New command at mine warfare

Published 7:07 pm Tuesday, October 30, 2007

STENNIS SPACE CENTER — NAVOCEANO has a new division with a new commander.

The new division, Mine Warfare, will assist U.S. Navy personnel in locating mines in the ocean.

A ceremony was held Friday at Stennis where Cmdr. Paul Oosterling, was honored as the new commander of NAVOCEANO’s Mine Warfare.

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Commander Oosterling was given a little advice by Rear Adm. John Waickwicz, commander of Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare, for running a tight ship during the ceremony.

Waickwicz suggested Oosterling keep his people close, especially family, and take good care of them. Waickwicz said that no matter what, make it to soccer games and make time for family.

Sometimes young people do stupid things and get caught, so he recommended not treating those personnel too harshly when they do.

“How many times should we have gotten caught but didn’t,” Waickwicz said.

It is also important to let those under his command conduct their jobs. It is the commander’s job to do what others cannot, Waickwicz said.

Finally Waickwicz suggested Oosterling’s division have fun.

“We have enough time to be serious, take the time to have fun,” Waickwicz said.

Lt. James Coleman, who works with that division, said the division’s work will help the U.S. Navy locate mines in the ocean and on the ocean floor.

The new division uses the existing science expertise at NAVOCEANO and applies it to help mine hunters find explosive devices planted in the ocean.

“These guys (those conducting operations in a particular area) need to know what they are facing in the ocean,” Coleman said.

If the Navy suspects there may be mines in an area where missions are being conducted, men from NAVOCEANO’s Stennis unit are called out to use their expertise to determine if there are mines in the area.

Mine Warfare takes old sonar information of the ocean and its floor and combines it with newly gathered sonar information. The team looks for differences in the two sets of information that could point to mines. Using Side Scan Sonar Imagery, similar to that used in the industrial field, and other means gives the team the information it needs.

Mine Warfare also gathers information on currents, sea floor topography and the weather, Coleman said. Information is gathered by an unmanned ocean glider that can survey the ocean and it’s floor for 30 days at a time, Coleman said.

Once enough information is gathered, Coleman and his men compare the new information with the old and provide the results to those who deal with mines directly, he said.

“Finding these mines is really similar to hydrography, which this office specializes in,” Coleman said. “We know that science and we’re taking it to those guys out there trying to find (mines),” Coleman said.