By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Christopher B. Janik
SAN DIEGO – After returning from the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), the world's largest international maritime exercise, the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) entered an 18-month docking phased maintenance availability (DPMA) period at Naval Station San Diego Sept. 18, 2012.
The crew marked the occasion by donning their personal protective equipment in a symbolic hard hat ceremony, signifying the beginning of the DPMA period.
During DPMA, Essex will go through a variety of routine depot level maintenance contracts, upgrades to ship’s systems and other work to prolong service life; keeping the ship outfitted with the latest war fighting capabilities.
“Both of the ship’s boilers will be inspected and overhauled and over 100 tanks on the ship will be inspected and have a new paint coating system applied as needed,” said Essex’s Air Boss Cmdr. Patrick V. Foege. “All of the weather decks, flight deck and hanger bay will receive new non-skid and aviation maintenance spaces will be modified to support the MV-22 Osprey.”
Contractors can now be seen on the pier and throughout the ship preparing for the DPMA period.
“Development of the work package started almost two years ago,” said Chief Warrant Officer Chad K. Hodges. “During this time the ships maintenance team has been in constant contact with our port engineer and the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, the prime contractor for DPMA.”
Safety is always a big concern for both contractors and military personnel during a DPMA period and all measures are taken to ensure the safety of those involved.
“The truth is that people can get seriously hurt or killed during an industrial maintenance period such as the one we are going into and it happens every year in one shipyard or another around the country,” said Foege. “For Sailors the potential danger is even greater because we are not accustomed to working in that sort of environment.”
Also during the DPMA period, the culinary department will be closing down entirely as repairs to the kitchen and mess decks are scheduled to take place.
“The last meals will be served Sept. 30 and the mess decks will officially be closed for service Oct. 1 and will re-open when the ship resumes sea operations in Feb. 2014,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Perry Pointer. “We have taken a lot of extra food off of the ship and sent it to other ships that may need it or have requested it in order to clear out as much space as possible.”
The kitchens on the ship will be receiving new appliances in place of those not currently operational or outdated in order to ensure the kitchen is running smoothly when the ship goes back out to sea, said Pointer.
“After the ship goes into repairs many of the culinary specialists will move to the barracks and base to work as well as going to work in their duty sections,” said Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Sakana Gray. “It will be nice to have a little bit of time off of the ship to go to school and catch up on things we are not usually able to do while underway or on the ship.”
Essex has not had a DPMA period in more than 12 years and plans to preserve the ship will ensure its readiness for future operations around the world.