Walking along the crowded passageways of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Sailors hear endless noise coming from every which way.
Occasionally, one can find a sort of dead spot on board where no noise of any contractor or Sailor working can be heard. For a moment, he or she may feel all alone on this mighty war ship. But the moment is sure to pass quickly as the pound of a hammer or the sound of a power tool eventually beats almost too loudly upon their eardrums.
In certain parts of the ship the work being done to restore the mighty Nimitz can sometimes be not only heard, but felt as well. When walking down the passageway near a berthing filled with Sailors diligently grinding the deck, the vibrations can be felt through a Sailor’s boots.
Sailors from divisions and different rates all across the ship are coming together to completely tear down and rebuild berthings, a job that many of these Sailors were not trained to do.
It is normal for Sailors to be sent on temporarily assigned duty to places like the mess decks and to security. Only during a maintenance period like the one the Nimitz is undergoing do Sailors get split up into teams such as Deck and Tile, Paint or Habitability teams.
If the remodeling of the berthings is not finished by the time the ship is scheduled to pull of the yards, the ship’s yard period will have to be extended. The hab team is working as quickly and efficiently as possible to ensure they keep the ship on schedule to the best of their ability.
“Here the work is a little different,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Matthew Kelly, the hab team leading petty officer. “There is a timeline and we have a schedule. It’s a little bit more demanding and there is a little more sense of responsibility.”
The Sailors of the hab team are not just working to improve the ship. They are building the skills to work efficiently in a new environment with unfamiliar people, improving the ‘shipmate’ portion of Nimitz’ motto ‘Ship. Shipmate. Self.’
“It builds respect between the Sailors,” said Kelly. “It’s a learning process.”
In between the echoing sounds of metal meeting metal as Sailors pound at what is left of the racks Sailors once occupied, laughs can be heard coming from the members of the hab crew.
Sailors who have worked together for no more than the last three months have become more than shipmates; they have become friends. It is clear to see by anyone who spends anytime near them.
“I love these guys,” said Ship’s Servicemen Seaman Deandrea Ross. “When I first got here I was by myself for a while. I didn’t really give anyone a chance to get to know me until I came here.”
Ross says that the friends he has made make all the tedious work he does more than worth it.
He is not only building strong relationships with his peers, he is also doing so with his leaders.
“This is really teaching me about team work and leadership,” said Ross. “We have our third and second classes working side by side with us instead of just supervising us.”
Ross said that his upper chain of command is also great. They look out for their Sailors, are very understanding of everyone’s needs and push for them to get qualifications. They are not only concerned with how their sailors are working on the ship, but also their self-improvement.
Earning qualifications can become difficult during the time it takes for a Sailor to adjust to a new department and chain of command.
“I came here and found lots of people with warfare pins, and even some that were different than mine,” said Ross. “That really helps to be surrounded by people and get those connections throughout the ship; it’s good for learning and getting qualifications.”
It is hard to tell if the hab team is more beneficial to the ship or its crew. After all, the ship itself is really just a giant piece of metal tied to the pier. It’s the Sailors onboard who bring life to the ship and make it one of the nation’s most valuable defense assets. This maintenance period is giving the ship some much need upkeep and its Sailors the chance to face some challenges and grow as shipmates and Sailors.
“It’s hard to work with new people and a new chain of command, but that’s life,” said Ross. “It throws you curveballs and you just have to deal with it. You adjust and you change, and eventually you become better because of it.”
Story and photos by MC3 Holly Herline
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