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By Katherine Mapp
NSWC PCD Public Affairs
In order to ensure fleet readiness, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) partnered with the Navy Reserve to conduct egress testing on a Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) 100 Class Craft as part of the Ship to Shore Connector (SSC) Program’s Post Delivery Test & Trials, Nov. 7-8.
During this collaborative egress testing, NSWC PCD welcomed 17 Navy Reservists from SurgeMain, Tallahassee to provide hands-on training in an ideal testing environment along the St. Andrews Bay, which could one day save their lives.
According to Eric Pierce, Senior Test Director and Human Systems Integration (HSI) lead at NSWC PCD, these type of tests provide Sailors with practice of their procedures to quickly egress and evacuate from the craft as a form of safety preparedness.
“The objective of this egress testing is to ensure all personnel will be able to successfully and safely evacuate all spaces while wearing Individual Protective Equipment,” said Pierce. “Additionally, this ensures that LCAC 100 Class Craft have sufficient usable space for all personal and gear.”
Lt. Steven Gilbert, SurgeMain Tallahassee commanding officer, said this test is critical in preparing for future missions.
“As we continue to increase our national defense focus in the Indo-Pacific region, this new landing craft will be a crucial part in supporting our Navy and Marine Corps team,” said Gilbert. “This test, verifying LCAC 100 Class egress requirements have been fulfilled by the industry and government design and construction team, will ensure the safety of our troops if and when these craft are required to provide for our national defense.”
The egress testing demonstrates a LCAC 100’s ability to accommodate the measurements and proportions of the human body range of warfighters, mission-essential equipment and survival gear, adequate space for egress, evaluation procedures, ability to evacuate wounded personnel, and the ability to safely deploy and board a 25-person life raft from the LCAC 100 Class in the event of an abandoned ship.
The COVID-19 environment has posed challenges in normal routines and schedules. However, Gilbert added that participating in this exercise allows the Reservists to demonstrate they can still safely support in-person events while following safety protocols to protect our personnel and those personnel they are supporting.
“It is very important for our Sailors to know our mission must be continued regardless of the environment we may find ourselves in and this event reinforces that truth,” said Gilbert.
Steve Foerschl, Landing Craft Test and Trials Manager at Program Executive Office Ships, Amphibious Warfare, said this test and collaboration with SurgeMain Tallahassee is a significant achievement for the SSC program.
“This will mark a milestone for the SSC program as this will be the first time combat loaded troops will be embarked on a LCAC 100 Class Craft,” said Foerschl. This demonstration of emergency procedures in a controlled environment will help shape the development of future craft and training documentation.
NSWC PCD's proximity and access to the Gulf Test Ranges provides an opportunity to test SSC across a broad range of relevant operational conditions. NSWC PCD has the unique, afloat expertise in test and evaluation and HSI necessary for this test, making the command a key partner and collaborator of choice.
Gilbert said the proximity of NSWC PCD to the Navy Operational Support Center in Tallahassee, where SurgeMain resides, provides a great opportunity for collaboration.
“As SurgeMain is a NAVSEA Reserve entity, we are already well suited to provide capabilities that are useful to the Warfare Center,” said Gilbert. “This opportunity to support the LCAC 100 Class egress test is a prime example and helps strengthen the relationship between our active and reserve commands.”
NSWC PCD is the largest tenant command aboard Naval Support Activity Panama City employing more than 1,500 scientists, engineers, and support staff in the areas of research, development, test and evaluation, and in-service support in Mine Warfare, Naval Special Warfare, Diving and Life Support, Amphibious and Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare Systems, as well as other missions in the Littoral Battlespace. 2020 marks the 75th year of the U.S. Navy in Panama City, Florida.
Navy Reserve SurgeMain Tallahassee is part of the Navy Reserve Surge Maintenance, or SurgeMain, program. The program was established in 2005 and has approximately 2,200 enlisted Reserve Sailors and 240 Reserve Officers across 75 local units.