USS Mount Whitney crew works "overtime" to accommodate CJTF-HOA

25 Nov 2002 | Byline: Cpl. Andrew W. Miller

USS Mount Whitney, flagship of the Second Fleet/Commander Striking Fleet Atlantic, was headed for the shipyard in November. The crew was looking forward to a break. However, fate stepped in. In early October, USS Mount Whitney's captain and crew were given a mission to northeast Africa, hosting the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa staff. An abundance of modifications were needed in a hurry, which suddenly put the ships' crew on "overtime." Within a short period of time, USS Mount Whitney would be sea- and mission-ready."To understand what modifications were made to the ship, one must first understand the planning that had to be made by the 2d Marine Division, (based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.), to figure out what services were needed to sustain the CJTF-HOA," said Maj. Christopher A. Feyedelem, CJTF-HOA commander-of-troops.Division personnel paid a visit to the ship Oct. 6. "Liaison trips are important steps to building cordial working relations with our hosts," explained Feyedelem, native of Norwalk, Ohio.Pleased with the results of the visit, Division personnel could now begin building supply blocks, or pre-packaged supplies, needed for the deployment. For their part, the crew of the USS Mount Whitney also began preparing for the mission ahead.By Oct. 8, Sailors were working feverishly to prepare the ship in time to deploy. Routine and scheduled maintenance had to be completed, as well as ensuring the ship could support the missions of the CJTF-HOA Marines and Sailors coming aboard.First, U.S. Second Fleet relinquished all command and control spaces to CJTF-HOA. The joint operations center took on a new face, and CJTF-HOA information systems personnel were able to establish networks and communications links. Berthing, or sleeping areas, were also prepared for CJTF-HOA personnel. This included new mattresses, pillows and privacy curtains.Further, additional protection measures were implemented. A rigid inflatable boat (Zodiak) with fuel tanks and a small crane for the Zodiak was added to the boat decks. On the weatherdeck, additional gun mounts were added for .50 caliber machine guns and MK-19 grenade launchers. These additions increased the ship's fire power and more are to be added upon arrival in Rota, Spain. Ammunition lockers were also installed for both types of weapons. Finally, H-46 Sea Knight helicopters were embarked from Air Squadron-6, Norfolk Naval Base, Va., and temporary working shelters were made for the crews. Thanks to the crew's hard work, all of these changes and others have enhanced the working and living environments for CJTF-HOA personnel during their deployment aboard ship."USS Mount Whitney was made to ideally suite our mission," said Feyedelem. "The crew working with us has been great and cooperative in establishing our cordial relationship. Remember, we are one team, one fight."