NOB Norfolk, VA —
In December, USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and USS Arlington (LPD 24) will depart for deployment. MARMC’s Waterfront Operations Department (Code 300) is managing their final Continuous Maintenance Availability (CMAV) prior to getting underway. It is the last opportunity to complete casualty reports (CASREPS), departure from specifications (DFS) and conduct any other outstanding repairs before the ships and their crews pull away from the pier.
Once the deployment date arrives, there are no do-overs or turning back the clock. They have to be mission ready, and MARMC plays the vital role in ensuring they are.
“We are in a one-month CMAV clearing outstanding CASREPS and DFSs and fixing some of the issues they had when they had to do hurricane relief earlier this year,” said Kearsarge Project Manager (PM) Tom Murphy. “When they go on deployment, they’re not going to be back for a while. The crew needs the ship full-up around and have as many systems on-line as possible.”
“We are in the same ARG (Amphibious Ready Group) so our ships will deploy together and we have the same getting underway goals,” added Arlington PM David Monington. “You fix all the CASREPS and DFSs you can and any other maintenance that has popped that the ship needs done.”
While the processes of managing this CMAV is the same as any other, the biggest difference is the timeline. There is limited time to close as many loops as possible. That adds a little more urgency to the project.
“I approach this CMAV like a mini-CNO avail,” said Monington. “It’s just as important as far as criticality, but your timeline is compressed. It’s hard enough to fix anything in four weeks on this ship. So, a four-week avail to get as much done as you can is a rather short avail.”
Perhaps no one depends on MARMC more than the ship’s leadership. Their priority is to get the ship underway on-time and they work closely with the PM to ensure that happens. Murphy, who has only been PM aboard Kearsarge, says building a strong relationship was important.
“From the start, I just tried to foster a relationship of being open and honest,” he said. “There’s no good news, there’s no bad news, it’s just news. It’s my job to tell them exactly what’s going on as soon as I can and the strategy we’re developing to get it fixed. I think it is something the CO (Commanding Officer) appreciates because his job is to make sure the ship is ready for deployment and in order to do that, he needs to know what’s going on.”
These projects are a total team effort with MARMC Production (Code 900) and Engineering (Code 200) heavily involved in closing CASREPS, DFSs and other jobs aboard the ship alongside the contractors. Also with the two ships sharing the same pier, communication between themselves has become vital.
“We’re on the same pier. You wouldn’t think we have to integrate, but occasionally we do,” said Monington. “When they have fuel load or an ammo load, it affects my work too. It might shut down the pier. It might shut down my access and I can’t bring a crane on and vice versa. It’s two different projects, but we both have to get out at the same time. We have to work together.”
But ultimately, it is up to the maintenance teams – the PMs, Shipbuilding Specialists, Project Support Engineers, Port Engineers and everyone else involved – to coordinate all the moving parts and ensure the CMAV execution is successful. With so much on the line during the final weeks, that requires an extra effort and oftentimes long hours.
“In this industry, if you’re not self-driven then you’re an anchor,” added Monington. “Everyone on the team is driven so nobody’s sitting around waiting to be told to go do anything. Self-driven is the path and vigilance and constant posting and not waiting on the contractor to report a problem, but to anticipate that problem and already have the solution ready.”
“It helps a lot to have a group that is flexible schedule wise,” added Murphy. “You’re going to have things that happen in the afternoon and you have to get it done later in the day. You’re going to have things that happen on Saturday or Sunday. It helps to have a group that is at least willing to work outside the nine to five routine.”
Being responsible for the maintenance of the entire Mid-Atlantic Fleet requires that level of commitment. And as Kearsarge ARG prepares to sail across the Atlantic, the PMs are already looking ahead to availabilities next year when the ships return home.
“It’s a fleeting moment,” said Monington. “The operational tempo on the PMs right now is very high. I’m almost at the end of my planning cycle for my next CNO avail. I have budgets – I’ve got material issues for an availability that won’t materialize for another year. Our work doesn’t end just because the ship is away. It’s a constant cycle of planning.”