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The U.S. Navy's laser safety training program - featured in a March 8 American Forces Network (AFN) newscast - is bolstering the Fleet's force protection readiness, according to Sailors protecting their ships and performing anti-terrorism missions with laser system technologies.

"With the widespread use of lasers in both commercial and military applications, Sailors in Yokosuka are learning the ins and outs of safety when dealing with laser technology during an Administrative Laser Safety Officer or A-L-S-O course," reported MC2 Bryan Reckard in the AFN video broadcast.

The mobile team training Sailors in laser safety at 13 Fleet concentration areas - including Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Mayport, Fla., Bahrain and Yokosuka - certifies and enables ALSOs aboard ships equipped with lasers to establish a laser qualification and safety program.

In all, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) engineers trained 910 Navy and Coast Guard personnel as Administrative Laser Safety Officers and more than a 1,000 deployed warfighters in the operation of the LA-9/P device since the program's inception in July 2009. The LA-9/P visual deterrent used in 5th Fleet operations is rapidly becoming an essential anti-terrorism and force protection asset on all ships.

"Our force protection readiness is increasing ten-fold," said CWO2 Roderick Harris, USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group Task Force 70 Force Protection Officer, regarding the ALSO and Laser System Safety Officer (LSSO) program. "This training will allow us to increase our watch standers' escalation of force and awareness far better than they ever had."

NSWCDD Laser safety instructors travel around the globe to train warfighters on topics ranging from laser fundamentals, operations and hazard prevention, ensuring high levels of force protection readiness for nine different class squadrons of ships. Class-specific squadrons integrate manning, training, equipping, modernizing and sustaining surface ships from a class perspective.

"The (ALSO) course allows students to put together a program aboard their ship but it also talks about the safety aspects such as hazard viewing, biometrics, laser eye protection, how to operate the range, and the medical surveillance program," Charles Chan, NSWCDD Administrative Laser System Safety Mobile Training Team Lead told AFN viewers. "After completing this course, the student is able to put together a training program onboard their ship, and create a pre-mishap plan."

Chan's students from the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyers USS McCampbell (DDG 85) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) also spoke on-camera about their new capability to safely operate military grade light laser equipment.

"I just completed the ALSO course, which is a Laser Safety Officer course, so that I can operate the Lasers," said Ensign Tasha Prater, McCampbell's ALSO. "It has taught me how to be an instructor, and make sure that Sailors are aware of the safety procedures to prevent possible hazards or dangers that could occur if the gear is improperly used."

"In the course, I learned how to use the system and become more familiar with the equipment," added Gunner's Mate 1st Class Nicholas Stemper. I will be able to operate the equipment and my command will be self-sufficient in the hardware maintenance."

Sailors who complete the ALSO certification are designated Laser Safety Specialist Officers by their Commanding Officer. LSSOs initiate and establish an instruction for the ship's Laser Safety Program that they manage in addition to identifying who may need to be in medical surveillance.

The NSWCDD Maritime Protection and Security Engineering Branch mobile training team developed the ALSO and LA-9/P Visual Deterrent Device courses in support of an urgent Fleet need on behalf of the Anti-Terrorism Afloat Program Office (PMS-480).

The full AFN newscast can be viewed on the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System website via this link: http://www.dvidshub.net/video/139246/laser-safety-course.