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LCUs add risk to well-deck ops.

The first several operational days of our deployment to Central and South America in support of Operation Continuing Promise 2008 proved to be challenging for Boxer's young line handlers (boatswain's mates and deck seamen). Three of them suffered minor hand injuries.

In their defense, I need to point out that welldeck operations during this deployment weren't exactly routine. We didn't embark the faster and safer landing craft air cushions (LCACs) as usual. Instead, we were working with two landing craft utilities (LCUs) from Assault Craft Unit One, based in Coronado, Calif. [Boxer is the first LHD in eight years to embark two LCUs on deployment.] As a result, launch and recovery became more risky.


The main issue affecting all well-deck operations is sea state, which in this case was high. Given the LCUs' size and limited mobility, that factor became increasingly important. With eight feet of water in the well deck and significant wave action, our line handlers on the wing walls had difficulty controlling the craft and preventing them from crashing against the battle boards.


Constant adjustments and readjustments of the eight lines around the T-bits were necessary to control the LCUs as they moved port to starboard, forward and aft. When bringing one into the aft spot, even after bringing up the stern gate to reduce wave action in the well, the craft still would move abruptly, making line handling even more demanding and dangerous.

To meet the increased risks and to prevent any more injuries, deck department's upper chain of command organized a safety stand-down. Everyone got reacquainted with line-handling procedures, well-deck safety practices, and ORM.

Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate Deondra Quarles, the departmental LCPO, led the training session on general well-deck procedures, proper line-handling techniques, repeat-back line commands, and an understanding of how the craft master positions an LCU in the well. Line handlers then practiced their skills in a controlled environment, focusing on line movement, hand positioning, and keeping a minimum of 18 to 24 inches away from the T-bitt. Training concluded with Sailors adjusting the lines on the T-bitt in conjunction with tensioning and de-tensioning of the lines to simulate movement of the craft.

The safety stand-down proved successful, as demonstrated by the fact all future launches and recoveries during the deployment were conducted without a single mishap.

The author is the ship's first and third division officer.


* Know the Risks of Well-Deck Ops, and Manage Them, MEDIA/fathom/issues/AprJun02/knowtherisks.htm

* USS Bataan Launches, Recovers LCUs, id=28801

By Ltjg. Jessica Poniatoski, USS Boxer (LHD-4)
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Title Annotation:landing craft utilities
Author:Poniatoski, Jessica
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2008
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