ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The crew of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) officially opened a newly renovated mess deck Jan. 15 during a ribbon cutting ceremony aboard the ship.
The crew, partnered with contract personnel, completed the renovation in six weeks, improving quality of life and saving the Navy thousands of dollars in the process.
"This would've been an $800,000 project, but with the help of ship's force, we saved $600,000, making the total expense around $200,000," said Chief Warrant Officer Michael Garza, Bataan's repair officer.
Bataan's crew stands at about 1,100, but can swell to more than 3,000 with embarked Marines. Garza said one of the main goals of the project was to improve the flow of traffic and the overall efficiency of feeding such a large crew.
The work included a complete rehabilitation on the decks, replacement of tables and the relocation of serving lines and salad bars to the perimeter.
"We renovated the mess decks to make it more user friendly," said Garza. "We doubled the capacity from 190 seats to 450 seats. We took out all the drink, ice cream, coffee and microwave machines and set them up on the outer perimeter, which allows an improved flow of traffic making it easier and quicker to get through line and find a place to eat."
The improved functionality in the space will provide the crew with a new and improved area to gather for inspections, instructions and special events.
"The renovations diversify the mess decks," said Chief Warrant Officer Lester Griffith, Bataan's food service officer. "It now can have multiple functions because the tables are not welded to the floor but are mobile. The mess decks could more easily hold ship events like captain's call and 'Saturday Night Alive.'"
"Saturday Night Alive" is a weekly talent showcase put on by the crew for the crew.
"The mess decks are awesome," said Zach Thornton, a food service assistant. "It's cleaner and the tables are easier to pick up and move so we can clean underneath them."
The renovation was a team effort and involved divisions throughout the ship.
"The mindset of the crew was willing," said Garza. "The hull maintenance technicians, ship's electricians, A-division and contractors worked hand in hand. I am impressed with the workmanship. In my 28 years in the Navy, I have never seen a repair of this magnitude. I can say that I am really proud to see the crew accomplish something as big as this; people won't even recognize the mess decks now that the renovations are done."
"While renovating, the Sailors attitudes were great," said Griffith. "It was a project that had time restraints, but they pulled together like rock stars and took the task at hand and made it happen."
The crew knows the time and effort they invested throughout the project was an investment in themselves.
"It feels good to know that we have improved the quality of life on Bataan," said Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Joe Soles.
"The mess decks look a lot better in design," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate Airman Justin Harper, a native of Kansas City, Mo. "The set up works out better to travel through them."
The space is expected to see increased use because of increased comfort.
Garza said Bataan will continue to simultaneously focus on mission success and improved quality of life.
For more news from USS Bataan (LHD 5), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd5/.