A junior Sailor tied with a lieutenant for top score in the shiphandling competition during the recent Surface Line Week 2021 competition.
Seaman Kelly A. House of Assault Craft Unit 2 (ACU 2) tied with Lt. Clint McNutt, navigator aboard USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41), for top score. Retired Navy captain and current Navigation, Seamanship and Shiphandling Trainer (NSST), instructor, Peter Squicciarini graded the competition. He was especially impressed with House’s performance considering her lack of experience.
“It was the best thing I’ve seen in five years,” he said. “When she first walked in, I asked her ‘what ship do you drive?’ Her answer was, ‘None’.”
House says she decided to participate in the competition because she was curious about it and thought it would be a good learning experience for a new, undesignated Sailor.
“I agreed to do it in order to help support our command in the competition as well as have fun and experience different things the Navy offers,” said House.
Surface Line Week (SLW) is an annual event during which Naval Surface Force Atlantic (SURFLANT) commands compete with each other in professional, athletic and camaraderie-building events and contests. The shiphandling competition saw an ensign, two lieutenant junior-grades, McNutt and House try their hands at a man-overboard scenario, being graded on several factors.
The grading criteria was quantitative and included time from when “man overboard” was called to when “put swimmer in the water” was called; speed through water when “put swimmer in the water” was called; swimming distance from man overboard to pick-up point; and speed through water once alongside the man.
The contest was comprised of two runs, and competitors were matched up with the class of ship on which they’re stationed for their first run. The second run had to be on a different class of ship. The small craft at House’s command wasn’t an option in the simulator, so Squicciarini matched her up with an osprey-class minehunter (MHC 51), which is handled similarly, for her first run.
“Hers was the only perfect run I had. She did a flawless Anderson turn,” said Squicciarini. “She stopped it nearly on the dime, and her time was great.”
House chose a destroyer for her second run, and got top scores in every category but one. Squicciarini emphasized that he was strict in his grading.
“I applied the same criteria to everyone. I was not trying to give her any advantage,” he noted. “This was a stiff competition.”
House had practiced taking the helm of a small craft in port at ACU 2, and noted that a chief had provided some basic instruction. However, she had never actually conned or helmed a ship at sea.
“I owe my success to my original craftmaster, [Chief Boatswain’s Mate] Joshua Carrell, because he taught me the very basics of how to drive and how to get back on course when you stray away,” says House. “He taught [me] how to control the ship along with the basics of conning.”
In addition to her shiphandling prowess, the assessor was blown away by the junior Sailor’s “confidence, positive attitude, and dedication to the surface Navy,” adding, “Everyone can take a page out of Seaman House’s book.”
Among House’s future plans are finishing college and becoming a naval officer. “I intend to check on her progress through the commanding officer of ACU 2,” assured Squicciarini.
SURFLANT mans, trains and equips assigned surface forces and shore activities, ensuring a capable force for conducting prompt and sustained operations in support of United States national interests. The SURFLANT force is composed of 77 ships, 14 pre-commissioning units, and 33 shore commands.
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