Blog - Written by on Sunday, February 20, 2011 15:39

MMC on the Embark to the USS Makin Island

I was alerted to a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience by Author, Tweeter and founder Guy Kawasaki, who I had hosted (along with several of his social media friends and dignitaries) at my client San Diego’s Strategic Operations last November for a demonstration of STOPS “Hyper-Realistic™” military training. Guy and his team had a great time observing Hollywood style special effects including RPGs, IEDs detonating and a “faux” live fire fight in the streets of a mock Afghan village. Guy and his team even played acting roles in the training! Well, Guy’s email note to me three weeks ago started with “Do You Want to Do This?” and went on to exclaim … “Kim, now you can see how the US Navy really does things!” The invitation? To join another team of social media bloggers and podcasters (minus Guy) for an experience of a lifetime … an embark with the “Leaders to Sea” program to the USS Makin Island (LHD 8), one of the Navy’s new Multi-Purpose Amphibious Assault Ships (LHD). I was contacted by Dennis Hall of the Avere Group. Dennis does a wonderful job of organizing these events, and he should be commended! Home-ported in San Diego, the USS Makin Island was launched in September 2006, delivered in April 2009 and was commissioned in October 2009. The USS Makin Island, is currently conducting training exercises off the Southern California coast in preparation for its first deployment in the Pacific, ultimately on its way to the Middle East. It was off 50 miles off the California Coast where we would join the USS Makin Island on February 16, 2011.

USS Makin Island

USS Makin Island's Position

It was pouring rain in San Diego when I jumped into my truck to drive to rendezvous with the Leaders to Sea group, including Will Mayall, co-founder of All; Stu MacLennan, managing director of Apple’s US Commercial & Government Sales; Stu’s Father, Donald McLennan; Lesley Miller, director of PR for 3Fold Communications, Sacramento; and Cara Renee, a professional photographer and blogger out of Corpus Christi, TX; and Joanna Clark of AT&T San Diego. Due to bad traffic, I arrived 10 minutes late at the US Navy Amphibious Base in Coronado, where a briefing was underway by Commander Jason Salata and Lt. Alec Zirkenbach, public affairs officers for the US Navy. Salata gave an overview and update of the US Navy Surface Forces, including its mission around the World, the various classes of ships and how the US Navy is taking its roll of energy stewardship very seriously with a goal of reducing its energy demand by cutting oil consumption by 50 percent by 2015. We learned that the USS Makin Island is one of the Navy’s energy efficient “flag ships” — featuring a dual propulsion (hybrid) system (gas turbines at high speeds and diesel generators to power its auxiliary propulsion motors at low speeds) that will save millions of gallons of fuel consumption over the course of the ship’s 40 year life span.

Jason Salata, Commander, USN gives us the briefing

Leaders to Sea Group — (L) Donald MacLennan, Will Mayall, Joanna Clark, Stu MacLennan, Kim Merrill, Cara Renee, Lesley Miller

After the briefing, we headed via van piloted by Lt. Zirkenbach to North Island Naval Air Station, also on Coronado, to board at US Navy SH-60 Seahawk helicopter piloted by the HSC-23. After a short briefing on how to wear our protective equipment and deploy our life vests … (and paid particular attention to the crewman’s comment — “don’t worry, this is the safest helicopter in the Navy!”) We eagerly followed him out to the helicopter in single file, boarded, where strapped in securely to our seats, and where soon airborne … leaving the San Diego behind us. Let the adventure begin …

SH-60 Copter on the North Island tarmac

Location of the USS Makin Island

Lt. Zirkenbach gives us instruction prior to departing

That's me suited up

SH-60 controls

Stu MacLennan and Will Mayall


The SH-60 Helicopter takes flight

Self-Shot in Flight

The Pacific Ocean

Captain Cedric Pringle, USS Makin Island EXO, Greets Us

Lunch With Captain James W. Landers

Cutting the Ceremonial Cake ... Notice the Sword Used!

Fantastic Lunch and USS Makin Island by Ship Captain James W. Landers

The Lunch was great; Here's the menu!

Table Placards for Each Leaders to Sea Member

Captain Landers Presentation to the Leaders to Sea

Me and Captain Landers

Let the Ship Tour Begin — First Some Facts — The USS Makin Island is 847 feet long, Displacement at Full Load is 41,335 LT; Carries 45 CH-46 equivalent helicopters + 6 Marine Corps Harrier Jet Fighter/Bombers; Weapons Systems include 2 MK 57 Sea Sparrow Missile Systems, 2 MK31 Rolling Airframe Missile Systems, 2 Close-In Weapons Systems; 4 .50 Cal MK 26 Mod 17 guns; and 3 25mm MK38 Mod 2 Guns. The ship’s medical facilities include 6 operating rooms, a 17-bed ICU and a 47-bed ward; the Ship has a crew of 1,200 sailors and can transport up to 1,800 US Marines. The Ship’s top speed is 20+ knots.

Launching area for Marine landing crafts

Hanger Deck with Mock Helicopter for Training

Hanger Deck Looking out to the Pacific Ocean

Command and Control Room

Command and Control Room

Me Taking Photo of the C&C Room

The tour of the Engine Room

The USS Makin's engines are basically Jet Turbine engines

The actual gas turbine engine

One of the two propeller shafts

A Visit to the Galley and Kitchen

The USS Makin Island Galley

Cooking in the Kitchen

The USS Makin Island has one of the largest hospitals of any ship in the fleet

The USS Makin Island's ICU

Anchors Away — USS Makin Island’s Anchor Room

Getting the details on the two anchors that can be deployed to secure the USS Makin Island

Flight Operations

Departing — What a Great Day!


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