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From then to now: changing the way sailors perform UNREPs.

Today, an underway replenishment is known throughout the Navy as possibly the second most dangerous evolution--the first being flight operations aboard a ship. During an UNREP, two ships travel at the speed of 12 to 18 knots alongside one another with a distance of approximately 150 to 180 feet between them. Often, an UNREP can be done for two ships simultaneously by positioning a receiving vessel on either side of the supply vessel.

The safety of each individual Sailor relies on the person to his or her right and left as well as the rig captain (responsible for overall safety), bridge team (who keep the ships at a safe operating distance) and engineering watchstanders (who ensure the ships are able to maintain speed).


While the importance of UNREPs for the fleet has not changed since World War II, the way Sailors train and mitigate the risks of the evolution has evolved significantly.

Tucked away within the confines of Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Norfolk, is a school that teaches boatswain's mates the proper, and most importantly--as it is stressed from day one and throughout the course--the safe way to conduct an underway replenishment. The Standard Tensioned Replenishment Alongside Method (STREAM) course is designed to enhance and improve team efficiency and the deficiencies of a ship's rig team.

"There are two different STREAM courses taught here," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW/AW) Danielle Vandorst, an instructor for the STREAM course. "The STREAM team trainer is used when a ship brings their qualified rig team through, and they are using the equipment. We are only there as safety observers."

The STREAM specialist course is a three-week course that incorporates classroom portions with lab time.


"Teaching each individual part, what every part does and why it's important will help not only the Sailors when they perform their next UNREP, but it will also give them the tools to train their other Sailors," added Vandorst.

Teaching the basics of an UNREP is not always an easy task to accomplish. Sailors from carriers do things differently than Sailors from destroyers, so the instructors for the STREAM course have to reteach the Sailors, one person at a time.

"Every ship does an UNREP a little different, and every chain of command has a different way that they want to see things done. That is one of the biggest problems that we run into," said BMC(SW) Adam Cayer, a STREAM instructor. "We teach one way--by the book. The most important thing is thateveryone should be doing things the same way, the safe way and the 'by-the-book way.'"

One recurring subject throughout the course is also a major factor in the fleet--safety. Teaching Sailors how to look out for one another as well as be proficient in their jobs is another aspect of the instruction.

"During the classroom portion, everything about an UNREP is taught, but safety is the biggest portion, and it runs throughout the whole course," said Vandorst. "An UNREP is loud and dangerous; the other ship is right there, and you can't stop anything to ask questions or say, 'training timeout.'

"The advantage to our environment is with the people who would normally be too scared to ask a question or just wouldn't ask questions about certain things. Those people feel comfortable asking them here. Plus, when we are outside, the ships aren't moving, and we can stop everything and answer questions about everything. I think they absorb more and are more comfortable asking questions here."

The instructors also stress that Sailors avoid complacency. Because UNREPs can last for several hours, the rig captain must make sure all members of the rig team keep his or her head on a swivel and stay fresh throughout the evolution.

"There are going to be down times during these evolutions where there isn't anything going on. That's the time when you have to concentrate the hardest because that's when bad things happen. Bad things never happen when people are paying attention," said Cayer.

"People turning their backs to the rig is an example of losing focus, and that can't happen while you're out there. During those times, the Sailors need to think 'this is really important,' and we need them to focus on what we are doing. We try to teach them that every person is important no matter your rank or position during the UNREP."

Each of the pillars of the maritime strategy--forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response--depends on the fleet's ability to remain on station for extended periods of time in locations around the world where port calls are sometimes unavailable. Boatswain's mates take pride in knowing that without them, it would be difficult for a ship to get its food, fuel and other necessities to remain underway and carry out the ship's mission.




"[Boatswain's mates] support the maritime strategy in every aspect of our jobs," said Cayer. "Whatever mission is being accomplished out at sea or in the fleet is brought to you by your local boatswain's mate and his local supply ship.

"Without fuel, you're not on station; without jet fuel, you can't fly the aircraft; without ammo, you can't shoot anything; and without food from the UNREPs, none of the work gets done by the Sailors. We put the fleet in the position to stay on station. The UNREP is mandatory, and I think all boatswain's mates should go through this course," added Cayer.

The Sailors going through this course get a chance to slow things down and take the time they need to fully understand the complete evolution of an UNREP. Learning all you can while going through training is invaluable to junior Sailors who haven't been through or seen an actual, full-scale UNREP.

"A lot of things take place while you're on an UNREP," said Seaman Nyevel Vazquez, a Sailor attached to the deck department aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68). "Everything is moving so fast, and here it is broken down so you can actually grasp everything that is going on, whether it's the rig captain, line handling or a signalman.

"I never knew how dangerous it was, but I'm going to start paying more attention to detail," said Vazquez. "It has also helped me with my signaling, which I didn't know a lot about before coming to this class."

Students are not the only ones having to go through the course. The instructors take the course prior to teaching.

"You have to go through everything that every student goes through," said Cayer. "Then you have to teach every topic at least once. One thing you have to do is personalize the curriculum to fit your teaching style. Then you get evaluated on your teaching topics by the other instructors, and if you pass, then you start teaching."

The instructors are Sailors who have fleet experience and care about making everyone performing this operation better than when they arrived at the school.

"Our goal is to try to make these Sailors better and make these teams better at what they do. We also try to motivate them while teaching," said Cayer. "If they are doing something wrong, we step in and correct them and let them know what they did wrong. When they do something right, we definitely tell them that they are doing a good job, and you would be surprised how that motivates them."


Having the tools needed to succeed will make the Sailor and his or her command look good.

"We find out that this school absolutely teaches the students what they need to learn to succeed in today's Navy," said Cayer. "This is a very dangerous job, and all the schooling that each Sailor can get will help them. There is so much to learn and so much to get out of this class."

"If you're going to be in deck department, you have to be able to rely on the person who's standing right next to you," said BM3(SW) Alberto Rosario Jr., another Sailor assigned to Nimitz's deck department. "They don't necessarily do your job, but they can do it if something was to happen. They would know what to do. I really wanted to be here to learn everything I could, and I recommend this to all boatswain's mates in the Navy."


THE SMELL OF SALT WATER fills the air, and Sailors line the decks of two ships. It's 2 a.m. when an ammunition ship pulls alongside USS Yorktown (CV 5). a shot from an m-14 rifle echoes through the night's darkness to signal the Sailors that the evolution has begun.

The ammunition ship begins a transfer of supplies to Yorktown so she can continue with her mission. During world war II, the underway replenishment, or UNREP, was a secret. The United States did not want to run the risk of other countries knowing how we kept our ships out to sea for so long.

UNREP is the transfer of fuel, munitions, supplies and personnel from one vessel to another while ships are underway. This process allows entire fleets to be resupplied, rearmed and refueled in a matter of hours while continuing on their mission.

According to Jack Green, a consultant to the Naval historical Center, washington, D.C., "In the Pacific, service squadrons (SERVRONS) were formed of oilers, ammunition ships and provision ships to follow the aircraft carrier task forces during their attacks on Japanese bases. On a regular basis, the carrier task groups and the SERVRONS would meet up and UNREP by each individual type of ship. This allowed the carriers to stay at sea for a far greater period of time before having to return to an advance base. This is the reason admiral [Chester] Nimitz believed that UNREPs were so vital to the Navy's success in the Pacific during world war II."

Story and photos by MC2(AW/SW) Jhi L. Scott

Scott is assigned to Defense Media Activity-Anacostia, Washington, D.C.
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Title Annotation:underway replenishment
Author:Scott, Jhi L.
Publication:All Hands
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2009
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