Midshipmen learn lessons at sea aboard Lake Erie

Midshipmen aboard USS Lake Erie (CG 70) are taught how to fire an MT 240.

Story and photo by Ensign Kelly E. Waller

USS Lake Erie (CG 70) Public Affairs Officer

Eleven midshipmen came aboard USS Lake Erie (CG 70) to gain firsthand experience on a warship, including learning man overboard drills and engineering, while having the opportunity to fire crew serve weapons.

The Pearl Harbor-based Aegis cruiser continuously trains to maintain deterrence at sea. Joining the Lake Erie from the U.S. Naval Academy and NROTC units from universities across the country, the midshipmen recently embarked Lake Erie for their summer training cruises, each paired with running mates.

Running mates includeed both officer and enlisted personnel and act as mentors. Midshipmen followed them on a daily basis, assisted in daily routines, and asked questions to gain a better understanding of shipboard life.

Capt. William Johnson, the commanding officer of Lake Erie, decided to integrate the midshipman into the crew, offering them unparalleled opportunities for education and excitement at sea.

“The midshipmen learned about maritime air defense as and Aegis ballistic missile defense while aboard. This was a great learning opportunity, and we kept the mids very busy,” explained Johnson.

One important exercise is the man overboard drill. Johnson allowed the first and second class midshipmen to act as conning officers during the procedures. The role of the conning officer is to control the ship’s movement via throttle and rudder orders given to the helm. It is his or her responsibility to quickly return to the overboard Sailor and precisely maneuver the ship to facilitate the swiftest and safest recovery.

“I enjoyed having the conn. Exploring the main spaces after the drill to see how my orders affected the ship’s movement was a great experience,” said Midshipman 2nd Class Matthew Rosenfeld of the Illinois Institute of Technology. “The intricate engineering systems are incredible and also a bit overwhelming to piece together.”

The effort of every Sailor is required as the crew must have full accountability of all personnel on board and be prepared to lower the RHIBs (rigid-hull inflatable boats) to the water, with a search and rescue swimmer on standby.

An operationally ready engineering plant is crucial to successfully recovering a man overboard. In order to minimize the amount of time a Sailor is in the water, the conning officer requires full power of all four of the ship’s engines and full use of her rudder. Each midshipman had the opportunity to grasp the significance and importance of conducting man overboard drills.

“Having the midshipmen aboard is a real treat,” said Johnson. “We have the opportunity to show off this great ship while informing the future officers as to life on board, both as a junior officer or as enlisted personnel so that the midshipmen may make positive career choices in their future.”

Beyond man overboard drills in a seamanship training environment, the gunners’ mates made ready their weapons. Firing rounds is one of the most exciting scenarios in which any midshipman can participate.

Midshipman 2nd Class Mark Banigan from Texas A&M was the first to fire off the starboard bridge wing. “Shooting the 240 was an awesome experience,” said Banigan. “Learning radar systems and Aegis with my running mate was an eye opener. Also, sitting in on the operations/intelligence brief gave me the opportunity to see the smaller details to the overall picture.”

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Category: News