The year 1976 for USS BUCHANAN (DDG-14) was one which could best be categorized as post-overhaul titivation and training in anticipation of the ship's next scheduled deployment. Inspections, assist visits, sea trials and major repair work on the engineering plant were the highlights of 1976. These evolutions combined to make the year an interesting and busy one of the officers and crew members of BUCHANAN.
The new year started out on a placid note with ship's company enjoying the second half of their holiday leave and upkeep period in Long Beach Naval Shipyard. Although the work packages associated with the overhaul had essentially been completed, two key events still had to be satisfactorily accomplished prior to the ship's return to San Diego. The newly overhauled boilers still required flexibility tests and a full power run had to be achieved before BUCHANAN could be certified "ready for sea" and return to the active fleet. These requirements were successfully met during sea trials conducted immediately after the holiday leave period. The overhaul now officially completed, BUCHANAN was commended by COMNAVSURFPAC, VADM TIDD, because " you have come through an experience that has been difficult and expensive in dollars and time off the line for the ship and crew "
BUCHANAN made the transit back to San Diego on 27 February. The homeport officially reverted from Long Beach to San Diego and the ship was administratively reassigned to Destroyer Squadron THRITY-ONE. At this time, BUCHANAN entered into an extended tender availability status with the major emphasis on correcting problems relating to boiler blow valves. A concerted effort was also made by all departments to correct material discrepancies caused by the great amount of industrial work performed aboard ship in the yards. What could not be corrected by ship's force aboard ship in the yards. What could not be corrected by ship's force was taken care of by a team of technicians from Long Beach who were charged with eliminating overhaul related material problems.
In March 1976, the Engineers began extensive preparations for Operational Propulsion Plant Examination (OPPE). 1200 PSI Propulsion Plant Mobile Training Team, Phase I was designed to bring Engineering up to speed with regard to the training and administrative requirements pertinent to Operational Propulsion Plant Examination. Deficiencies in these areas were noted and corrective measures were taken to ensure that required training and instructions were current and in accordance with fleet directives. On 22 March, the Weapons Department commenced Ship's Qualification of Missile/Gun systems and Weapons System Acceptance Trials. The primary purpose of these two evolutions was to ascertain that all combat systems (i.e., radar tracking, proper functioning of the gun mounts, tactical coordination between the Operations and Weapons Departments, underwater battery fire control system, etc.) were operational and met fleet requirements. Simply phrased, could the ship coordinate the guns, radars, etc., to hit the target and get the job done? This question was answered with a successful gun and Tartar missile shoot during the latter stages of this period.
Almost totally recovered from her shipyard experience, BUCHANAN got underway for local operations for 3-7 May. It was at this time that she tested the Tartar missile system. The results were impressive: two direct hits on shore-launched drones. The successful Tartar shot was a boon to the crew's morale and a tribute to the smooth tactical performance/coordination exhibited by the Weapons and Operations Departments.
The balance of the month of May was spent pierside. All hands were busily engaged in the upkeep of the ship, the validation of compartmental damage control check-off sheets, and intensive training in preparation for refresher training. To ensure that no area would be overlooked, all departments became involved with "TRE" (Training Readiness Evaluation) or essentially what amounted to a comprehensive check-off list which each department used to evaluate its readiness for refresher training. (In retrospect, the aggressive application of this check-off list could be cited as a strong contributing factor with regard to the ship's later outstanding performance during refresher training. In addition to its preparations for refresher training, the Supply Department was also actively engaged in preparation for its annual supply inspection. The inspection was conducted in mid-May and all phases of the Supply operation (i.e., administration, training, records, accountability, etc.) were adjudged to be above average.
The period 1 June through 9 July was a most trying one for the officers and crew of BUCHANAN. Refresher training was conducted during this period and all hands were actively involved in demonstrating BUCHANAN's operational readiness and ability to effectively respond in different casualty scenarios. This period provided much needed experience in engineering casualty control and thorough training for all hands in damage control. Long hours of hard work and casualty control drills honed the damage control organization to a fine edge. Nearly six weeks of intensive training at sea culminated with BUCHANAN successfully passing the final battle problem on 9 July. BUCHANAN's performance during refresher training was best paraphrased by Commodore L.J. BROWN, DESRON 31, who indicated in a message to the Commanding Officer that " BUCHANAN sailors know how to do it destroyer fashion." Officially certified as "battle ready," the hip returned to port to commence tender availability status. The month of July ended on another successful note when the Weapons Department passed its Type Commander Aviation Evaluation.
During the period 6-17 August, the ship was underway intermittently for sea trials designed to accommodate additional casualty control training. Long days and long nights punctuated these at-sea periods (especially for the engineers who not only stood their normal underway watches, but also spent considerable time evaluating casualty control procedures between watches). More sea trials were conducted from 18-20 August and the Mobile Training Team was aboard to assist in the ship's preparations for Operational Propulsion Plant Examination. Whereas the initial visit concentrated on the paperwork aspects of Operational Propulsion Plant Examination, this second visit focused on applications of prescribed procedures to real-life casualty situations. Engineering watch standers were evaluated for their watch-standing know-how and ability to safely and correctly counteract potential/actual problems.
1200 PSI Propulsion Plant Mobile Training Team, Phase II was conducted from 15-17 September. Phase II was a formal visit to ascertain operational readiness for Operational Propulsion Plant Examination. Watchstanding qualifications, safety procedures, casualty control, material readiness, etc., were all very carefully examined. All areas were deemed satisfactory, with one notable exception: the ship's service turbine generators. Problems with the ship's service turbine generators were of such magnitude that Operational Propulsion Plant Examination was postponed indefinitely. As a result, the ship entered an inport period of extensive rework to restore the engineering plant to optimum condition.
The period 18 September to 22 October saw the ship not only involved in extensive overhaul of its ship's service turbine generators and main circulation pumps, but also involved in two major inspections and a Food Service Assist Visit. The annual Disbursing on-site audit was conducted 21-24 September. This comprehensive examination of pay records, Joint Uniform Military Pay System implementation, financial accountability, related vouchers, and service jackets proved to be BUCHANAN's best ever audit. Only two disbursing-related errors were noted. The month ended with the Supply Department also receiving a major assist visit from the Food Management Team. Intensive on-the-job training in the areas of food preparation, menu construction, sanitation, machinery upkeep, etc., was conducted and the end result was improved food service for the crew and heightened awareness of sanitation requirements and procedures.
BUCHANAN added another feather to its hat the following month when it successfully passed an exhaustive 3M inspection conducted from 18-22 October. ER09 (or Repair Division) graded out to have a 96% confidence factor with regard to planned maintenance system accomplishment; all other major departments were assigned a phenomenal confidence factor of 100%. This inspection was particularly noteworthy in that it was strong visible testimony to the ship's emphasis on machinery upkeep and space preservation. It was conducted at a time when Engineering Department morale night have been ebbing due tot problems with the plant, but the results were reflective, once again, of BUCHANAN's reputation for achieving excellence whatever the circumstances.
While Engineering was busy effecting major repair work on the plant, the Weapons Department was preoccupied with preparations for its Nuclear Weapons Acceptance Inspection. The entire month of October and the first part of November were devoted to intensive review of Anti-Submarine Rocket handling procedures, security procedures, and emergency action to be taken in the event of a nuclear accident/incident, etc. The dedicated efforts of the Weapons Department and its well-conceived Nuclear Weapons Acceptance Inspection Plan-of-Action with Milestones assured peak readiness for the inspection. BUCHANAN was officially certified as "nuclear capable" on 9 November.
The period 10 November to 17 December was spent pierside with the major thrust on getting the plant back to maximum operating condition. On 18 December, the crew entered a much-deserved holiday leave and upkeep period. One final sea trial was conducted 21 December. The results of this sea trial were encouraging in that they demonstrated that the major repairs which had bee undertaken on the ship's service turbine generators had apparently strengthened the plant. This was a good beginning for 1977 and BUCHANAN's upcoming deployment.