The amphibious transport dock USS San Antonio (LPD 17) is scheduled to deploy today as part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group. This blog was written by Cmdr. Neil Koprowski, San Antonio’s commanding officer.
The USS San Antonio (LPD 17) team and I have been patiently working for nearly two and half years for this day, the start of San Antonio’s second deployment.
It has been a long road, but one I would not have traded with anyone. For all the issues and concerns that plagued San Antonio in the past, we have come together as a team and have “beat all odds” to include winning consecutive Battle “E” awards and earning her place as a “Warship Ready for National Tasking.”
When I joined the San Antonio team as executive officer in June 2010, the ship was in the shipyard. She had many issues; the ship needed help. Thankfully, many people and commands in the Navy backed us to ensure that we got back on track. It was a long 11 months.
In May 2011, we were finally underway working through sea trials. The first round focused on all of the mechanical, electrical and propulsion systems as well as the flight and well decks. The second round of sea trials in June focused on the combat systems and communications suites.
We found that all of our systems operated quite well, but we also realized that we had more work to do. As a whole, San Antonio was back on the path to success as we entered the basic phase of training.
The crew always had it in their heart to do well no matter what the circumstances. I could see it in their eyes that they wanted the ship to perform as designed and they wanted to be proud of their ship. When I took command in December 2011, the groundwork for our success had already been laid by the previous commanding officer, Cmdr. Tom Kait, and the entire maintenance team that was lead by our port engineer, Jeff Grimm. Now it was just a matter of bringing everything together, so that we could continue to be successful because in a few short months after taking command, we would take on our biggest challenge, INSURV.
When I took command, I stressed four simple words to my crew: focus, pride, ownership and teamwork – the command philosophy. It did not need to be any more complex than that. If they thought for a minute about what they were doing and could tie one of these words to it, they were getting the message.
So, we began to work very hard at INSURV preparations. We also did an operational exercise in February, Bold Alligator 2012 – the largest amphibious exercise that had been conducted in more than 10 years. San Antonio did very well. It broke my crew of the maintenance mindset. For more than three years, all San Antonio knew was associated with repairs and validating that repairs were successful. We didn’t do exercises with other ships. This operational experience really opened the crew’s eyes and helped them believe that we can and will deploy.
In the end, we did very well during the Board of Inspection and Survey Underway Material Inspection. We were deemed satisfactory in all areas.
Today, we are fully prepared to deploy. I am so proud of my crew and their remarkable achievements. The crew’s can do attitude and winning spirit are infectious. I could not be placed in a better position to lead these fine young men and women through deployment. We have embodied the fighting spirit that is our namesake – USS San Antonio – with the battle cry Never Retreat, Never Surrender!
Editor’s note: The deployment is part of a regular rotation of forces to support maritime security operations, provide crisis response capability, and increase theater security cooperation and forward naval presence in the U.S. Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation.