Junior officers attached to the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) traded places throughout the month of April as part of a Navy training initiative to introduce junior officers to various platforms.
“The goal is to provide them the opportunity to learn about each other’s platforms, their capabilities and missions, and how they operationally interact,” said Lt. Cmdr. David Taylor, Iwo Jima’s damage control assistant and senior watch officer.
Ensign Rachel Berger, the electrical officer aboard Donald Cook, shadowed Iwo Jima’s electrical officer, Lt. j.g. Brandon Carter, who showed her what it is like to be assigned to an amphibious assault ship.
“We, as independent deployers, don’t really get to have these opportunities all that often, so you always say ‘yes,’” said Berger. “, There are so many different operations [that Iwo Jima does]. We don’t have a hangar bay, so we don’t do flight operations as often. Seeing the Harriers was really a cool experience for us.”
Berger said Iwo Jima’s officers were in for a culture shock of their own when they stepped aboard Donald Cook.
“I think the experience they’re going to have is a little more fast-paced,” said Berger. “Everyone’s got a lot of different collaterals on top of their normal job, on top of qualifications and training, and their watch. But I think they’ll get some cool ship-handling experiences. Destroyers are pretty maneuverable, so it’s fun to spin them around.”
“Ship-handling was the most fun and the most memorable,” said Ensign Kyle Pancham, Iwo Jima’s communications officer, who spent time aboard Donald Cook.
Taylor remembered fondly when he was given the same opportunity as a junior officer.
“What I learned from my cross-deck opportunity is that our platform accounts for a small portion of the U.S. Navy,” said Taylor. “But when operating together as a whole, we are a lethal fighting force that no other navy can contend with.”
Taylor believes training opportunities like these ensure we groom a diverse and well-rounded Navy.
“Most first-tour officers only know their own platform,” said Taylor. “Giving them the time to come aboard and experience life on another platform helps reinforce knowledge about all platforms while the officers go through the surface warfare qualification process.”
Iwo Jima, homeported in Mayport, Florida, is on a regularly scheduled deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.
The Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group embarks the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and includes Iwo Jima, the transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), Fleet Surgical Team 4 and 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of commander, Amphibious Squadron 4.