FLEET TRAINING GROUP
With the advent of World War II, it became apparent that the hard core of “Navy Professionals” could no longer supply even the skeleton organization needed to train the crew of ships streaming from the country’s shipbuilding yards. Thus, it was necessary to abandon a principle upon which the Navy had long basedf its tarinf - that of mainyaining readiness through ansoription fo new personnel into the existing shipboard organization. Accordijngtyingm, at the beginning of 1943, the Commander in Chiefs, U. S. Fleet, ADM Ernest J. King, directed the eablisgment of the Fleeet Opetatrional Training Command in the Atlantic and Pacific Fleet. The order charged then with certain functions and responsibilites - aong which were the the scheduling and supervision of training for large ships during the shakedown period, and periodic refersher tarining. The concept of training the crew of new ships by an organization specifically set up for that purpose was based on sound principles. It made economical use of experienced Navy eprsonnel, it permitted rapid introduction of lessons learned in combat, and it established unifrom standrads of performance. Post-wra conditions created a situation which required the retention of the Training Command during peace-time operations. Basically, this situation was one of high personnel turn-over in both officers and enlisted categories, a situation which still exiists.
Briefly, the Fleet Training Group is an organization of officers and enlisted “shipriders” in the fields of navigation, communications, gunnery, seamanship, CIC, damage control, engineering, anti-submarine warfare, and aviation, which provides the final organized training of the crew during underway operations, and aids the ship in reaching top combat readiness in a minimum period of time. The fields of guided missiles, ASW, nuclear weapons and jet propulsion, to name a few, are a constant challenge to these “experts” of the Group.
Following the outbreak of hostilities in Korea in June 1950, a major reactivation program was undertaken for ships taken from the “Mothball Fleet” as part of a general naval expansion to meet the emergency. For the Atlantic Fleet, these ship’s shakedown training, in most instances, was conducted under the Fleet Training Group at Guantanamo Bay. Personnel allownaces of the Group were augmented considerably in order to take care of training these ships, which reported in numbers from 20 to 40 at a time, for periods of four to six weeks each. In line with this increased activity, an expansion and rehabilitation program was launched in 1953. This work included the construction of new Engineering and Damage Control Departments, and a connecting wing from the Fleet Training Group Headquarters buildings No. 123 and 803A.
A unique experiment in anti-submarine warfare training was launched on May 8, 1954, when the USS T-1 arrived in Guantanamo Bay. T-1, a miniature target sub, second of its kind, was put in service in December 1953.
Following cessation of hostilities in Korea, and due to austere personnel conditions, the Chief of Naval Operations, on December 28, 1955, reduced the Group’s personnel allowance by 22 officer and 18 enlisted billets. As a result, it was necessary for the Fleet Training Group to discontinue providing Medical and Supply assistance to ships under training, and to limit instruction to navigation, communications, gunnery, seamanship, CIC, damage control, engineering, anti-submarine warfare and air operations. Incident to this reduction and other personnel reductions in the Training Command, Atlantic Fleet, the Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, in early 1956, informed the Chief of Naval Operations that the reductions in the capability of the Training Command to conduct underway training had necessitated a review of the entire concept of shakedown and refresher training. With this report, the Commander in Chief indicated that exclusive emphasis would be placed on basic training, concentrating on safe and sound procedures.
Until August 1957, the Operations Department carried out functions of what is now the Port Control Office, i.e., berthing, routing and traffic control of all ships in the harbor, plus provision of logistics services for these ships. With the move of the Group’s Operations Office from Building No. 66 (Naval Port Control Office) to the main headquarters building, Naval Station assumed duties of Port Control.
Until June 30, 1958, a dual organization - Fleet Training Group and Fleet Training Center - existed, commanded by the same officer. On February 11, 1958, Commander Fleet Training Group recommended to the Chief of Naval Operations that the Center be disestablsihed and that its mission and personnel be transferred to the Group. Thus, FTG became the sole training activity in Guantanamo Bay. The Center does, however, still exisit as a mobilization activity.
At the end of 1958, the mission of this command was to conduct shakedown and refresher training and designated inspections; to provide training services; to coordinate the use of local Fleet operating areas; provide training to the extent permitted by available facilties and maintenance personnel in ASW, electronic countermeasures, CIC (including air controller refresher) and exercises using synthetic training devices; and, as required, to provide facilities and personnel for lost plane homing, weather tracking, radar surveillance at the harbor for defense, and as a hurricane and disaster substation. The Group was also responsible for operation of the Gunfire Support Training Unit, Culebra, Puerto Rico, until September 1959, at which time Commander Caribbean Sea Frontier assumed administrative control of this unit. In addition to the shakedown and refresher training afforded United States ships, naval forces of friendly nations also received training. During 1959, ships from the Netherlands, Germany, England and Greece operated here.
Guantanamo Bay, once the Fleet’s winter home, has, as a result of technological and logistics improvements, become a year-round operating area. At one time, tons of coal had to be stored here, but with the advent of diesel engines, steam turbine oil burners, and more recently nuclear power, this support problem has been solved. From August 1953 through July 1963, 1,489 ships of the U. S. Fleet trained here.
Training was discontinued on October 22, 1962, due to the Cuban Crisis, and was resumed on November 27, 1962. During this period, FTG personnel augmented the several base commands. One detail many of them were called upon to perform was the activation of the water distilling plant of the ABATAN (AW-4) (not in commision). This ship, with a 5-million-gallon storage capability, was towed to Guantanamo Bay and moored at BB#2 on October 15, 1962. Its distilling plants are capbale of producing 120,000 gallons of water daily. Work began on October 27, 1962, and the plant was declared ready for operation on December 6, 1962. In addition, there was an increased requirement for participation in base and hemispheric defense duties.
Aside from routine Arrival and Operational Readiness Inspections (ORI), the year 1963 afforded the Group new experinces such as the ORI of the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser, LONG BEACH; ORI for the destroyer BARRY and destroyer leader MITSCHER, and, in conjunction with Commander Destroyer Flotilla SIX, an air defense exercise. In addition, 1964 also saw the final acceptance trial (Insurv Board) missile firings from the CONSTELLATION, LAWRENCE, MAC DONOUGH and BIDDLE. The Air Department conducted a pre-flying inspection on board the ENTERPRISE and CONSTELLATION, and observed the intial phase of flight operations at sea.
The functions of Crane Hill Annex, a long-time responsibility of the Fleet Training Group were transferred to the Naval Air Station on July 1, 1963. It as shortly after this (September 26-27 and October 2-9) that the threatening caprices of hurricanes Edith and Flora halted training exercises. Three ships were sent to Haiti following extensive damage inflicted by Flora there. There were no injuries to FTG personnel, and damage, amounting to $7,330, was confined to antenna structures, roofs, etc. as a result of Hurricane Flora.
Go to Chapter Twenty-seven