NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- As the morning sun rose Oct. 30, some Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) were already hard at work. Beads of sweat rolled down their faces before the rest of the crew began their day. Deck department was ready to show what they had.
Those Sailors from deck rallied together to begin an evolution they hadn't encountered since entering the refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH). On Oct. 30 they began the two-week evolution to remove the ship's anchors and anchor chains.
"We're removing the anchors and the anchor chains from the George Washington to essentially get the anchor and chain off for sandblasting," said Chief Boatswain's Mate Edmundo Brantes, the safety observer for the evolution. "During RCOH they're going to look for any type of deterioration or weakness within the anchor chain. After that they'll get it primed, probably powder coat and paint it, and get it all back on the ship."
For some Sailors, it was an entirely new experience as they had never had the hands-on experience that this type of work offered since the ship entered the yards.
"It's really hard because we're not underway," said Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class James Branda, a deck rigger for the evolution. "We don't have the opportunity for as many hands on things being in the yards. All the training we do right now is comprised of sitting down, listening, and going over a lot of diagrams. Being able to actually get your hands on the chain and seeing the chain move is the best kind of training you can get. It's been really good for deck for the past two weeks to be able to have that."
Brantes said that the leadership pulled Sailors aside who previously had experience in being a part of a large evolution, and spoke with them one on one, asking what the procedures were as they remembered. He said he was surprised how much they retained, and they moved on to train the entire department as best they could to prepare for the work ahead of them. Despite a few setbacks, Brantes said the next day they were running like a "well-oiled machine".
"The first morning, even though we did refreshers for two weeks straight, we had hiccups on a couple things because of the reality is that some Sailors haven't done this in a while and some others haven't done it at all, but by the next day we ran like the cohesive unit that we are as a team," said Brantes. "Everyone is listening and doing what they're told and working wonderfully together."
Branda said that although some days can be tough, he's proud to be in his department.
"It has its days, especially as a third class [petty officer]," said Branda. "It has a unique roll where you go from being this seaman straight to a supervisor which you don't get to see in some other rates. It's a lot of pressure and responsibility on new third classes but it gets your feet wet right off the bat. One of my favorite things about deck department is that you aren't ever treated like a baby at all, they put you to some hard work right away."
To continue that hard work, Brantes said he hopes Sailors can stay motivated to set the groundwork during RCOH even though most Sailors currently on the ship won't see the ship out of the yards period.
"I wish that everybody would be inspired to come in here and work in a sense that they own the ship today, but know they aren't going to be able to reap the benefits of all that work," said Brantes. "But those Sailors who are going to come in after us are other great Americans stepping up to bat. I want to be able to look at my daughter and future grandkids 25 years from now and tell them, hey, this is what your grandfather was a part of. We are making this ship ready for action again. Deck department is a family and will always be a family."
Branda shared the same sentiment.
"There's this sense of pride in setting the groundwork for everything during RCOH even though a lot of us aren't going to be here to see it to the end," said Branda. "We stay and do what's asked of us from the chain of command. There's a certain image that comes with that and being a boatswain's mate and I take pride in the Sailors I work with here."
Both Brantes and Branda said that after the anchor chain is completely removed, Sailors from deck department will eventually split into teams, working on maintenance, painting, distributing tools and overall preservation of the ship as they move into different job requests throughout RCOH.
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