Since the Civil War, when the first metal ships appeared on the seas, Sailors have had to deal with corrosion due to time and exposure to the high salinity of the oceans. The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) has been able to spend the past 40 years afloat serving as a powerful symbol of naval military might for the United States because our ability to fight the effects of the very oceans she patrols.
The responsibility of repairing and replacing any damaged material aboard the ship falls heavily on the 54 men and women of Engineering Department’s Repair division.
Mission readiness is an important part of the Navy, and it’s crucial that adequate and timely maintenance is able to be performed at a moment’s notice. For Nimitz, currently in an overhaul period, this means making all necessary repairs to get out of the shipyard and back out to sea to once again be an asset to the nation.
All welding and machine-fabrication services, plumbing, engraving services, lock-smith servicing and carpentry services that are handled by ship’s force come to repair division, said Chief Machinery Repairman Matthew Keller.
“We own a large part of the repair market on the ship,” said Keller. “On top of that we still do our normal function, which is providing services to the ship. Consider us an assist work center to everybody on the ship.”
With Nimitz currently undergoing renovations, Repair division has been kept busy with maintenance projects trying to get the ship back out to sea as quickly as possible.
Repair division has been busy replacing rusted metal as well as replacing and fabricating new hand cranks for the ship, said Hull Maintenance Technician Fireman Nathan Michael Smiddy.
“It’s difficult because it’s a lot of problem solving, but it’s a challenge, and I like it,” said Smiddy.
Shortly after pulling into the shipyard in January 2015, Nimitz began a restoration process on its onboard sewage system, leaving it mostly unusable. Repair division has been working hard, doing what’s needed to bring the sewage and potable water systems back online, replacing valves on the collection holding transfer system as fast as possible.
“The faster we get our work done, the faster the contractors get their work done, enabling us to open more heads throughout the ship for people to use,” said Keller.
By July it is expected that the aft sewage system will be opened up, returning water services to Nimitz aft of frame 180, said Keller.
Massive ship wide projects like this are crucial to the Nimitz getting out of the shipyard on time, and the responsibility of this rests on the shoulders of junior Sailors.
With many qualified Repair division Sailors either changing commands or ending their enlistments during the 16 month yard period, it’s crucial that the Sailors who will replace them will be qualified for the jobs required. The Nimitz is scheduled to deploy in 2017 and we’re trying to get our Sailors qualified whenever possible to be ready for sea, said Keller.
Although there is a lot work to be done, the Repair division Sailors aboard Nimitz are doing to do what needs to be done to get the ship prepared to get out of the shipyard and underway.
“With a year and a half in repair division, I wouldn’t want to do anything else,” said Smiddy. “Before joining the Navy I was a welder and basically completed the same job, just not on a ship.”
With a strong chain of command and Repair division Sailors ready to learn, Nimitz’ Repair division has the ingredients to form a powerful and effective team. Joined together, Repair division is focused on improving the lives of their shipmates and helping get Nimitz out of the shipyards and underway to do what aircraft carriers were built to do.