The multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) pulled into port in Bahrain July 15, 2014, for a mid-deployment maintenance period and much-needed down time for the crew after an extended 135 days at sea.
Bahrain, a small island country situated near the western shores of the Arabian Gulf, is the home of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and 5th Fleet’s headquarters. Bataan, with elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, has been assigned in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations since February to augment U.S. Crisis Response forces in the region.
The ship’s crew and embarked Marines are using the time in port to perform maintenance needed during the ship’s scheduled eight-month deployment. The ship is undergoing this maintenance solely for the accomplishment of corrective maintenance of mission – or safety – essential items necessary for a ship to continue on its deployment.
Bataan Sailors and Marines are also using their limited free time after work to visit Manama and view its Middle Eastern culture.
Sailors, who normally work on the ship’s flight deck directing aircraft movement, spent the first few days re-painting visual landing aids which slowly deteriorate on the ship’s non-skid decking. The flight deck was sectioned off to paint and at the same time allow traffic and maintenance to take place around them.
“The first day in port, we washed and scrubbed the deck to prepare it for painting,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Quentin Ellis from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “We painted the tramway, the safety lines, and landing spots so the pilots could see the flight deck better when they are approaching the ship.”
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Philip Strube, of Portland, Texas assisted in the installation of the ship’s AN/SPN-43 radar, used for vectoring aircraft into final approach to the ship.
“We spent about 20 hours the first few days after we pulled into Bahrain getting the new antenna ready to bring on the ship and getting the pedestal ready for the install.” Strube said. “On about the third or fourth day, we started at about 5 a.m. getting the new antenna on the ship and in place on the ship.
“This radar system is very important for air traffic control or air marshalling,” Strube said. “We’ve operated without it, using other systems, but having this back makes it much easier to accomplish our mission.”
Bataan’s Commanding Officer, Capt. George J. Vassilakis, explained the stop in Bahrain for maintenance was based on keeping ship’s systems at their optimum operating levels.
“An eight-month deployment is a long time to operate without the need to stop and re-set,” Vassilakis said. “After five months of constant operations, we needed a few days to take care of tasks like painting the flight deck visual aids or replacing the radar antenna. It was a good opportunity to even perform maintenance on the ship’s air conditioning systems.”
Since deploying in February, the ship’s crew has operated in several locations in the 5th Fleet and 6th Fleet regions. The ship’s tasking includes providing the regional combatant commander with a versatile sea-based, expeditionary force that can be tailored to a variety of missions, including quick reaction crisis response options in maritime, littoral and inland environments in support of the nation’s maritime strategy.
“The Bataan team’s performance has been absolutely phenomenal throughout this deployment,” said Vassilakis. “Enduring 135 days at sea isn’t the easiest task but, they’ve pushed through like professionals. When called upon, these Sailors and Marines have given their all.”
During their off time, Bataan’s Sailors and Marines spent time on Naval Support Activity, Bahrain, where they were able to shop in the base’s Navy Exchange, enjoy meals in the Exchange’s food court, and also catch a movie or go bowling in the base’s bowling alley.
“I just checked aboard the ship so this is my first port call in the Navy,” Ellis said. “I liked being able to get off the ship after work each day but, I’m looking forward to actually seeing a real liberty port.”
In Manama, Bahrain’s capital city, the crew visited Souq Bab-al-Bahrain, a Middle Eastern-style open air market where vendors sell traditional perfumes, jewelry and sweets, local handicrafts, antiques, handmade carpets, local spices, teas and much more.
“It was awesome to get into Bahrain and see the culture.” Ellis said. “Everyone thinks that 135 days at sea is all that bad, but it really wasn’t. Now, with all those days underway behind us, we’re ready to get back out and complete our mission.”