In the face of debilitating obstacles and hurdles, Sailors on board the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) devised a creative solution to restore the ship’s engineering plant to bring Lassen back into the fight.
“From the research, to the planning, to the execution, this fix is the epitome of self-sufficiency and speaks volume about the sailors we have onboard this ship. It’s truly the Sea Devil spirit,” said Cmdr. Christopher Turmel, commanding officer of Lassen. The Sea Devil is Lassen’s mascot, adopted from Medal of Honor awardee Clyde Lassen’s helicopter squadron.
The issue was first discovered when Sailors responded to an unusual noise coming from a lube oil pump attached to one of the ship’s main reduction gears. Further investigation revealed that a coupling gear was no longer engaging. This casualty forced the engineers to lock one of two shafts, significantly reducing Lassen’s available speed and restricting her maneuverability.
At first, the repair part required seemed months away. However, these Sailors found a suitable replacement onboard. The path to that replacement was not going to be easy. The team pored over drawings and schematics, and consulted with technical advisors at Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC). The team determined they would have to perform a delicate precision cutting of the damaged coupling gear without damaging the internal shaft.
Master Chief Machinery Repairman Matthew Keller, Lassen’s maintenance and material management (3M) chief, joined the team of engineers to execute two precision cuts to remove the coupling, a task not easily accomplished with the pitch and roll of a ship that is underway. Sailors, including Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) 2nd Class Jacob Johns, Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Fireman Tanner Furbee, and Fireman Alejandro Carrillo-Rodriguez, spent more than 12 hours assisting in the coupling removal.
Next, they had to install the new coupling, yet another step only complicated by the ship’s underway status. Because of the size differential, Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Andrew Kingsbury had to get creative, utilizing the ship’s galley ovens to heat the coupling thus expanding the metal so that it could slide into place.
In all, the ship was able to install and test the spare equipment, and return the ship’s plant to full operation in less than two days. Benjamin Miner, a visiting port engineer from Norfolk, noted that the same procedure in port would have taken a team of experts several days, and that Lassen’s efforts were “really exceptional.”
“Our Sailors’ diligence and commitment to teamwork and a culture of self-sufficiency saved the Navy an estimated $200,000 in repair costs and, potentially, months of missed operational opportunities,” said Lt. Eric Skogerboe, Lassen’s chief engineer. “This was a team effort and shows that ships can be self-sufficient at sea even on the most challenging issues.”
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