PACIFIC OCEAN - USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) altered course during a rescue and assistance (RNA) exercise to provide assistance in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sea Lion (WPB-87352) in a real life RNA mission during which the two ships rendered aid to the vessel "Skipjack," June 1.
Pearl Harbor arrived on scene after receiving a distress call from Skipjack via bridge-to-bridge radio stating that the vessel was taking on water and was in need of assistance.
"We saw that the vessel was less than six nautical miles away from us, and we saw that they were in distress, so we asked if they needed help," said Lt. j.g. Daniel Gerrek, Pearl Harbor's officer-of-the-deck at the time of the incident. "We were the closest vessel to the ship in distress, so we diverted course and called a second RNA team to the boat deck to prepare to render aid."
After being called to the boat deck, the second RNA team prepared their de-watering equipment and loaded their gear into a rigid-hull, inflatable boat (RHIB) to dispatch and render aid to Skipjack.
"It was extremely interesting to call for another RNA team," said Cmdr. Theodore Essenfeld, Pearl Harbor's commanding officer. "Our primary RNA team was still aboard the exercise vessel, and it would have taken longer to divert them, so we gathered a second RNA team. The team responded quickly and were ready to go and were on the RHIB in a matter of minutes."
After loading the RHIB and lowering it into the water, Pearl Harbor's second RNA team stood on standby as the Sea Lion arrived on scene and dispatched their team.
"After the Coast Guard arrived, they were able to launch their boat very quickly, and board the vessel in distress," said Essenfeld. "They were then able to take a one-man pump and help de-water Skipjack. After that, they determined the ship was salvageable, and escorted it to shore."
Despite not participating directly in the de-watering of Skipjack, Essenfeld was extremely proud of how his Sailors responded to the incident, and is confident in their abilities going forward.
"Our team was ready, and our team was excited," said Essenfeld. "This is what we do. We're Sailors and when another mariner is in trouble on the high seas, it doesn't matter what flag they are flying or what country they are from, we help each other out. I'm sure we're going to see more incidents like this on deployment, and I know we're ready. I'm pleased and I'm proud of every Sailor onboard who participated in today's events."
Pearl Harbor is currently underway, conducting a Certification Exercise (CERTEX) as part of the third and final phase of qualifications for their upcoming deployment. The America Amphibious Ready Group is comprised of more than 1,800 Sailors and 2,600 Marines assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22), and Pearl Harbor.