Last week, the Navy announced it was mobilizing 1,629 reservists to support maintenance of aircraft carriers and submarines at its four public shipyards from July. This mobilization will help reduce the maintenance backlog that has developed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In March, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) authorized weather and safety holidays for shipyard personnel who fell under the “high risk” category of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for extreme complications from the coronavirus. With up to 25% of the production workforce unable to make it to their place of work, the shipyards were unable to complete all of their jobs and built up a backlog of work which, if left unchecked, would cause delays in returning ships to the fleet.
Reservists are all part of the Navy’s Surge Maintenance, or SurgeMain, program. Established in 2005, SurgeMain has 2,200 enlisted reserve sailors and 240 reserve officers in 75 units and was established to augment the organic civilian workforce of Navy shipyards when needed.
SurgeMain sailors have technical and commercial knowledge that allows them to have an immediate impact on shipyards.
“Our sailors are electricians, pipe fitters, sheet metal workers, plumbers, hydraulic technicians, mechanics, machinists, carpenters, welders and more,” said Captain Michael P. MacLellan, National Director of SurgeMain. “Many of our employees have previous experience in the shipyard they are sent to, right down to the specific workshop where they will work alongside the organic civilian workforce of the shipyard.”
This is the first time that SurgeMain has activated so many reservists at the same time.
“We’re excited to step up and execute the mission we trained for,” said MacLellan. “This deployment presents a valuable opportunity for our sailors to hone their skills, contribute to our national defense and allow us to learn valuable lessons that you can only learn in a mass mobilization.”
SurgeMain reservists will begin arriving at their respective shipyards in phases from early July, with 1,629 sailors on site by September 2020. They will be under a one-year mobilization mandate which may be extended or reduced if circumstances change. Portsmouth Shipyard in Kittery, Maine will accommodate 267 reservists; The Norfolk Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va., Will receive 486; Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., Will receive 676; and Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, will receive 200.
“We have been methodical in the way we have planned this mobilization,” said Vice-Admiral Tom Moore, commander of NAVSEA. “We did not mobilize anyone who is already working in the field of maintenance or shipbuilding, and we have worked to place people in shipyards where they have already drilled so that there is a factor of built-in comfort for both reservist and shipyard personnel. “
Once mobilized, Reservists will adhere to all Department of Defense travel restrictions and protocols related to minimizing the spread of Covid-19. Seafarers are assigned to their designated reserve duty station, which is usually the shipyard closest to their place of residence.
Once at their designated shipyard, Sailors will adhere to all policies specific to Covid-19. These include performing a daily self-screening and temperature check before entering the shipyard, wearing all required personal protective equipment (PPE), and following the same social distancing measures as the rest of the shipyard workforce.
“We are focusing on the laser by minimizing the propagation while maximizing the mission,” said MacLellan. “This mobilization will strengthen the partnership between the shipyard workforce and the reserve community and help return combat-ready ships to the fleet. “