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121210-N-ZC343-900 SAN DIEGO (Dec. 10, 2012) - Amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) displays its holiday lights at Naval Bas San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joe Kane/released)
USS Essex (LHD 2) Celebrates Christmas in Style 
SAN DIEGO (Dec. 5, 2012) -- The holiday spirit is alive this year as electrician’s mates aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) have begun decorating the ship with more than 2,000 feet of Christmas lights for the annual lighting competition on Naval Base San Diego (NBSD).

With the ship currently occupied by tons of construction equipment, wires, ventilation and scaffolding due to an 18-month dry-dock planned maintenance availability (DPMA), the crew has to be extra creative this year in how they string up the lights.

“Having the lights out on the ship really helps get the crew into the holiday spirit around here, and we really have fun participating in the competition with the other ships in the harbor,” said Senior Chief Electrician’s Mate Juan Sanchez. “Unfortunately some of our Sailors are unable to make it home this year, so it’s nice to see Christmas lights out here during the holiday season.”

With the entire ship scheduled for sandblasting and repainting during DPMA, the superstructure is currently covered with scaffolding where contractors have begun working before the ship heads over to dry-dock.

“We have a lot more challenges this year due to all of the construction that is going on both inside and outside of the ship,” said Sanchez. “We usually try and decorate as much as we can each year, but this year we are a little more limited with all of the scaffolding that has been put up.”

With the construction somewhat constricting the areas where lights can be hung, the crew is using all available areas of the ship to decorate.

“We are trying to do our best with the space we have,” said Electrician’s Mate 1st Class Chris Ayers. “This year we are decorating the quarterdeck and the port and starboard troop walkways and we are also decorating the scaffolding on the superstructure.”

With the Essex home-ported in San Diego after a recent hull swap with USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), the crew is working towards its first decorating award for the ship.

“We had a lot of fun doing this competition when we were on BHR and this ship is almost identical,” said Ayers. “Last year for the competition, we won first place in the creativity category, and it will be nice to see how we do this year.”

The job will take the lighting crew roughly two to three days to finish setting up lighting.
“The whole electrician’s mate crew is working on installing the lights this year,” said Sanchez. “We are all pulling together to get the job done.”
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