Courtesy of Surface SITREP, published by the Surface Navy Association (www.navysna.org).
Lundquist: Tell me about USS Carter Hall.
Dalmau: This is my third tour on board Carter Hall. Actually, I was a department head on board here, and then XO, and now CO. We completed a 22-month availability just six months ago, and even though we are not fully certified for deployment at this point in our training cycle, we have been able to come over here and operate and integrate with our allied and partner nations in this very advanced training exercise. This is a great opportunity for my crew from a training perspective.
Lundquist: So you’ll still go back and get into the cycle and complete certification?
Dalmau: Correct. We’re part of the Bataan ARG, and as soon as we get back we have INSURV and then right into Bataan ARG workups to deploy early next year.
Lundquist: How has BALTOPS been challenging? And how has it been rewarding?
Dalmau: It’s been challenging because this is the first time we’ve fully integrated with the Marine Corps. Previously, during workups we had a short underway period where we embarked about 20 to 30 Marines for a night. 90 percent of my crew had never deployed and about 98 percent of the Marines embarked with us now [had] never been underway on a ship. So the challenge was to very quickly, in a two-week period of time, completely integrate with each other so we could conduct these exercises without the formal workup process. And I think we’ve been pretty successful. I’ve talked to the Sailors and Marines, and everybody’s said ‘we’re a full blue-green team,’ as if we’d been operating together for six months. It’s not ‘us-versus-them.’ We’ve welcomed the Marines as a part of our family.
Lundquist: You’ve deployed with this ship before. Have you seen it the other way, too?
Dalmau: The last time I deployed on Carter Hall we did not deploy with Marines. So I can’t answer that per se. It’s an important piece to ensure that we’re a cohesive team, and it’s hard to do that in a very short period of time. Usually you spend a lot of time with them working up before you deploy; whereas, this was, ‘Okay, you’re gonna embark 250 Marines on this day and two weeks later you will be conducting your first operation.’
Lundquist: And how have they done?
Dalmau: I think it’s gone well. The Marine side, they’ve all expressed to me that their experience has been really great, the training they received ashore has been excellent, the training we’ve done on the ship has been great. I’ve had Marine officers come up to the bridge and take the conn. So we’ve been open and interested in each others’ skill sets and it’s really allowed us to gel very quickly.
Lundquist: How about the ACU 4 guys?
Dalmau: They’re fantastic! We had actually worked with some of their craftmasters in our workup cycle, so we were familiar with them already and they had been on board our ship a couple times. They add a lot to our team. They have a tight crew, and they’re highly trained and very experienced. I would like all my junior officers to have the opportunity to sit behind them while they drive and see how they work together, and manage the navigation picture, the contacts, and the way they work together. It’s pretty awesome.
Lundquist: You have two LCACs for BALTOPS, but you do not have LCUs.
Dalmau: We don’t, but we’ve obviously operated with them and there’s a good chance we’ll take one on deployment. I’m not sure yet of our deployment load out. We either take one LCU or two LCACs. We’ll likely take the AAVs on deployment. Generally, the LSD gets the AAVs. But at the end of the day the MEU decides.