A success story, and a lesson learned


A year ago, the dock landing ship Oak Hill was in poor shape — and that’s by the Fleet Forces Command chief’s reckoning. Beginning in 2005, five deployments in five years, no time for maintenance and inadequate manning had left the relatively young ship with a degraded power plant, endemic corrosion and a whole lot of systems that just didn’t work. A long-overdue yard period, money, lots of outside help and long hours produced a remarkable turnaround Apr. 4-8, when the ship passed its rigid underway material inspection by the Board of Inspection and Survey with flying colors. Oak Hill scored “green” in 16 of 18 functional areas, and “yellow” in the other two. Refurbishment and upgrade work continues, but the ship is just about back up to where officials want it to be. And it’s looking good:

The dock landing ship Oak Hill, on a recent afternoon at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. // Photo by William H. McMichael

The lesson learned — or more accurately (over the past two years), reinforced — is that it’s far easier, and the Navy is better served, when ships are maintained on a more even keel. That means, officials say, ships accurately reporting problems, leaders honestly assessing and reporting how much money the Navy needs for ship maintenance, and fully manning ships so that commands can better perform everyday maintenance as well as prepare to fight.

For more detail, see our story in Monday’s Navy Times.


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  1. This whole chain of events is pretty interesting since all this work is budgeted and planned for by Fleet Forces. Unit commanders end up “saving money” by deferring all this maintenance and strangling the manpower. If the initial manning/maintenance plan is carried out with all the money and time set aside in the beginning, then that will limit the wear and tear on crew and ship. It shouldn’t be a major revelation that well funded, manned, and trained ships function properly.

  2. When you have competing priorities, operational v. maintenance, operational will always win out. The CO’s and ISICs are reluctant to say “no” to an operational opportunity even when they know that their ship(s) require maintenance. They just kick the can down the road until an unavoidable issue arises. Doing that ensure the costs of the maintenance when it finally is done are far higher than they would have been if they had respected their original maintenance priority.

  3. After being on this ship for 25 months and leaving just before inspection for surgery no words can describe how much work we put in to this ship. I hope they get the rest they need and very much deserve before they get ready for there next deployment

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