Wednesday, May 12, 2010

GW Starts Sea Trials, Completes SRA

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) John J. Mike, USS George Washington Public Affairs

USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) -- USS George Washington (CVN 73) departed Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, May 11 to conduct sea trials in preparation for the ship's upcoming summer deployment.

GW steamed from its Truman Bay pier into open waters to begin a certification process that will ensure the ship, its equipment and crew are ready for extended periods at sea.

As the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, GW gets roughly half the time of other ships to test its integrity, radars, communications, and engines.

"Typically, aircraft carriers conduct work-ups for 6 months to complete extensive operational tests prior to deployment, but since we are a part of the permanently Forward-Deployed Naval Forces, we have to be ready in a shorter period of time because we are the first carrier to respond to a crisis in 7th Fleet," said Cmdr. Pete Mantz, GW navigator.

"We have a very hectic and aggressive schedule in front of us," added Mantz, who said sea trials started as soon as the ship pulled in all lines.

"One of the basic things we must accomplish is getting away from the pier and navigating through the channel," he said. "After that, we can get to sea and focus on testing other areas."

Getting GW ready for its short shakedown cruise was the culmination of a four-month Selective Restricted Availability (SRA) performed by the ship's 3,000 Sailors, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard workers, and Japanese shipyard workers from Sumitomo Heavy Industries and the Ship's Repair Facility at Fleet Activities Yokosuka.

During this time, multiple repairs and upgrades were made to operational systems and GW's 3,360 spaces. Specific repairs included upgrades, corrective and preventative maintenance to air-conditioning units, fire fighting systems, aircraft elevators, navigation systems, and crew habitability spaces.

The renovations improved the crew's quality of life through the complete overhaul of six living quarters, called berthings.

"We take habitability issues seriously because having a better place to live boosts crew morale for obvious reasons," said Master Chief Damage Controlman (SW/AW) Daniel Buschemi, who oversaw the revamping of berthings that still had the Nimitz-class carriers' original 1960s design.

"I served on USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the '80s and walking into some of our berthings was like going back in time," said the 30-year Sailor Buschemi. "It was nice to give our people redesigned berthings with new bunks, lockers and decks."

GW's 1,092-foot flight deck also received a makeover during the SRA. The abrasive non-skid coating found on the entire surface of the flight deck and hangar bay saw extensive repair as large areas were completely chipped off and replaced to provide a functional area to launch and recover aircraft.

"We have anywhere between 7,000 to 8,000 [aircraft launch and recoveries] a year. The wear-and-tear of this requires us to redo the flight deck in port for safety reasons," said Cmdr. Stephen Blasch, GW's assistant air officer.

Blasch added two of the ship's aircraft catapults received complete overhauls, which also required removing them from the deck to clean their troughs.

"I'm extremely proud of our Sailors," said Blasch about the work done during the SRA. "They juggled a lot of balls between running drills and maintenance, but they came through and got us ready to head to sea."

Commanded by Capt. David A. Lausman, GW is the flagship of the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, which is commanded by Rear Adm. Kevin M. Donegan.

The strike group is also comprised of Destroyer Squadron 15, the guided-missile cruisers USS Shiloh (CG 67) and USS Cowpens (CG 63) and Carrier Air Wing 5.