NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- Sailors attached to a Precommissioning Unit (PCU) live between the shore and the sea. They are not considered a shore command nor are they a part of a sea-going command - yet.
Being part of a PCU means having a key role in establishing the foundation of one of the Navy's newest warships. "Here more than ever, everyone's job is important, whether it's attending meetings, retrieving supplies, or standing a watch, " said Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Hagen, Deck Department.
To someone on the outside looking in, that might not mean a lot. To Sailors on board PCU Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), it means they have input on how the ship will be built and how day-to-day business will be conducted during peacetime deployments or combat operations.
Ronald Reagan Sailors take to heart their namesake's 1987 statement, "It is our earnest prayer to serve America in peace. It is our solemn commitment to defend her in time of war."
Part of this commitment is ensuring that every aspect of the ship, both large and small, contribute to the Navy's wartime mission, and the commitment to improve the Sailor's quality of service. Examples include technological advances in design and combat systems.
Many of these advances were made to support air operations - flight deck configuration, primary flight control, aircraft arresting gear, jet blast deflectors, aircraft fueling, and integrated communications and advanced network systems. One of the most-visible changes to CVN 76 is the island house, modified to maximize interior space and 20 feet longer than other island houses.
"A good example of input that leads to innovations within Deck Department is the current stern dock configuration," said Hagen. "On ships past, experience has proven that a safer, more efficient way of handling lines was needed while trying to get the crew on and off the ship. Deck has researched the issue and proposed solutions to correct this problem."
Another "deck plate" innovation is a new type of life raft. The carrier will be one of the first ships to carry life rafts with a 50-person capacity. This is double the capacity of life rafts ships currently have in service.
While the ship is under construction, Deck Department, along with every other department, is busy authoring training plans, overseeing the installation of equipment, and tailoring various instructions to govern the smooth operation of daily evolutions aboard this future warship.
Even crew location is different for a PCU. Until the ship is ready for the crew to move aboard, most of the ship's offices are temporarily located in several buildings in downtown Newport News, Va., which is the home of one of the largest industrial shipbuilding areas in the country.
The physical location of the PCU has created it's own challenges. There is no military dining facility or naval base environment. There is just a "box" or uniform block, a zone the Sailors work in that encompasses more than 25 city blocks. Even here the unit's Sailors have designed some innovative programs to help with the care and feeding of approximately 1,200 Sailors. This includes a Welcome Center to ensure newly reporting personnel are cared for in this non-military environment. The unit has created its own bus route to ensure Sailors have access to local bases, hospitals, and recreational facilities.
Even though PCU Ronald Reagan Sailors are housed in shore buildings, the crew constantly travels to the ship to monitor the construction progress in their spaces. Any equipment installation is noted, like when the ship's two 30-ton Navy standard stockless anchors and their 1,080 feet of chain arrived.
The anchors have historical value. They were the anchors on USS Ranger (CV 61), which was decommissioned in 1993.
"Being part of a PCU gives us great pride in ownership," said Hagen. "We are plankowners. We have the privilege of bringing a ship of this caliber to life. It is an awesome responsibility, but we will leave a great legacy in the process."
That legacy honors the ship's namesake, President Ronald Reagan, who often said, "There is no limit to what you can do or where you can go, if you don't mind who gets the credit"