simple as taking the ship away from a pier to more complex combat evolutions,” said CDR W. Shockey Snyder, USS Sioux City. That allows the crew to make mistakes in the simulator that can’t afford to make aboard the USS Sioux City. “Everybody’s lives are in our hands,” said MCPO Timothy Hardin, USS Sioux City.

The scenario, today? Piloting the ship out of port. But, this crew has to expect the unexpected. “The way they train us here is that you’re always juggling no less than five to ten things at once,” said Mina. Mina, who’s the officer of the deck, and in command when the captain isn’t on the bridge, gets his wish. A loss of steering leaves the USS Sioux City drifting towards smaller ships nearby. And, then a second challenge. Two unidentified vessels closing on the USS Sioux City fast. The vessels open fire, and the Sioux City has no choice but to fire back.

Once the USS Sioux City is engaged by the enemy, the focus shifts from the bridge to the mission control center, which is in charge of the ship’s combat systems. That’s where Senior Chief Petty Officer Nicholas Pavlinek helps coordinate the attack. “You kind of have to look at it like, ‘if it’s not them, then it’s us’,” said SCPO Nicholas Pavlinek, USS Sioux City. “So, we have to be able to act when needed.”

Pavlinek’s performance, and his ability to work with the bridge to turn the ship to fire on the enemy, won him Snyder’s praise. “They had really good communication flow between the two, and they were able to defeat all the threats,” said Snyder.

The crew says the simulation shows just how far they’ve come in just a few weeks. “Leaps and bounds in the simulator,” said PO1 James Blunt, USS Sioux City. “We were out here a year ago, we kinda learned, and then didn’t touch it for a year. So, the first day, and the first couple of days, it was knocking the rust off. Now I think we’re working well as watch teams.”

The simulation also boosted the crews’ confidence. “From week one to week three, we’ve had at least twenty runs of the simulator,” Lt. Mina said. “It’s a well greased machine, and the clock is running, and it’s holding time.”

The crew wrapped up five weeks of training, in San Diego, earlier this month. They’re at their home base, in Mayport, Florida, to train aboard the Sioux City’s sister ships the USS Milwaukee and USS Little Rock. They’ll do certification training on those ships until the end of May, or early June. Then it’s back to Wisconsin where the Sioux City will be waiting.

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