Strange Bedfellows During a Replenishment-at-Sea Aboard George Washington

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Pittman

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Oct. 18, 2012) – The day began early for USS George Washington (CVN 73) Sailors during a replenishment-at-sea (RAS) with the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Pecos (T-AO 197), Oct. 18.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier’s Supply department mustered a 200-person working party to assist with moving more than 250 pallets of supplies from the flight deck to the ship’s storerooms.  During this RAS, every department aboard the ship volunteered a few of their Sailors to help their shipmates.

“The reason we ask for each department’s help is because we don’t have the manpower to move 260 pallets of supplies by ourselves,” said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Mark Sunga, from San Diego, leading petty officer of George Washington’s cargo division.  “Considering that the crew does eat the food and uses the supplies, it is only fair for everybody to help out every now and then.”

Sailors were sent to the ship’s hangar bay to help move supplies either via assembly line or supply elevator.  A mixed bag of ratings were thrown into the fray, performing jobs that they normally would not do.

“I watch radar scopes and contacts in the combat direction center on a regular basis, so this was a very different day for me,” said Operations Specialist 2nd Class David McGowan, from Houston, one of the Sailors assisting with the ship’s most recent RAS.  “I woke up and came to work expecting a normal day, but I was told to come to the hangar bay and help out.  I don’t normally move supplies like this.”

The air in the hangar bay maintained the constant high-humidity levels expected in the South China Sea and the boxes the Sailors moved were not always light.  The hangar bay was also required to be empty of supplies before a certain time, so allowing the Sailors to loaf while working was not an option.

“I sit in an office with air conditioning where I smile at customers all day; working in a place without air conditioning is a significant change for me,” said Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Gregory Alvarez, from Bronx, N.Y.  “Granted, I’m always moving large boxes of paper from office to office, but some of these boxes are a lot heavier than I usually move.  But I understand that everyone needs to pay their dues.”

The embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 was not exempt from Supply’s working party; Sailors from the wing’s seven squadrons also helped out with the working parties.

“I work on bombs every day,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Sheona Holmes, from Bloomville, Ohio, a Sailor attached to the “Eagles” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115 and a phone talker at one of the supply elevators during the recent RAS.  “This was the first time I’ve used a sound-powered phone since boot camp, but I use a radio on the flight deck regularly so there’s no real learning curve.  I just had to make sure that the specific messages get through and don’t get lost in translation.”

The working party carried boxes and moved stores during the six-hour evolution to allow George Washington to stay warfighter ready.

“Working parties are a double-sided coin; you can shake up your routine by helping out, but you will work hard during these evolutions,” said Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Ben Bryan, from Cumming, Ga., a Sailor attached to the “Shadowhawks” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 141.  “It’s a good thing to do because it gets you out of your shop for a while and you avoid getting into a rut.  It can also be fun sometimes.”

Now that this current RAS is finished, the Sailors aboard George Washington will be able to enjoy a wide variety of foods and other amenities.  The work was hard and the hours were long, but the job is not thankless.

“These guys make this happen; we appreciate their hard work each time,” said Sunga.  “We couldn’t do it without our volunteers.”

            George Washington and CVW 5 provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its partners and allies in the Asia-Pacific region.

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