SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The minesweeper USS Guardian was set to go to sea late this week for training operations lasting about three weeks.

During the underway period, the crew will visit Yokosuka Naval Base, Kure and Okinawa before steaming back to Sasebo, executive officer Lt. Steve Ilteris said Tuesday.

The Guardian’s mission is to keep shipping lanes in this part of the Pacific free of mines, Ilteris said. In the event of a real conflict, the Guardian likely would work with the minesweeper USS Patriot, which also operates from Sasebo. Both ships are part of Mine Countermeasures Division 11.

With the mission in mind, the 86-member crew will perform a series of sweeps using various technologies, including magnetic tail sweeps, Ilteris said.

The magnetic tail sweep drags a tethered magnetic charge between 1,500 feet and 1,700 feet from the stern, activating mines far from the ship.

“Overall, this training period will make the Guardian crew sharper so that when it starts its exercise season in the spring, it will be ready to go,” Ilteris said.

Another benefit of the underway period, according to Chief Petty Officer Donald Colbert, is to get the new crewmembers up to speed. “Since November, I’ve had about 90 percent turnover,” said Colbert, the ship’s main propulsion assistant. “So it’s up to the guys with all the experience to pass along the knowledge they have.”

He said the crew would conduct basic engineering casualty control drills simulating engine failures every day underway “to get these guys qualified. You have to train like you fight and fight like you train.”

Robert Sewell, who works in the engineering division, is one of the newer crewmembers. He said his goal for the upcoming underway period is to get qualified to work in the auxiliary machinery room.

“I’m looking forward to the underway, but I’ve heard it can get kind of rough going to Yokosuka,” Sewell said. “In a small ship, it can pitch a bit; I don’t want to get sick.”

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