Undergoing extended maintenance in the shipyard can be a trying time for any ship and her crew. The long days, paired with dangerous, stressful working conditions can be a challenging combination. Some Sailors may become discouraged during a prolonged shipyard period, but some Sailors stationed on board the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) are taking full advantage of this time by utilizing a program unique to aircraft carriers.
Nimitz, currently in an extended planned incremental maintenance availability (EPIA), is the first afloat command Navy-wide to implement Navy Afloat Maintenance Training Strategy (NAMTS) for Sailors in and out of engineering ratings, earning them critical Naval Enlisted Classifications (NEC) that will allow them to make crucial shipboard repairs that would otherwise need to be contracted out.
“Commander, Naval Regional Maintenance Center and Carrier Team One thought it would be a great program to implement on Nimitz to leverage the carrier engineering maintenance assist team’s training capabilities during EPIA,” said Bill Edwards, the afloat NAMTS coordinator.
Traditionally, Sailors are sent to school for the training, but NAMTS allows Sailors to learn the same curriculum while in the shipyards through computer-based training, videos and hands-on experience.
According to Senior Chief Machinist’s Mate Joshua Jackson, command NAMTS job qualification requirement (JQR) coordinator, usually when a Sailor enters into the NAMTS program, he or she is at a shore command and sent to an Intermediate Maintenance Facility for training. On Nimitz, however, Sailors outside of engineering ratings are allowed to take part in the program, because they are sent to teams that perform shipboard maintenance that will qualify them on NAMTS JQRs, similar to personnel qualification standards.
The Sailors complete on-the-job training and the JQRs, that get signed off by qualified Sailors or Puget Sound Naval Shipyard workers. The Sailor then receives the NEC after passing a pretest, posttest and oral board.
There are currently 57 Sailors enrolled in the NAMTS program, 17 of which have completed their JQRs and two have passed their post-test and are awaiting their oral board.
The NECs that the Sailors will receive are going to allow the ship to make repairs while on deployment that would typically require the ship to pull into port in order to perform. This will have a substantial impact on the ship’s ability to stay mission ready while forward deployed and maintain a more robust maintenance availability.
Sailors currently working on these NECs are broken down into one of five teams: watertight door, pump repair, valve repair, inside machinist and outside electrical.
A huge benefit of NAMTS is keeping Sailors on board while receiving these NECs, because they are contributing to getting the ship ready to get out of the shipyard on time while receiving their training, instead of temporarily sending them off the ship to an advanced technical school where they could be gone for several months at a time.
For instance, Sailors working towards the valve repair NEC perform maintenance on valves from around the ship that need to be repaired. They are able to help make necessary repairs that help advance Nimitz’ maintenance schedule while still earning credit towards an NEC.
“On the valve team, we test the valves, and if they don’t test right we take them apart, clean them up and test them again, making sure they relieve at the right pressure,” said Fireman Austen Miller. “We go to classes to learn about the different types of valves and do a lot of on the job training.”
According to Lt. Cmdr. John Timothy, Nimitz’ training officer, due to the high volume of work while Nimitz is in the yards, Sailors participating in NAMTS as an afloat activity are able to complete their JQRs much faster than someone on shore duty.
Sailors selected for the program are chosen to be on teams and earn NECs that will ultimately benefit their parent departments.
“The pump repair team, for example, is mostly Aviation Boatswain’s Mates who work in fuels,” said Jackson. “Since they are overhauling all of their pumps, we had most of them sign up for that JQR. We are setting them up for success.”
“As a young, junior Sailor, it has assisted me a lot when I am machining,” said Machinery Repairman 3rd Class Cameron Stoneking, a Sailor working through the Inside Machinist JQR. “We have actually been able to go hands on with stuff that I wouldn’t have seen unless I was at school.”
Working on JQRs also benefits Sailors by keeping them mentally engaged and focused throughout the shipyard period. Sailors have realized there are some other professional benefits as well.
“It gives Sailors an opportunity to have a goal to shoot for that is tangible throughout the yard period,” said Timothy. “It’s not a traditional deployment mindset, so a lot of people are looking at what they can achieve, and earning an NEC for any one of these is huge.”
“Being one of the only Sailors to have the NAMTS program completed would help me stand out,” said Stoneking. “It’s definitely helped me go more in depth with my rate, and has even helped me on the advancement exam.”
The NECs they receive credit for also translate into college credits, further benefitting Sailors.
“It’s always good to be qualified wherever we are at, and this is something we can do while in the Navy that will help us to get ahead,” said Miller, a member of the valve repair team. “This is something we will be able to take back to our teams and help everyone out with.”
According to Jackson, The most important piece of NAMTS is its ability to bridge the gap between the lost knowledge caused by switching to computer based training, downsizing and shortening schools because of funding.
“This is going to help the Navy as a whole in the long run,” said Jackson. “We will be able to have our Sailors fix our equipment instead of contracting everything out to other entities.”
According to Timothy, other carriers will eventually follow suit and implement the NAMTS program, and Nimitz will continue the program after the shipyard period.
Nimitz’ NAMTS program supports the Chief of Naval Operation’s Sea Power 21 vision by carrying out the sea warrior concept, ensuring the right Sailors are learning the right skills to help the ship at the right time. The program ensures Nimitz is prepared to deploy with Sailors who are highly skilled, motivated and optimally employed for mission success.
Story and photos by MC3 William Blees