Weapons Onload: Arming Carl Vinson for Duty

In yet another step toward becoming a fully mission-capable aircraft carrier, Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson's (CVN 70) weapons department worked around-the-clock Feb. 17-18, making her a warship poised to do the nation's tasking.

"A weapons onload is when we receive the ammunition the ship requires to be combat-ready from an ammunition replenishment ship," said Aviation Ordnanceman (AW/SW) 1st Class Manuel Gonzalez, weapons department's G-1 division leading petty officer.

To conduct the evolution, Carl Vinson connected with the dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4), and received 690 lifts of armament aboard.

"A lift is any time a load comes off of a supply ship via vertical replenishment (VERTREP) or connected replenishment (CONREP) and swings over to us - each one is considered one load," Gonzalez explained. Though the concept is simple - the transfer of stores from one location to another - a weapons onload is a huge undertaking. More than 250 Sailors from Carl Vinson's five weapons divisions worked together to complete this task, each with their own set of responsibilities.

Because of its scope, the number of personnel necessary to complete the evolution, the complexity of moving parts and the need to coordinate the efforts of five weapons divisions, planning for the onload started weeks before the scheduled date.

Weapons department's G-5 division, divided into Administration, Quality Assurance (QA), Ordnance Control and Logistics, was responsible for mapping out the onload and developing the overall plan.

"Ordnance Control is the hub of information," Gonzalez explained. "They did all the pre-planning. Before the ordnance actually hit the deck, they told all of the divisions exactly how everything was going to work."
"We also coordinated the entire evolution as far as tracking the weapons and enforcing quality assurance and accountability," said Chief Aviation Ordnanceman (SW/AW) Christopher Egan, weapons department G-5 division's leading chief petty officer (LCPO).

However, even before specific responsibilities were designated for the different divisions, the ship itself needed to be made eligible to receive the ammunition. Fresh off of a six-month planned incremental availability (PIA), during which the ship received upgrades and significant maintenance, weapons department's G-2 division - responsible for the magazine sprinkler systems - had to ensure the ship's weapons' magazines were certified for storage.

"We spent the last couple of weeks prepping for the Magazine Sprinkler Safety Verification (MSSV), which allows all the magazines to be certified as 'safe to store ammunitions'," explained Senior Chief Gunner's Mate (SW/AW) Zach Eubank, weapons department G-2 division LCPO. "We had to complete around 16,000 man-hours of corrective maintenance on the sprinkler system during PIA, then another 8,000-10,000 man-hours of prep work in the four or five weeks leading up to the onload."

Once the ship was qualified to bring on munitions, weapons department prepared for the real work of a large-scale weapons onload.

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Carl Vinson's two-day onload utilized both VERTREP and CONREP simultaneously, and Sailors from G-1 managed receipt of the ordnance loads on the flight deck and in the hangar bay.

"We had two helicopters flying, picking up a load from the aft-end of the Byrd and dropping it off on the flight deck, near our stern," Gonzalez explained. "We also had two CONREP stations in hangar bays two and three where the Byrd was constantly swinging ordnance over."

With the initial arrival of ordnance Sunday afternoon, G-5 division's extensive planning came to fruition as all weapons department Sailors not already assigned to a specific task worked in earnest to move and lower pallets.

Forklift operators on the flight deck moved each pallet of ordnance to aircraft elevator (ACE) four, at which point elevator operators assigned to air department lowered them to the hangar bay. G-1 and G-2 forklift operators in hangar bay three then moved the ordnance from ACE four to staging areas located throughout the hangar bays. The many different types of armament were separated according to their capability and magazine arrangement.

"We send ordnance below decks in a prescribed order from the hangar bay to G-3 personnel so they can stack it correctly in the magazine," explained Chief Aviation Ordnanceman (SW) Mark Ethington, G-1 hangar bay chief.

While weapons department Sailors were receiving and processing the lifts delivered from two Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 15 MH-60S Seahawks, Sailors in the hangar bay continued to receive CONREP lifts directly from the Byrd and stage them alongside those received on the flight deck.

Before any of the ordnance could be lowered into the magazines below decks, G-5 QA Sailors checked all munitions for deficiencies and logged them for accountability.

"I took the lot serial numbers and made sure that the quantity matched up with everything that we had on file," said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class (AW) Christopher Banks, assigned to weapons department's G-5 division. "Each bomb also had to be checked to make sure they have the necessary lugs, which attach the bomb to the aircraft, and that the butt plate (aft end) isn't damaged."

Once the ordnance was checked by QA, it was moved to a weapons elevator - those elevators that run to the weapons magazines - where G-4 Sailors could then send them below decks.

"Our guys aren't the ones who actually handle the weapons," said Chief Aviation Ordnanceman (AW/SW) Travis Overlie, weapons department G-4 division LCPO. "We make sure that the ammunition gets on the platform safely and centered so when the elevator moves, it's not going to damage the weapons or the elevator itself. Our primary concern, aside from safety of course, is to make sure those elevators worked as designed. Our guys know that if any one of those elevators fail it could drastically change the outcome of any onload."

Once the armament reached the magazines, G-3 Sailors, utilizing electric forklifts, began placing, stacking and inventorying the munitions.

"We account for everything that gets sent down to us," said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class (AW) Jeffery Williams, a weapons department G-3 division quality assurance safety observer (QASO). "We put the ordnance where it was supposed to go and then we moved on to the next magazine."

Given the magnitude of the evolution and the level of concentration and coordination required, safety was paramount.

"Anytime you talk about moving ammunition anywhere, safety is the primary concern," Eubank said. "We work with bombs, missiles and mines - things designed to explode - so we need to be very careful."

"QASOs are always in place, so whenever any ordnance was being moved, they were there," said Chief Aviation Ordnanceman (AW/SW) Anthony Mugrage, weapons department G-3 division production CPO. "There were team leaders, the senior ordnanceman making sure everything was done correctly and safely, on hand as well."

The professionalism of Carl Vinson's weapons department was in evidence throughout the ordnance onload, Ethington said. "A lot of training goes into an evolution like this; a lot of man-hours. I'm convinced we have the best weapons department in the fleet."

"Overall, this was a very successful evolution," said Senior Chief Aviation Ordnanceman (AW/SW) Ryan Duncan, weapons department G-1 division LCPO. "We have a lot of talented Sailors who are very qualified and they all worked extremely hard. Everyone did their part and worked together seamlessly - so well, actually, that we were able to finish ahead of schedule."

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob G. Sisco, USS Carl Vinson Public Affairs

Source: US Navy
Date: Feb 20, 2013