The Class “A” Technical School for Sailors in the Mineman (MN) rating is the Mine Warfare Training Center located at Naval Base Point Loma in California. During roughly five months of study, future MN Sailors are taught the fundamentals of mine detection and neutralization. Typically, the first assignment for Minemen upon completion of “A” school will be Sea Tour aboard either a Mine Countermeasure Ship (MCM) or Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

Currently, the Navy’s MCM fleet consists of a dozen Avenger-class ships. Constructed between 1987 and 1994, Avenger-class vessels have wooden hulls, typically constructed of oak, covered with fiberglass. This design not only gives the ship the ability to absorb the shock caused by the explosion of a mine, but also provides a low magnetic signature which reduces the chance of detonation of nearby mines.

The primary mine countermeasure system used by Minemen is the AN/SLQ-48 Mine Neutralization System, which employs a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) capable of deploying up to 1,000 yards from a ship to a depth of 2,000 feet. Power and video feeds are supplied to the actual Mine Neutralization Vehicle (MNV) via a 3000-foot-plus cable; if the cable breaks, the MNV surfaces and activates a homing device to enable retrieval. The MNV can be outfitted with one of three different packages that allows it to either cut cables so mines can be floated and then retrieved or detonated by Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Sailors or detonated underwater.

Today, there are just eleven Avenger-class MCMs in service. The first and third ships to be commissioned in the class, the USS Avenger and the USS Defender, were decommissioned in 2014 and subsequently dismantled and sold for scrap in May, 2015. A third MCM, the USS Guardian, ran aground on a reef in the Philippines in 2013 and was eventually dismantled by salvage crews who cut the vessel into three sections and hauled them away. Although four officers were relieved and the Navy said the accident was preventable because the navigation plan was not prepared and executed properly, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency later admitted that the navigational chart given to the crew of the USS Guardian was in error, placing the location of the reef that was hit nine miles from its actual location.


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