The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) gets underway from Naval Air Station North Island to conduct sea trials during the final stage of a six-month planned incremental availability.

USS CARL VINSON, At Sea – USS Carl Vinson's (CVN 70) commanding officer announced the official completion of the ship's successful six-month planned incremental availability (PIA) Feb. 3.

"Today marked the culmination of this crew's steadfast dedication and professionalism throughout a six-month planned incremental availability maintenance period," said Capt. Kent Whalen, Carl Vinson's commanding officer. "For more than 400,000 man-hours, 2,800 Sailors worked alongside 900 shipyard workers and contractors to make this great warship once again ready for sea and for the nation's tasking. I can't tell you how proud I am of everyone who played a role during this maintenance period to return Carl Vinson to an operational status on time."

PIA, an extended period of deep maintenance and modernization, coordinated the efforts of the ship's work force and the technical expertise of civilian workers to reach and posssiblu exceed the 50-year life expectancy of Carl Vinson.

"It gave Carl Vinson an opportunity to do a lot of corrective maintenance for deficiencies we've identified over the years since our last availability and during our past operations," said Lt. Cmdr. Wayne Oxendine, Carl Vinson's assistant PIA coordinator. "PIA also provided us time to complete a lot of habitability work, which was a majority of what the ship's force accomplished during the availability."

Carl Vinson's crew and civilian shipyard contractors coordinated through extensive communications to plan and prepare for PIA 2012 a full calendar year before the maintenance period's commencement Aug. 1, 2012.

During the initial planning, Carl Vinson departed its homeport in San Diego for a six-month Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment to the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibilities. As planning continued to develop, a small portion of the crew worked shore-side with contractors to further develop a work package encompassing the six-month availability. Meanwhile, shipyard contractors periodically flew aboard the warship to train the ship's crew on upcoming responsibilities vital to completing the ambitious amount of work to be accomplished.

The work package, consisting of 8,750 jobs and ranging from upgrading radar systems to improving the crew's living quarters, was constructed to achieve the maximum amount of work while completing a variety of complex jobs.

Critical to PIA 2012's successful completion, Carrier Availability Support Team (CAST) members were established and assigned to ship's force zone manager - Sailors assigned to lead either a ship's force team or ship's department or division. CAST members liaised between the ship's force and the shipyard contractors throughout PIA, providing guidance and lines of communication to achieve an effective and productive maintenance period.

"With all the work that has to be done by all parties involved, you can't just have ship's force go out and do their thing or shipyard workers go out and do their thing," said Robert Yates, the lead CAST member orchestrating Carl Vinson's PIA. "We have to go out as one to define what their roles are and how we're going to integrate everyone's work. This is why we start planning 12 months prior to the actual availability."

Multiple daily meetings between ship's force and shipyard contractors were necessary to effectively manage and conduct the complex and exhaustive work accomplished in a comparatively short six months.

"We integrated project team development sessions to get everyone together to work as a team because we all have one mission in mind: to get this ship out on time and to accomplish its mission," Yates said.

Further increasing the combined force's effectiveness and ensuring PIA 2012 was completed on time, ship's force maintenance teams were formed to more evenly spread the workload.

"For ship's force, the brunt of the work comes from E-5 and below. That's roughly around 1,350 Sailors that we're able to identify during the availability," Yates said. "They expended about 408,800 man hours. By using ship's force, we saved $18,836,220."

A large portion of Carl Vinson's PIA was rehabilitation of crew berthings and living areas. The berthing rehabilitation team, consisting of approximately 60 Sailors, overhauled 28 berthings, removing and reinstalling 904 sleeping racks ship-wide. Each berthing took from six to eight weeks to complete, which required the team to overlap multiple berthings at once.

"We did the removal of all racks, lockers, [floor] tile and the demolition of the berthing. We ripped it down to the bare minimum and then we built it back up," said Chief Air Traffic Controller (AW/SW) Shannon Lynch, the berthing rehab zone manager.

Although the berthing rehab team finished ahead of schedule Dec. 13, 2012, the team still faced challenges, Lynch said.

"The learning curve was part of the biggest challenge because we are the operations department - air traffic controllers and operations specialists who don't normally use these types of tools," Lynch said. "The learning curve of operating power tools, learning how to build a rack and level it out - many of us didn't have those skill sets. So in the beginning, not only were we on a time crunch, but it was also on-the-job training."

Despite the initial challenge of effectively changing jobs and responsibilities and the difficulty to re-adjust to a completely different mission after two back-to-back WESTPAC deployments, Lynch and her Sailors stayed focused on completing the their work.

"Every aircraft carrier is a 50-year carrier. We hit our 30th birthday not too long ago, so we need 20 more years out of this ship," Lynch said. "PIA is a way to fix the ship and keep it ready for our next mission or deployment no matter what we need to do. PIA keeps us going."

Improving the crew's habitability further, the ship's force head team, comprised of approximately 90 Sailors from different departments throughout the ship, refurbished and preserved 62 different heads, or bathrooms, throughout the ship. Contractors completely revamped another 30 heads ship-wide.

"The team's responsibility was to go into enlisted and officer heads to complete the restoration and preservation of bulkheads, showers, and overheads," said Chief Logistics Specialist (SW/AW) Noe Nesmith, the head team zone manager.

The main thing is ship's morale, Nesmith continued. Sailors use the heads day-to-day and can see the improvement now. It's definitely more rewarding for the Sailors to have a clean place to maintain hygiene.

"We came in with a plan and we accomplished what we set out to do. That is a feat in itself. Of all the PIAs I've been associated with, I feel that I've never worked with a more professional crew," Yates said. "They were highly adaptive to the shipyard environment. They were receptive to anything we had to provide. I would have to say that these are some of the strongest Sailors in any ship's force I've ever worked with."