I would like to congratulate USS OAK HILL (LSD 51) on completing and passing her underway material inspection (UMI) conducted by the board of inspection and survey (INSURV) earlier this month. Anyone who has served on a ship in our Navy knows very well the tireless effort that goes into preparing for an INSURV inspection. I am very pleased with OAK HILL’s results; in fact, the scores she achieved were outstanding. The crew, the ISIC and the TYCOM put in a superb effort to prepare her for this inspection and the results of their hard work speak for themselves – 16 functional areas graded “green” and just two “yellow.” Her scores exceed those of any other CNSL surface ship that has undergone a material inspection in the past year. Furthermore, she scored twice as high as two other Atlantic Fleet LSDs that recently completed UMIs.
Now, I want to be clear that OAK HILL did not simply get lucky. Her crew worked very hard and they were clearly very well-prepared for this inspection. But, as with any success story, there are a lot of lessons we learned that we must now apply going forward.
OAK HILL did not get here overnight; in fact, a year ago she was in very poor condition. We had to put an extraordinary amount of funding, oversight, remedial training, and repair resources into OAK HILL to restore her to a condition of compliance with our standards of safety, preservation, and material condition – standards which she, and all of our ships, are expected to maintain at all times.
Although the results of OAK HILL’s UMI suggest that even our most poorly maintained ships can be reinvigorated, this diversion of waterfront resources will not serve as the de facto model for every ship in the Fleet. RADM Thomas and I both agree that this is exactly the wrong model for generating current readiness and ensuring our ships serve the full extent of their expected service lives.
Improving the overall readiness of our Surface Force has taken a steady effort from all of us – ISICs, TYCOM, and, most importantly, the ships crew; we have a long way to go. OAK HILL’s performance shows us the importance of sufficiently funding maintenance and adequately manning our ships, but we cannot get the Fleet where we need it to be by “surging for INSURV” every few years. We need a steady and predictable flow of resources, well-trained Sailors in sufficient numbers and properly funded maintenance plans, for the Fleet which is precisely what I have been focused on, and will remain focused on, as Commander, US Fleet Forces.
I made a commitment to our Sailors to provide them with the tools, training and time they need to execute their missions (which includes maintaining the material health of their ship) and I absolutely intend to do all I can to deliver on that promise.
In return, I expect the CO and the leadership team to take ownership of their ships and hold their crews accountable to the high standards we must maintain every single day – not just during workups or material inspections. Leadership oversight (XO, CHENG, and BOSN, as particularly called out by the Senior Inspector) and honest feedback up and down the chain of command were major factors in OAK HILL’s performance. That assessment is not surprising to me. I’ve always known that our Sailors, when properly trained and well led, will always, rpt always, give you their best.
Well done, OAK HILL!
All the best, JCHjr