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Norfolk shipyard returns Helena to the fleet

By Anna Taylor, Norfolk Naval Shipyard Public Affairs | Dec. 10, 2015

NORFOLK, Virginia - USS Helena (SSN-725), a Los Angeles-class submarine, completed a Docking Continuous Maintenance Availability (DCMAV) at Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) and was certified Nov. 12.

Helena spent less than four months at NNSY, receiving required maintenance and a technical insertion upgrade.

"We certified USS Helena one day early, but there were complicated issues that had to be resolved with intensified planning by the team to accomplish our mission," said Pat Ensley, Helena Project Superintendent. 

Getting Helena certified meant continuous execution planning with the entire project team by clearly identifying the scope of work to be accomplished and validating the plan with ship's force in an effort to keep the availability on track daily.

"We had to make sure that every day we aggressively worked to meet our schedule," said Ensley.  "I always wanted to remain predictable, so it was important that daily updates to the schedule were accurate and reliable.  By maintaining an accurate daily schedule I was better at making proper decisions and adjustments to get the boat back to the fleet on time."

The project included a significant amount of Submarine Safety Program (SUBSAFE) work, which had to be tightly controlled and required a high-level of oversight, review, and detailed certification.

"I can't overstate the dedication on the deck plate from the mechanics, supervisors, and zone managers," said Lt. Cmdr. Joe Klopfer, Helena's Deputy Project Superintendent. "One of the keys to success was how hard the guys worked and committed to getting the job done right the first time."

Both Ensley and Klopfer agree communication between the deck plates and chain of command was crucial during the availability. "I think that is what this project did better than any project I've been on," said Klopfer.  "If we needed something all we had to do was ask for support and the shipyard responded."

Completing the DCMAV early was a major accomplishment for NNSY and the project team, and the achievement did not go unnoticed. 

"The early completion of Helena's DCMAV has given the Submarine Squadron Six Commander a vital asset back that is immediately able to support the fleet," said Helena Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Jason Pittman. "Helena will also deploy next year, and the key to successful preparation for deployment is time at sea. Getting that valuable time at sea is a fight that is won by the daily battles to complete maintenance effectively and on time. Norfolk Naval Shipyard's tremendous work getting us back to sea early ensures that our preparations are getting started on the right foot."

"The team's efforts were recognized at the highest levels, which is a direct reflection of their dedication and commitment to America's Shipyard," added Ensley.  "It was amazing to see such a diverse background of personnel come together so quickly and work so effectively."