JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii —
In July 2020, the Navy began mobilizing more than 1,600 SurgeMain Reserve Sailors from across the U.S.to the four public shipyards in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time SurgeMain has activated this many Sailors at one time for a non-humanitarian mission.
At the onset of the pandemic, almost a quarter of the shipyard's civilian and military workforce were deemed "high risk" as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With a sizable amount of the workforce on protective weather and safety leave, concerns grew that a bow wave of maintenance would develop if not checked and would result in delays in returning ships to the fleet. Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY & IMF) Code 900R Production Resources worked with the shipyard's resource managers to determine the resources required to minimize schedule delays. This analysis resulted in the assignment of 202 SurgeMain Sailors for mobilization to PHNSY & IMF.
As part of this historic mobilization, the initial group of SurgeMain Sailors reported to PHNSY & IMF on July 6. This first phase of Sailors included Chief Hull Maintenance Technician (Select) James Rippard, a member of the local community on O'ahu. When not actively serving on U.S. Navy Reserve orders, Rippard is the principal at Kalāheo High School in Kailua, Hawai'i. Upon notice of the pending mobilization, he immediately began working with his staff of 130 teachers and administrators to ensure the school prepared to continue operation in his absence, including with the implementation of COVID-19 mitigations. Once he received the mobilization orders to PHNSY & IMF, Rippard reported to the Shop 11 Shipfitters team, where he immediately set the tone for all SurgeMain Sailors supporting the Code 920 Structural Shop.
Due to the long-term nature of the mobilization compared to the typical two to three-week support SurgeMain Sailors frequently provide, Rippard helped his fellow reserve Sailors establish essential relationships with the civilian employees and supervisors. He immediately launched an initial assessment of the incoming Sailors' skills and subsequently worked with the civilian supervisors and Code 920 resource managers to assign work based on existing skillsets and goals for learning new skills during the mobilization.
As the SurgeMain Sailors learn shipyard systems and protocols, the shop's leadership has placed their confidence in the Sailors by assigning seven Task Group Instructions (TGIs). TGIs are specific step-by-step instructions used to ensure that all tasks throughout the shipyard are completed correctly and are signed off by a civilian mechanic before review by the shop supervisor. Several SurgeMain Sailors are currently undergoing the sign-off certification process, allowing the Sailors to complete the TGI packages and submit directly to the shop supervisor for final review, which streamlines the close out process. The Sailors also received a unique opportunity to learn the process of Hull Cut cold cutting on critical components, a safer and more precise cutting method that allows for first-time quality and saved production time.
Alongside his full-time work and leadership role at the shipyard, Rippard remains engaged in his local community and supports his school by assisting with developing the school year 2021 budget, which is estimated to be $6.4 billion. Rippard, like many of his shipmates, is proud to be able to use his skills to support our national security mission and keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet "fit to fight."