But last week, the young
These sailors normally work on the carrier flight deck. They launch, recover and refuel jet aircraft, and their jobs are considered among the most exciting and dangerous in the world.
Now they're in downtown
Living the adventure.
"No, he never told me about jackhammer work," Shields laughed, recalling the recruiter's pitch. "I never thought I'd be doing this."
It might not be exciting, but Shields is participating in one of the military's most complicated fix-up jobs. The
A 2002 study from the
During its first year at
One team is replacing 1,700 beds, or racks. Another works to refurbish 135 toilets, or heads. The catapults that launch jets from the deck will be rebuilt and straightened with laser-like precision. Refueling the nuclear propulsion plant requires building a complex below the main deck that runs half the length of the ship. The giant shafts will be refurbished to mint condition. Workers will modernize 2,300 compartments and install 130,000 feet of pipe.
Before the ship is returned to the
Budget documents the
Last week, the
The overhaul is roughly 42 percent complete and the shipyard's labor commitment equates to about 5,000 people. They're working alongside 2,500
But it's not all work. On Friday afternoons, the crew jams the athletic field behind
Last week, the
Work in progress
How big is this job? Over the 50-year life of an aircraft carrier, 35 percent of its total maintenance happens during this three and a half years, said
The contract is structured to finish the ship as soon as possible. The
"If I go over," Easterson said, "there's a sharing of that overrun, but at some point, it's all on the shipyard."
With that kind of workload, it is important to hit the ground running. But the Lincoln job faced an obstacle from the get-go -- federal budget uncertainty delayed its arrival at the shipyard by one month, forcing
"We actually worked well with the
He has nothing but praise for the
For example, the crew has committed to standing 200,000 man-hours of fire watches, required whenever welding or burning is going on. A shipyard employee would normally do this, but sailors have been worked into the schedule, standing by with fire extinguishers while work proceeds.
"Frankly, it's not easy to sit there and watch somebody weld for hours, right?" Easterson said. "It's not the most glamorous job."
But it frees up shipyard workers to do other work. That pays dividends, Easterson said, because ripping out the guts of a 25-year-old aircraft carrier is like lifting the hood of an old car. You find a few surprises, and the job gets a little bigger.
Sometimes, the discoveries raise eyebrows.
Chief Petty Officer
"We find some interesting things when we're tearing apart berthing," he said. "When you get down to the sub-base, you'll find things like jewelry. You'll find pictures, you'll find movies, you'll find money."
Parks came late to the team. He's personally found five bucks in change, which he gave up, since he was new.
"Sometimes we'll find things of a personal nature -- let's put it that way," he said. "Not too much, but every once in a while, like a picture that was meant for one person only."
With thousands of sailors working in small groups throughout the ship, the
"One of the dangers here is that if you're broken up into a production management team and you go break decks for eight hours, and that's all you know and all you do, it's pretty narrow," said Capt.
That's one reason the ship stresses group workouts and community projects.
"It gets them out of the ship. They're doing something productive They're working as a team," he said. "It gives people perspective, so when they come back to the job, they're fresh."
Like Shields and his jackhammer duty,
"For me, it wasn't too bad," he said. "Here, every place has a deadline you have to complete. It's a little bit of hard work, but at the end of the day, you gotta do what you gotta do."
"It's definitely different," she said. "But this shows what the
Lessig can be reached by phone at 757-247-7821.
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