Division Marines help test USNS Spearhead’s capabilities

28 Aug 2013 | Pfc. Jose Mendez Jr.

Approximately 280 Marines and sailors with 2nd Marine Division took part in the testing of the Navy’s joint high speed vessel, USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1), July 31 through August 6, 2013, at sea.

Marines and sailors as well as their weapons, gear and vehicles embarked USNS Spearhead for one week and traveled from Morehead City, N.C., to Mayport Naval Station, Fla., and back.

Elements of 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion; and 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion participated in the USNS Spearhead tests and trials.

“Marines are onboard because they are helping to conduct two different tests. In any acquisition program there are required tests that have to occur in order for the Navy to say this ship is ready to go,” said Maj. Andrew Hamilton the Marine Corps liaison officer for the JHSV program at Naval Sea Systems Command. “One test is called the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E). The second test is called the Total Ship Survivability Trials (TSST).”

IOT&E determines if the ship is operationally effective and suitable, and ensures the ship can perform the capabilities it was designed to perform. For the TSST, equipment failures and emergencies were simulated, evaluating the ability of the ship and crew to control damage and re-establish mission capability. The capability of the crew and embarked force to abandon ship was also tested.

Each TSST event resulted in simulated casualties who were selected at random. Marines were given casualty cards which told them exactly what injury they received and if they were conscious, unconscious, bleeding or bruised.  Marines had to record if they applied self-aid or received buddy-aid.  Marines had several corpsman onboard to lead the Marines in these exercises. 

“Collecting data for initial treatment, buddy aid, extended treatment and evacuation helps us to create more accurate models to assess medical capabilities and manning required onboard ships,” said Amber Huffman, the test manager for the JHSV program.  “The Marines were very enthusiastic in supporting the drills and were very fast in their response times.  The types of treatments they administered were a lot more advanced than what we thought they would be given the supplies the USNS Spearhead has onboard.”

One of the damage control drills aboard USNS Spearhead required Marines and sailors to evacuate the ship via the Marine Evacuation System, which is an inflatable slide deployed from the side of the ship into an inflatable life raft. Throughout all of the drills Marines took part in to test the ships capabilities, they still took the chance to test their own capabilities.

Marines with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, held a competition to see which Marines could disassemble and reassemble M240B machine guns. They also familiarized themselves with 60mm mortars and took written tests on weapons capabilities, land navigation and basic infantry knowledge.

“With modern combat you can’t ever be too sharp,” said 1st Sgt. Brian Moody, with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, from Greenwood, S.C.

Marines also tested the ship’s satellite communications equipment.

When all capability testing was complete, Marines unloaded the six light armored vehicles, 11 amphibious assault vehicles, three seven-ton trucks and nine humvees. 

“Our close cooperation with the Marine Corps helped demonstrate a realistic testing environment as we prepare this fast, flexible ship for the Fleet,” said Navy Capt. Henry Stevens, strategic and theater sealift program manager for Program Executive Office Ships. 


Editor’s Note:  Owned and operated by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command,  USNS Spearhead is designed for rapid, flexible intra-theater transport of troops and military equipment of approximately 600 tons for 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. Spearhead has sleeping accommodations for 104 mission personnel, and airline-style seating for up to 312.  Its aviation flight deck can support day and night flight operations for a wide variety of aircraft.