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By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Taurean Alexander, USS Essex Public Affairs
SASEBO, Japan (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) began a ship's restricted availability (SRA) maintenance period Aug. 26.

All U.S. Navy ships get a CNO-approved SRA, which is usually three to four months, but a forward-deployed ship has only eight weeks. Many departments aboard Essex have an even shorter timeline to complete their work.

"The SRA will be a great opportunity for us to get the ship into peak condition," said Capt. Troy Hart, Essex' commanding officer. "It's going to take a lot of hard work by everyone on board, but their efforts are vital to maintaining our readiness in the forward-deployed role in which we operate."

The ship's crew and contractors will work on maintaining, updating and replacing many of the ship's systems.

"We have more than 500 jobs approved for this SRA," said Chief Warrant Officer Jay Summer, repair officer and ship's maintenance material officer. "Those jobs include more than 50 ship alterations and eight weeks to finish it."

During SRA, Essex will receive new non-skid for the entire 80,000 square feet of flight deck, a $2.8 million endeavor. Engineers will also install 126 new screen wall tubes, perform a five-year inspection on the number two boiler and perform extensive maintenance on five ballast tanks. In addition, Essex will be fitted with a brand new SPS-73 radar system to improve tracking capabilities.

"The thing with engineering is those guys have about five weeks to do their whole SRA," said Summer. "They have to take out whatever they're fixing and replace it within five weeks because Essex will be getting underway, and they have to do boiler light-offs and steam testing two weeks prior."

As with all SRAs, safety will be a major issue. Summer temperatures will be high, and Sailors will be doing a lot of hot work. Essex' safety division will help ensure Sailors are using proper operational risk management at all turns.

"We just conducted our SRA safety standdown, which was mandatory for all hands to watch," said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (AW/SW) Tony Jarmond, safety department leading petty officer.

Essex' SRA safety standdown covered topics such as heat stress, sight and hearing conservation and general safety.

"With Sailors using a lot of power and electrical tools, we have to be sure to give them proper training so they don't hurt themselves or others," said Jarmond. "We also do respirator qualifications so Sailors can paint and work in hazardous areas without having to breathe in dangerous fumes," Jarmond said.

Essex is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed U.S. amphibious ready group and serves as the flagship for Commander, Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force commander. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with a detachment in Sasebo, Japan.
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