Navy, Marines throw early Y2K New Year's party

Sailors and Marines from the U.S. 7th Fleet and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit last week threw an early New Year's party festooned with streamers and balloons to celebrate the successful completion of a 10-day test to validate that all of its computer code is free from Year 2000 bugs.

Capt. Manuel Malagon, director of command, control, communications, computers and intelligence for the Seventh Fleet, said the sailors and Marines had plenty to celebrate following the test, which included an amphibious landing on Kin Beach, Okinawa, Sept. 25, the last day of the exercise.

The Seventh Fleet and the 31st MEU—both based in Japan and key elements of the U.S. presence in Asia—experienced only two minor glitches in the 94 systems used by the 10 ships involved in the Year 2000 validation test, Malagon said in a telephone interview from the Seventh Fleet command ship, the USS Blue Ridge, as it docked at its home port in Yokokuska, Japan.

One glitch was a controller for a weather tracking antenna on the Blue Ridge that locked up when the clocked rolled over to Jan. 1, 2000. The controller quickly began to work properly, however. The other problem involved a network server on the Blue Ridge when its clock read "1/9/A1" after the rollover instead of "1/1/2000."

Testing 94 systems distributed across nine ships during an amphibious assault was an important part of the validation test—and the first time an entire MEU has participated in such a test, Malagon said. "Interoperability and the ability to integrate these systems is a key factor.... In an amphibious exercise you have a cast of thousands. It's a battlefield where you have naval shore support fire coming in, helicopters operating and ordnance flying. You need synchronicity, and this test gave us a chance to look at all of that."

Other ships participating in the test included the USS Belleau Wood, an amphibious assault shop that caries the 31st MEU's helicopters and landing craft; the USS Juneau, an amphibious landing dock; the USS Vincennes guided missile cruiser; the USS John McCain guided missile destroyer; the USS Cushing destroyer; the USNS San Jose stores shop; the USNS Tippecanoe oiler and the USS Safeguard salvage ship.

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