PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- Five USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Sailors recently took on an improbable task and made it a reality. They reworked, sanded and repainted the ships's A/S32-35 aircraft salvage crane -- affectionately known as "Tilly" -- from the tip of the boom to the stern of the chassis in record time.
It usually takes six to eight Sailors anywhere from four to five months just to spot-sand the carrier's aircraft salvage crane -- not including the time it takes to repaint the crane or rework its components. The five HST crew members completed the task in less than three months.
"We cannot fly without Tilly," said Senior Chief Aviation Support Equipment Technician (AW) Joann Brooks, IM4 division's leading chief petty officer, referring to the fact that air operations can come to a grinding halt if an aircraft crashes on the flight deck. Tilly is the only way to remove that aircraft from the flight deck so that air operations can safely resume.
When "HST" pulled into the Norfolk Naval Shipyards in September 2001, Tilly was taken to the Aviation Command Naval Airforce Atlantic Fleet (NATEC) facility to begin the reworking process.
The team was given the first Naval Air Technical Data and Engineering Services Command (NATAC) certificate of excellence. The award recognizes the successful efforts of the Truman team going above and beyond what anyone thought could be accomplished.
"It was a pleasure working with the professionals on board Truman so we took it upon ourselves to reward them as they were the best we've ever seen," said Ralph Holland, supervising engineering technician, NATEC detachment representative for HST. "It's the first time we've ever done anything like this that I've seen during my 23 years as a technical representative."
According to Aviation Support Equipment Technician 1st Class (AW/SW) John Riter, the leading petty officer of the five-man crew, their biggest challenge was the working environment they had to endure.
"The compound where we were working was out in the middle of a helicopter tarmac," Riter said. "We had no power or air to run our pneumatic tools. Not even running water."
Even with these obstacles, the five-man team got the job done right and ahead of schedule.
Riter said they sanded and painted Tilly by hand, using only sandpaper, paintbrushes, rollers and elbow grease. According to Riter the Tilly crew was made up of a group of highly motivated Sailors. "A flight deck trouble shooter is a different breed of Sailor," said Riter.
According to Riter, his team of troubleshooters are more then just co-workers. "We work so close together, we not only have a good working relationship, we are like a family," he said.
According to Riter, the effects their work has been and will be felt in the rest of the fleet for many years to come. "We have now set the standards, and carriers will not be able to say we cannot get the job done," he said. "Truman once again has set a milestone, and now the rest have to play catch-up."
For more news about USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), go to the HST NewsStand page at http://www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.