DUBUQUE Making Final Preparations to Come Home

by Lt.j.g. William D. Gallagher


Sasebo, Japan -- After making history with the completion of the Navy's first ever crew swap exchange of command, the San Diego based crew of the amphibious transport dock USS DUBUQUE (LPD 8) is making preparations to come home. The exchange of command, which took place between the former San Diego based crew of USS JUNEAU (LPD 10) and the former Sasebo-based crew of USS DUBUQUE (LPD 8) was the first of its kind for the Navy and a tremendous success for all involved.

Although the ships exchanged homeports, the crews and their families did not have to permanently move to new homeports. Typically, when a ship moves to a new homeport, the Navy relocates the crew and their families along with the vessel and the government pays the associated costs of moving the households. In addition to alleviating the burden of relocation for the Sailors and their families, the swap generated a cost avoidance for the Navy of millions of dollars in moving expenses.

"It was a challenge," said Lt. Cmdr. James C. Hamblet, DUBUQUE's executive officer, of Baldwin, N.Y., "but the crew performed superbly. A great deal of detailed planning and close coordination with the Sasebo-based crew was required to make this swap work. I think we've proven the crew swap concept," added Hamblet.

The San Diego and Sasebo crews of the JUNEAU and DUBUQUE spent nearly four weeks familiarizing their replacements with each new vessel before the official exchange-of-command ceremony took place at the end of July. Both ships are Austin-class amphibious transport docks specifically configured to carry Marines and their equipment to conduct amphibious operations in support of U.S. national interests. Although the ships are similar, the two vessels were built in different shipyards and have undergone modifications and maintenance in different homeports.

"It was awkward at first," said Machinist's Mate Chief Petty Officer George J. Walz of Silverdale, Wash. "There was no precedent to follow, but with each milestone we overcame the difficulties before us. In the end, the success of the turnover is a testament to the resolve of the crew getting it done," added Walz who played a major role in DUBUQUE's successful engineering certification this past week.

The San Diego based crew was tasked with steaming the JUNEAU to Japan in order to provide our U.S. forward deployed naval forces with the newest LPD available. Now after successfully exchanging commands, the San Diego based crew of the DUBUQUE will steam their new ship back to San Diego for an extensive overhaul period.

"We really put a lot of work and effort into the JUNEAU," said Electronic Warfare Operator 2nd class Petty Officer Samuel E. McCullar of Pampa, Texas. "It really felt good to turn over such a fine ship to our forward deployed forces," added McCullar.

The DUBUQUE is currently scheduled to arrive in San Diego on September 20 after a brief stop in Okinawa and port visits in Saipan and Hawaii.