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NEWS | Nov. 23, 2022

Building a team to fight and win: A shop to ship collaboration

By Ben Hutto, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs

Twenty six valves came into Shop 31, Machinists, Electroplaters & Toolmakers in late April from USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). After a six-month deployment operating in diverse environments—from the heat and humidity of the Indo- Pacific and South China seas to the cold of the Gulf of Alaska—the effects of brine were evident. Most of the valves were covered with a layer of rust that had built up during the long days at sea. The valves are designed to interact with fuel, not sea water. If they were going to be repaired on time, it was going to take an unprecedented team effort to do it.

During the Docking Planned Incremental Availability on Theodore Roosevelt, the project team had a major challenge finding a repair activity that could handle the repair of multiple fuel valves. As the availability progressed, there was the potential that the ship would go to sea without a major capability if the repairs weren't made.

The shipyard machine shop was heavily loaded and, as this is considered “topside” aircraft carrier work that is outside the propulsion plant, it would not normally be repaired by the shipyard. Britton Cox, an Inside Machine Shop engineer in Code 260M, Inside Machine Shop Engineering & Planning, recognized this was going to require a new approach if the team was going to get this work done to support deployment.

While the work ultimately fell on Shop 31, Cox thought there might be a way to share the workload.

“I was aware that the shop supervisor was short on help,” he said. “There were many jobs that were sitting at much higher priorities and they needed all the help and attention on those jobs… so I went out on a limb and asked if I could have six members [of Ship's Force] come to the shop to assist with the work.”

Meetings between shop heads, Ship's Force and contractors ensued and led to collaborations between 260M, Shop 31, Ship's Force, a contracted vendor and Cox. When work started in September, seven separate manifolds that included 26 of these valves, each with their own challenges, began the process of being repaired. Each part took an average of 1.5 weeks to finish, plus an additional week in the paint shop, to finally be ready to return to the Theodore Roosevelt for reinstallation. The Sailors learned quickly and became major contributors to getting this work done.

The work was in-depth and detailed, but the team was able to streamline the process and turn parts around quickly. By sharing the load, all of the valves were eventually disassembled, scrubbed free of corrosion, had parts replaced, were reassembled and then pressure tested. It’s a job that Cox explained would have taken more time than was available if it were being worked on by a single individual.

Contracted technicians were able to work with individual Sailors and shop workers to explain valve operation and the overhaul process and to demonstrate proper techniques for repair. This soon led to Sailors leading repair work on valves with technical and production assistance. As more Sailors from the Theodore Roosevelt arrived in the shop, they were taught by their teammates from what they had previously learned from their civilian counterparts—and were soon at work on their own valves. It’s a collaboration that Cmdr. Wayne Oxendine, chief engineer, USS Theodore Roosevelt, hopes will pay off out at sea when those Sailors are called on to repair valves.

“This was a great team effort between the shipyard and our Sailors. We would not have had full capability for transferring fuel without these repairs getting done. This also gave our Sailors skills they didn’t have, and the capability to keep us operating while at sea”

Cox said he is very proud of the role he and his coworkers had in helping their war-fighting partners.

“These Sailors are the tip of the spear,” he explained. “However, the tip of the spear is useless without a staff to sit upon. I'm here to ensure the staff can withstand the fight, or be replaced when it is worn out.”

With the success of this collaboration, Chuck Jones, maintenance program manager, USS Theodore Roosevelt Project, hopes joint work efforts between shops and ships will become more common. Jones believes it would have long-term benefits for the fleet.

“Over the past few years, maintenance training for our Sailors has been slowly reduced,” he said. “Being able to have the skilled machinists and mechanics from PSNS & IMF and our contracting partners teach Sailors these valuable skills fills this void. Teaching Sailors the proper way to conduct ship-level maintenance ... increasing Sailors' ship-level maintenance proficiency, will allow the shipyard and our contracting partners to perform the more complex maintenance tasks, ensuring our CVNs will last more than 50 years.”