PORT HUENEME, Calif. –
Reservists with the U.S. Navy’s Surge Maintenance (SurgeMain) program are providing time, effort and additional skills to Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division’s (NSWC PHD) Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS) to help her crew prepare for an upcoming in-service inspection (INSURV) later this year.
The SurgeMain program has supported the Navy’s four shipyards during peak workload periods since 2005, according to Cmdr. Richard Scitzs, regional executive officer for Surge Maintenance Region Pacific and unit commanding officer for Navy Reserve Surge Maintenance Los Angeles.
“In the past before SurgeMain, shipyards had to either pay someone overtime, borrow or loan personnel from a shipyard or contract out,” Scitzs said. “SurgeMain provides a gap measure which has been a very significant cost saving to the fleet.”
But when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the country, SurgeMain leaders at a national level started seeking additional sites to send their sailors for training. The team then discovered NSWC PHD’s SDTS and saw it as an opportunity to provide its sailors hands-on training while also assisting the ship’s project team with accomplishing tasks needed for its INSURV, Scitzs explained.
SurgeMain is able to expand its support across the entire Navy for ship maintenance thanks to the new Chief of Naval Reserves Warfighting Instructions in support of Battle Damage Assessment and Repair (BDAR) capabilities, he said.
“We saw the need to support NSWC PHD when we had discussions with the SDTS project team,” Scitzs said. “We saw that we could provide maintenance support, and it would also free up the test ship staff to focus on other critical items that may impact INSURV or operational requirements.”
Since SurgeMain reservists first began providing INSURV support aboard the SDTS in July 2021, rotating teams of typically five to nine sailors have corrected discrepancies and provided other assistance, working between 12 to 29 days depending on available funding and annual training requirements for the reservists.
According to Lt. Junior Grade Eduardo Quintero Vera, SDTS’s SurgeMain liaison officer, team members provided nearly 3,700 hours of ship maintenance aboard the SDTS during fiscal 2021. So far in fiscal 2022, starting in the second quarter, team members have worked nearly 2,200 hours with the test ship crew and are predicted to exceed 1,000 days or 9,000 hours.
“What is great about the SurgeMain program is we have a great pool of both enlisted and officers who have a wide variety of skillsets," said Quintero, who goes by Quintero rather than Vera. “We have sailors who are zone managers, combat systems project engineers, project managers, business owners and students—anything that has to do with a civilian skill trade. So it’s a combination of both military and civilian skillsets that we are trying to bring to the Self Defense Test Ship.”
Quintero also highlighted the hands-on opportunity for the reservists to work alongside active duty and civilian employees. Transferring knowledge regarding mission readiness and preparing for future conflicts that may arise between the two groups benefits everyone, he said.
“Since NSWC PHD is known across the enterprise as the in-service engineering agents and testbed for new advanced weapons systems, the SDTS support provides the SurgeMain sailors a different perspective on multifunction training,” Quintero said. “It provides our enlisted sailors the opportunity to see the bigger picture of what the Navy is, what we are working on, and (the ability to) understand the overall mission we provide to the Navy.”
The SurgeMain reservists working at NSWC PHD have made a positive impact on the command, according to Scitzs.
“While on-site back in September, one of (NSWC PHD’s) senior leaders said SurgeMain reserve sailors are a game changer in how reservists are perceived, after they saw us hit the deck plates to take care of the SDTS, which is a critical asset to NSWC PHD and the fleet,” Scitzs said. “SurgeMain and NSWC PHD are a winning team working toward a common goal of keeping the fleet fit to fight.”
With SurgeMain sailors working across the country at other warfare centers and other Navy organizations, Quintero is hopeful the reservists can continue working with NSWC PHD and build on their partnership.
“Currently, our main focus is to have our SurgeMain sailors at a steady battle rhythm to come in until the end of the INSURV inspection that will happen at the end of the fiscal year,” Quintero said. “After INSURV, we would like to see the SurgeMain program supporting NSWC PHD and the SDTS team as needed on maintenance requirements they may have.”