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Interview With SURFRON 14 Commander Capt. Dale Maxey

Surface Squadron 14 supports the Mayport waterfront

Courtesy of Surface SITREP, published by the Surface Navy Association (www.navysna.org).

 

Edward H. Lundquist: Tell me about your command, and what it means to be a composite operation.

Capt. Dale Maxey: We were initially stood up to streamline command and control (C2) between the ships in Mayport and the type commander (TYCOM) in Norfolk. To do this we brought five different entities together. One of the organizations we absorbed was the Patrol Coastal (PC) MRT (maintenance repair team) relocated from Little Creek. This team takes a lot of maintenance work off the ships, because the PCs have a small crew size and do not have many engineers on board. In this respect, they are much like the LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) design where part of their ship’s force maintenance organization is actually ashore. So we have 18 people assigned to support these three ships. Additionally our staff does all of the admin and supply function for the Mayport PCs.

CNSS-14 supports all of the ships in Mayport to some level, regardless of the ISIC. We even support the cruisers and amphibious ship, who all report to a chain of command in Norfolk. Two of my current ships – Farragut and The Sullivans – will shift to a Norfolk ISIC later this year to support their deployment. We support the ships here regardless of who their ISIC is. We even provide some specific support to the LCS hulls and crews in Mayport.

Two additional functions that were brought in-the Waterfront Medical Detachment and the Operational Ministries Center. The medical staff had previously reported to the Force Surgeon in Norfolk and the Ministries team was aligned to the Force Chaplain in Norfolk. The Medical team provides medical oversight and support to the waterfront Independent Duty Corpsmen and the Ministries organization deploys teams of Chaplains and Religious Program Specialists (RPs) on ships from here and Rota, Spain. They are constantly in demand. The chaplains have six teams, and there’s only one person here right now – everyone else is at sea.

Capt. Dale Maxey

Capt. Dale Maxey, Commander SURFRON 14 U.S. Navy photo

Additionally, we had DESRON 14 here, which was the immediate superior in command (ISIC) of the frigates, the PCs, and the Mayport destroyers. The frigates decommissioned but there were still seven ships in DESRON 14. Even after the formation of CNSS-14, this ISIC function continues.

Finally, there was a small SURFLANT staff office of about 20 people that worked with the other Mayport ships but not under command of DESRON 14 for maintenance and logistics support. So bringing all that together makes it easier for SURFLANT to have a single point of entry for the management of the Mayport ships.

The PCs were originally fielded with a 15-year service life, but they’re all well past that, and they were not built with a lot of redundancy. The PC crews are very self-reliant, but I rely on the technicians from the MRT to be the first responders for emergent repairs. It can be difficult to fly in a U.S. military repair team with spare parts and then do work in a Caribbean country. We rely on facilities at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), and our Coast Guard partners in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Under this new construct, CNSS-14 supports all of the ships in Mayport to some level, regardless of the ISIC. We even support the cruisers and amphibious ship, who all report to a chain of command in Norfolk. Two of my current ships – Farragut and The Sullivans – will shift to a Norfolk ISIC later this year to support their deployment. We support the ships here regardless of who their ISIC is. We even provide some specific support to the LCS hulls and crews in Mayport. For example, I have a command climate specialist who advises all the subordinate command climate specialists at each of the commands, and I have a JAG that provides support to all of the ships and crews on the Mayport waterfront.

 

Lundquist: You have the Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMAC) here. Do they do maintenance for the PCs?

Maxey: We have a great relationship with SERMC and they do a great job responding to emergent repairs and running the planned maintenance availabilities. They do this for all of our ships in Mayport. While it appears redundant to the regional maintenance center support, the MRT is an extension of ship’s force, so they also take on ship’s force level work that can eventually backlog and overwhelm a small crew.

Mayport Basin SURFRON 14

USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and other ships in the basin at Naval Station Mayport, Florida. U.S. Navy photo

 

Lundquist: Do you provide support for the PCs when they are deployed downrange?

Maxey: The PCs have a large operating area while on mission to Counter Illicit Trafficking. And they are busy. Down range maintenance and support is crucial to their mission success. The PCs were originally fielded with a 15-year service life, but they’re all well past that, and they were not built with a lot of redundancy. The PC crews are very self-reliant, but I rely on the technicians from the MRT to be the first responders for emergent repairs. It can be difficult to fly in a U.S. military repair team with spare parts and then do work in a Caribbean country. We rely on facilities at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo), and our Coast Guard partners in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard has been extremely supportive. I cannot say enough good things about those guys and their teamwork with our PC mission.

This command is considered a major shore command because I don’t deploy. However, we do spend time at sea. We are at sea to support the type commander as an assessment agent, whether it’s INSURV or deployment. We take about 48 people out there and we assess them from top to bottom, from engineering, to combat systems, to supply. We are at sea for our ISIC duties and we are also an Independent Deployer Certification agent for the PCs prior to deployment.

Capability wise, our PCs do not have the Griffin missiles, but Zephyr does have the remote 25mm gun, and we have the Puma UAV that we can fly from our PCs. We are constantly working to add new capability.  Our PCs deploy alone, but they team up with the Coast Guard and with Navy airborne assets frequently.

 

Lundquist: Is this assignment an afloat or ashore command?

Maxey: This command is considered a major shore command because I don’t deploy. However, we do spend time at sea. We are at sea to support the type commander as an assessment agent, whether it’s INSURV or deployment. We take about 48 people out there and we assess them from top to bottom, from engineering, to combat systems, to supply. We are at sea for our ISIC duties and we are also an Independent Deployer Certification agent for the PCs prior to deployment. Oh, and I am the SOPA (C4F) Executive Agent for Hurricane Sortie.

 

Lundquist: What would you want to say to someone considering as assignment with SURFRON 14?

Maxey: We make a difference to the ships. If you don’t want to leave the waterfront, this is a superb job to stay plugged in to your shipmates, help the ships, and make a difference to the sailors, because that’s exactly what we do. We support ships from the Zephyr to the Iwo Jima. We do some assessments, but we also help reduce their workload by tackling the big problems that they’re fighting with. I think most of our folks feel pretty fulfilled with the job that they have here.

 

Lundquist: Anything else you want to say about your folks?

Maxey: They are “phenomenal.” Some parts of our function are new and not well charted. They just adjust and continue to make a difference. A lot of people like staying in Mayport, but I need folks with current, relevant experience, regardless of where they’ve been stationed. I can always use more qualified people who want to be here and want to continue to work on ships.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...