CHINHAE, Republic of Korea -- The mine countermeasure ship USS Chief (MCM 14) is 224 feet long and 39 feet wide with a crew of 94 Sailors. The ship may seem small compared to other U.S. Navy vessels. Yet rather than letting size impact their mission, these Sailors harness their tight knit command climate to achieve mission success.
"While tactically employed, the crew is in two duty sections, while conducting neutralization or sweeping operations the crew collapses to a single section, making nearly every mission that we do an all hands effort," says Lt. Cmdr. Shane Dennis, commanding officer of Chief, "It bonds this 'Band of Brothers' together in a way that I've never experienced before in the three other ships that I have served aboard."
In the times between their port and starboard watch schedule, Sailors dedicate their time to seeking out qualified crew members to earn qualifications and facilitate in-rate training.
Command Senior Chief Randy Bell said this high state of readiness directly contributes to the ship's high morale, low disciplinary problems, and safe execution of tasks as well as mission accomplishment.
"Due to the size of our ship and crew, Sailors quickly become leaders and subject matter experts in their rates at an early stage as well as pay grade," said Bell. "With every challenge and hardship we face onboard, we become a stronger team."
Between officers and chiefs, MCM-14 has 21 E-7 through O-4 Sailors, which puts nearly 20 percent of the crew in key leadership positions. The other 73 Sailors on Chief are made up of E-6 and below.
"We face many of the same challenges as other ships do. One unique issue to this small ship is the depth of bench we have to draw from, so it's important that each Sailor bring their 'A' game," said Dennis. "It's really encouraging to see what this group of 94 Sailors can do when the stakes are high, and when the challenges seem insurmountable. Their ability and willingness to come together as one ship, one mission is beyond anything I've experienced."
In the early 1980's, the Navy began developing two new classes of mine countermeasure ships including the Avenger class. There are currently eleven mine countermeasure ships in service, which are designed to clear mines from vital waterways ensuring that U.S. naval components can get into the maritime environments where they are most needed.
"If we have to go into harm's way, you have to know that the Sailor standing next to you is able to do what they're expected to do when the stakes are high," said Dennis. "We've imbued into our Sailors a sense that thousands of shipmates are waiting out in the deep water until we've cleared the way for them. This makes their purpose singularly important and that's part of what helps."
Combining the ship's overall mission with the demanding qualifications, these naval warfighters will continue to provide an overall sense of "one team, one fight" aboard their mine countermeasure asset. The 94 Sailors carrying out the strategic support of USS Chief are doing so with the support of each other.
"It's truly been an honor and privilege to serve the Sailors and their families onboard USS Chief," said Bell. "These Sailors are the hardest working bunch I have ever served with and I believe they deserve the utmost appreciation and respect for their continuous efforts aboard this arduous duty assignment."