ATLANTIC OCEAN –
Marine biologists and scientists working for Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Atlantic and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Newport, R.I., embarked USS Mahan (DDG 72) June 4-9 during the Southeast Anti-Submarine Warfare Integration Training Initiative (SEASWITI) 10-3.
They arrived to study and collect data on marine mammals.
SEASWITI, an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) exercise planned and executed by Naval Station Mayport's (Florida) Destroyer Squadron 24, presented an invaluable opportunity for the biologists.
"We were out there trying to get some species identified, and thanks to SEASWITI we got a chance to go out further than most surveys," said Anu Kumar, a marine resource specialist with NAVFAC Atlantic.
The scientists were also on board so the Navy can meet certain exercise monitoring requirements supporting the use of active sonar for training. Active sonar is one of the primary tools Mahan uses to locate and track undersea threats.
"These requirements come straight from permits required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and part of those requirements is to have marine biologists on a certain number of training exercises," said Deanna Rees, a marine wildlife biologist with NAVFAC Atlantic. "By meeting these requirements, the Navy is in compliance with those permits."
But the biologists aboard provide more than just compliance for a permit.
"The Naval Facilities Engineering Command developed the Marine Species Awareness Training (MSAT) on NKO (Navy Knowledge Online) which is used by bridge watchstanders and lookouts," said Rees.
Lookouts employ MSAT to aid in spotting marine mammals at sea so the ship can take the appropriate actions. Biologists spoke with watchstanders and Sailors who have taken the MSAT training to look for ways to make it better.
"Besides looking for mammals at sea we were also out there to get feedback from the lookouts, the bridge team, and anyone who had gone through the MSAT training to find out what has been working and what could be better," said Amy Farak, a marine biologist with NUWC.
Kumar said he can see that their work and training has paid off.
"We had a really great experience where we watched the bridge team make an independent sighting of a marine mammal and they ran through the whole procedure," said the biologist. "They followed all the proper procedures right away. They powered down sonar because they were not sure what it was and they did it really quickly. They did everything they were supposed to do."
Mahan participated in SEASWITI 10-3, which is an exercise designed to build upon current ASW initiatives focusing on ASW and other warfare areas to include air and surface warfare and Maritime Security operations.