Members of the Pensacola group putting on the festivities, including the commissioning committee and Navy League, recently got a brief tour of the ship. In this segment installment, we learn more details about the ship, its crew and efforts to be more environment- and health-conscious.
Tripoli (LHA 7), now referred to as a Pre-Commissioning Unit, is 845 feet long and weighs 45,000 tons.
As part of the tour, Commanding Officer Capt. Kevin Meyers, and select members of his crew, lead the Pensacola group from the flight deck down ladder wells and through narrow passageways.
“Oops, up this way,” said Capt. Meyers, still learning his way around the brand new ship. “Yeah, we’re going to “skin” back around. We took you down a detour.”
This brief detour results in a quick peek at sleeping quarters, specifically this is a Marine Corps berthing area, designated so with red paint.
Capt. Meyers says the berthing areas are designed to accommodate three or four Marine officers, with two or three Navy officers to a space, “And, for our junior officers, it’ll be four. Four is the most for officers.”
For the enlisted personnel, there could be 40 to 50 sharing sleeping quarters.
The Navy’s newest amphibious assault ship, Tripoli is like a small carrier, designed to support Marine Corps operations and aircraft and host as many as 1,800 Marines.
This is the third U.S. warship to carry the historic name and it’s the third new construction vessel for Capt. Meyers, who took time out to conduct the tour.
We learned a lot from the ship’s wardroom, which is a reference to how the space was used dating back to colonial days.
“If you go back to the three-masted ships, you know you were engaged in close order battle, and if you had injuries and where were you going to take the injured people that was quiet and somewhere out of the way and safe,” the captain said, explaining how the medical ward became the wardroom.
The tables are still about six to six and a half feet long, as they were centuries ago, to accommodate a body for medical treatment or even surgery.
But, Capt. Meyers points out that the Navy has come a long way since then, “Our surgical capability now on this ship is pretty robust; it’s essentially a miniature hospital.”
As to its medical capabilities, Tripoli has two operating rooms, three intensive care units, a 12-bed medical ward, X-ray facilities, pharmacy and lab.
That leaves the wardroom to function as a dining and meeting space for Navy and Marine officers aboard the ship.
“Eventually, we’ll load up television sets for PowerPoint briefings and other briefings in there, and then there are wardroom lounges around,” added the captain.
While in the wardroom, a member of the Pensacola group points to a feature known as a compartment bullseye, painted in the shape of a square on the back wall. It’s a series of letters and numbers, designed to glow in the dark, that yield essential information about the location, size, and function of the space.
"We're above the main decks, you know, two decks above, 01 then 02.," said Meyers in reference to what the first numbers in the sequence mean.
Such data can be crucial in times of emergency.
“Every space is designated with a bullseye that goes into a thing called the Repair Party Manual, which if we went down at the damage control central, the damage control assistant can open that up,” he continued.
The manual will include the dimensions of the space, and will provide information on whether it can be flooded to help stabilize the ship.
Getting back to the function of the wardroom as a dining facility for officers, there’s also a Chiefs Mess and separate mess for enlisted personnel.
“When we have the full complement, our crew is about a thousand, give or take. And, if we embark, Marines will be 1,800 or so, give or take; so, 2,800 people, at least three-and-half times a day,” Meyers said.
Capacity is about 12,000 meals a day aboard ship.
According to the captain, the supply crew, cooks and attendants are almost always in, either cutting, carving, shaving, baking or cleaning.
To get a different view, we head from the wardroom down to one of the crew dining areas, which is capable of serving up to 120 individuals per sitting.
“In the wardroom you can pull a chair out and sit down in a gentlemanly fashion,” said Meyers, pointing out that the chairs have been welded to the tables in the enlisted mess.
Additionally, officers get regular plates and flatware, while enlisted crewmembers get their food on trays.
However, efforts are being made to improve the overall quality of the food, by providing healthier options.
“We all run what we call 21-day, pre-formatted meal,” Meyers noted. “We used to have deep fat fryers, but all that’s gone away. Now, you can have some baked fries, tater tots, whatever.”
When it comes to clean up, the captain is proud to highlight the new, more environmentally-friendly method of handling plastic waste.
“You shred it up and then you throw it in a “melter,” and it melts it and it comes out in little pieces that are about a quarter inch thick and about this big around. And, you spray some deodorant on them so they don’t smell, you throw them in bags and then when you come back into port, you dispose of them,” he explained of their determination to be more conscience of sea life, such as turtles and dolphins. “So, we don’t throw the plastics overboard anymore.”
After hanging out in the enlisted mess for a bit, we’re ready to embark on the final leg of our tour.
Along the way, we walk through a very noisy, but important space, according to the ship’s Mass Communications Specialist Julian Moorefield, “Right now we’re in the hangar bay; that’s where all the aircraft will be worked on.”
Before long, we’re back in the elevator and back on the dock, underneath the ship.
“If the ship falls off the blocks, your hard hat and your steel toes will protect you. You’ll be fine. Safety first,” joked the captain.
Here, looking up at the ship’s huge port side propeller, we’re reminded that there’s a bit more work to be done before future USS Tripoli is ready to go.
“Working on what we call fit and finish, making sure paint and everything is exactly the way it should be. Then the crew will move aboard, then we’ll start our training cycle and then we’ll come over to Pensacola to get commissioned.”
Currently, the commissioning ceremony is scheduled for June, although no final date has been set.
In our final report, we'll meet two crew members, who've already reported for duty. The balance of the ship’s crew is expected to report in late February.