Onen of the procedures that the US Navy is most proud of is the Underway Replenishment, or UnRep. An emergency measure that was started in WWII to deal with a lack of bases in the Pacific Theater, UnRep is nothing more than having a tanker/supply ship rendezvous with a warship in the open ocean and pass over some fuel and supplies. Sounds boring, right? What if I told you that it's indescribably dangerous?
What I mean by that is that, should something go wrong, someone is almost certainly going to be killed or maimed for life. One of the two ships involved might even be lost. It's that serious.
The way this works is that a tanker ship pulls up next to the warship.
Notice the cranes on the tanker. They are for passing over the hoses needed to pump thousands of gallons of fuel over to the McFaul's tanks. Here's a better look at the hollow rubber octopus arms.
This is one of the dangers that come with this maneuver. Two ships, on the hight seas, bobbing and rolling around on the waves, both of them moving forward so the helmsman can steer. If they drift together then they're going to run into each other. If they drift apart the hoses connecting the two ships, the pipeline that's pumping hundreds of gallons of fuel, will pull loose. If that happens then there's going to be hundreds of gallons of fuel splashing across the deck, and if there's a spark....
Okay, so a constant distance has to be maintained no matter what the waves and the wind and the helmsman on the other ship does. Has to! So how do they gauge that sort of thing? By eye?
Kinda. They attach two lines to the tanker and toss them across the warship's deck. Little flags tied to the lines every few feet allow the guys on the Bridge to intsantly see how far apart the ships are. How do they keep tension on the line so it's always taught and the flags are easy to see? They put crew members out on the deck to hold on to the rope.
This is the really dangerous part. A sudden yank on the line and someone could be flying into a bulkhead, or even pulled overboard in a heartbeat. So notice how they're dressed. Hard hats. Non-slip boots. Life vests. They even have an enormous activated glo-stick attached to the vest, just in case.
Also notice what they're doing. The guy in back is checking the slack, making sure that feet don't get tangled in the free end. See the guy in the yellow hard hat and the blue life vest? He's a medic, waiting in the cold wind, just in case. Standing next to him is MCDM Kastler, who's the highest ranking enlisted person on the ship. Notice the white cord leading off her headphones. She's in direct communication with the Bridge, just in case.
The UnRep takes hours, so they have extra crews for the line detail. Some of them work, some of them were dozing on the deck away from the action (No pics of that. Didn't want the flash to wake anyone).
I've mentioned that this procedure is indescribably dangerous, and it is. But it's also not very risky. The safety checks that are followed make it routine. When deployed US warships go through an UnRep once or twice a week, and they're very proud of their safety record. No other navy in the world does this as often, as safely or as efficiently as the US Navy. This allows our warships to be deployed anywhere, and for longer periods of time.
There's a reason why they performed an UnRep on the last day I was on board, and it didn't have anything to do with showing off for the Tigers. Ever since 9/11 all US warships have to have a minimum of 80% capacity of fuel in their tanks when they put into port. If an attack is launched on the base they'll simply slip their moorings and steam for the open sea, ready to defend against other attacks or conduct rescue operations.
It's easy to think that we're at peace if you're a civilian. These guys can't ever forget that we're really at war.