NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- U.S. Atlantic Fleet's top enlisted Sailor, Atlantic Fleet Master Chief (AW/SW) Buck Heffernan, made a visit to USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Jan. 8 to see for himself the work taking place on board.
Ike was Heffernan's second duty station as Command Master Chief, so visiting Ike was a bit of a homecoming for him.
Heffernan came aboard for a tour of the ship's spaces, following a meeting with Ike's commanding officer, Capt. Charles Smith. According to Heffernan, who is currently the Navy's "Old Tar" (the active-duty Sailor with the earliest surface warfare qualification date - May, 1979), he was quite impressed with the progress being made aboard the Nimitz-class carrier.
"It's always good to see this crew," said Heffernan. "Ike is one of those ships where you don't see everyone walking around with a frown. The Sailors here have their noses to the grindstone. I'm extremely proud of their work and their work ethic."
After touring the ship, including some of its propulsion plant spaces, Heffernan made his way to the mess decks and took a few moments to comment on what he had seen. After an absence of more than three years, he was greatly pleased to see what had happened aboard.
"This is an exciting thing to see. Almost 100 percent of the crew has changed over since I departed - that's a lot of corporate knowledge that's changed since my time," explained Heffernan. "But things are getting done better than I could have hoped for."
Speaking from a fleet perspective, Heffernan commented on just how important Ike is to the Navy's plans for the future. The ship will play a pivotal role in the years ahead, as the Navy organizes and fine-tunes the new Fleet Response Plan. With the new deployment plan calling for the ready availability of seven to eight aircraft carriers at any given time, the status of each of the 97,000-ton warships is of great national concern.
"The Navy wants Ike out of the yards right now," said Heffernan. "We need everyone to be focused on getting the work done here so we can come back out of here ready to go. The Sailors on board need to leave the funding concerns to the top-level people and just do the most they can every day to make sure Ike comes out on time.
"We need as many platforms as we can get. Nothing is more important to the Navy than the floating airfields that can do the president's bidding from anywhere in the world."
Heffernan continued by saying that he's been pleased with the work being done by the shipyard.
"At the deckplate level, they [the shipyard workers] have pride in what they are doing for the nation. It's quality work, and they're doing the best they can,"
Heffernan added that the Navy is doing everything it can to impress upon the shipyard Ike's importance, predicting that the carrier would play an important role in the nation's current security concerns.
"When (Ike) leaves the shipyard, there's going to be plenty of work for (the ship). Ike's crew will have to train more, work more and do everything they can to be a full-up round," said Heffernan.
At the end of his visit, Heffernan again expressed his pride in the achievements of Ike's crew and echoed his feelings on what lies in store for the ship's crew in the future.
"Ike is being cast in a good light right now, and we can't wait for her to get out of the yards," Heffernan concluded.
Ike is scheduled to depart the shipyard in later this year.
For related news, visit the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn69.