The ability to adapt and overcome is one of the many qualities that separates U.S. Navy Sailors from the world at large. With COVID-19 still sweeping the globe, it’s taken a lot of innovation among the crew of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) to keep Sailors safe as they continue their mission of completing refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) and delivering the ship back to the fleet as the Navy’s most capable capital warship.
To balance the health and safety of the crew with the ship’s critical mission in support of national defense, the command has enacted a variety of actions from shifting production teams’ objectives to focusing on thorough cleaning procedures throughout the day and across all spaces and work centers.
With the Department of Defense (DOD) announcing in a memorandum from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on April 5 that DOD personnel wear face coverings when they are unable to maintain a six-foot distance from one another, Preventative Maintenance Team 25 (PM-25) had to do some adapting of their own, changing gears to a new task: making masks for fellow Sailors.
Following the DOD lead, the Department of the Navy issued naval administrative message (NAVADMIN) 100/20 on the same day, outlining specific requirements for the wear of face masks by Navy personnel. Masks are in production aboard aircraft carriers and squadrons as an initial protective measure until other face masks are made available.
“The Department of the Navy decided to take on the responsibility of creating masks for essential personnel,” said Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class Lawrence Williams, leading petty officer of PM-25. “From there, we took two blueprints and had to decide which one would be easier to make. Ultimately, I settled on the design that made for faster production.”
Accustomed to a variety of other production responsibilities, PM-25 has had to make a quick shift to this new task.
“Adaptability is so important in the Navy,” said Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 3rd Class Asher Weinbaum, a Sailor assigned to PM-25. “Here at the [Light Industrial Facility], we are adapting by turning one job into another.”
With a design ready to work from, the entire PM-25 team has been hard at work putting masks together.
“Currently, we have aircrew survival equipmentmen working around the clock, ensuring that George Washington’s health and safety needs are met against COVID-19,” said Williams. “We’re working as much as we can because issuing these masks to George Washington’s Sailors who need them is a top priority.”
Despite their small numbers, PM-25’s ability to provide these masks has a markedly high impact on mission readiness across the ship.
“Without masks, we cannot be on the job, or even around each other,” Williams said. “By creating these masks, we combat the virus. We keep our Sailors ready…during this health crisis.”
Faced with such a monumental task, it was necessary to bring in help where it could be found.
“When we took on this project, we knew that it was going to be a hard and stressful process and that finding the materials would be even harder,” Williams said. “Due to the outbreak, it’s been tiresome finding and acquiring them.
"With help from the medical department, dental department, and various other departments behind the scenes, we were able to obtain everything necessary to make these masks.”
Though the final production of these masks falls on PM-25, they are motivated and ready to accomplish the task.
“Safety is paramount during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Weinbaum said. “It’s an honor to protect the safety of George Washington’s crew.”
With COVID-19 approaching its peak around the country, it may be difficult to see an end to the pandemic. However, through teamwork, dedication, and a commitment to following each protocol as it comes, the Spirit of Freedom will continue to move forward in RCOH on its eventual mission to return to the fleet as a strategic national asset.
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