NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced people to alter the way they go about completing a task or a mission regardless of how complex it may or may not be. When USS Georgia (SSGN 729) arrived at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay for maintenance, Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY), Nuclear Regional Maintenance Department Kings Bay (NRMD-KB), Trident Refit Facility Kings Bay (TRF-KB) and ship’s force had to take some imaginative leaps to come up with a creative strategy to get the job done.
“Before the pandemic, I would’ve sent a team from NNSY to Kings Bay to take care of the maintenance,” said Nuclear Special Emphasis Group Project Superintendent (Code 361) Joseph Singer. “I couldn’t do it this time, because there were travel restrictions due to COVID-19.”
With an abundance of communication between all entities, what may have been unimaginable weeks ago was successfully done.
“NNSY had a few teams working on USS Alaska (SSBN 732). We pulled them from their current duties and turned them into a combined team,” said Singer. “In addition, a fly away team that was already in Kings Bay joined the cause along with NRMD-KB, TRF-KB, engineers, and ship’s force.”
While it often takes members of a new team time to develop a bond with one another and learn how to best work together, Code 2320 Nuclear Engineering Supervisor Michael Hougard said the entities supporting Georgia quickly rallied around the common goal of successfully completing maintenance on the boat ahead of schedule.
“They all went in there with a first-time quality attitude and that is what they delivered,” said Hougard.
As if the guidance for COVID-19 of wearing facemasks and social distancing wasn’t challenging enough, there was an even bigger obstacle the team had to overcome.
“This was the first time this crew performed this particular maintenance,” said Hougard.
Pipefitters from NNSY’s Shop 56 built a mock up station which was shipped to Kings Bay. They practiced the maintenance first using this valuable training tool, ensuring they knew how to execute the procedure before moving on to Georgia itself.
“People like Zachary Nelson, a seasoned welder, stepped up and passed on his skill and experience to the other team members,” said Singer. “This was the best teamwork I’ve ever seen.”
As with any project, there were people working behind the scenes, ensuring that the main crewmembers had what they needed in order to complete the task.
“TRF-KB provided temporary services and staging areas,” said TRF-KB Production Management Assistant Cmdr. Timothy Pratt. “We also let them use some of our facilities that were larger in order to keep them safe with more room for social distancing.”
Despite the obstacles that occurred along the way, the workforce found a way to overcome them, not keeping them from completing the mission.
“Their can-do attitude went a long way to get the job done in a matter of a couple of days, that could’ve taken them one to two weeks to perform,” said NRMD-KB Director David “Chip” Gaskins.
The way everyone worked as a team and believed in the mission, Singer saw something he knew all along.
“Regardless what the challenges are, whether it’s dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic or making sure we have the right people on the job, everyone involved proved NNSY can move mountains.”