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Submarine Support Barge Returns To Norfolk From Shipyard

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080709-22
Release Date: 7/9/2008 9:42:00 PM

By Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Xander Gamble, Commander, Submarine Force Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Sailors and government civilian contractors completed an overhaul of the Naval Submarine Support Center (NSSC) Norfolk's Scheduled Preservation Upkeep Coordinated Effort (SPRUCE) barge, and provided NSSC personnel a more modern platform for working and training, June 27.

The SPRUCE barge, crewed by enlisted Sailors ranging in paygrades E-4 to E-7, provides training and supplies for performing preservation and upkeep on Norfolk's in-port submarines, as well as renewing topsides during the summer months.

SPRUCE barge was in Architectural Naval Associates Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va., from April to June. While in the shipyard, many of the barge's features were upgraded, including the powder-coating oven and the hazardous material lockers.

"Who says change isn't good?" said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class (SW) Angel Casado, from Brooklyn, N.Y. "I am like a kid in the candy store. I can't wait to try the new stuff."

One of the most significant changes included an increase in the size of the powder-coating oven. The new oven is 64 cubic feet, about 30 cubic feet larger than the previous oven.

"I like the new oven. It's bigger, with more space to bake," says Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class (SW) Kareen Bennett, from New York. "It's good for bigger tools."

The sandblasters are 27 cubic feet.

"If we can sandblast it, we can bake it," said Chief Boatswain's Mate (SW) Jason Kinsey from Harrisburg, Pa., the officer in charge of the SPRUCE barge.

A three-week SPRUCE is required below decks every 48 months on every Navy attack submarine, and a one-week SPRUCE is required on the sail interior every 24 months. At times, these schedules coincide. The SPRUCE ensures that internal preservation is maintained at the highest possible level throughout the life of the ship. Although ballistic missile- and guided missile-class submarines are exempt from this upkeep, they may request them under special circumstances.

The renewing of a topside consists of stripping off all the non-skid, cleaning the bare metal, applying a primer coat and applying new nonskid. The non-skid is stripped off using an AquaVac system, which is a 40,000 PSI water-driven deck grinder with a vacuum system that causes minimal environmental impact.

During the summer, Kinsey and his crew of both surface- and submarine-qualified electrician's mates, machinist's mates, hull maintenance technicians and boatswain's mates expect to provide support for one SPRUCE and three topside renewals.

The SPRUCE barge crew provides supplies and training for respirator use, paint, sandblasters, powder-coating and pneumatic tools. They also provide and train paint inspectors to quality check each submarine after the ship's crew has finished painting.

More renovations for SPRUCE barge are planned during the summer, including painting spaces and building a training area in one of the lower-level bays. The new training area will be used to more efficiently train personnel from Norfolk's submarines. There will also be some minor additions to the barge, including air vents for the new hazardous materials lockers and building a ramp for the powder-coating oven.

"We have a good group of Sailors down here who are very knowledgeable and professional," said Kinsey. "For a bunch of junior Sailors, these are probably the best group of guys I've ever worked with. They all cross-train on all the systems, so I have no downtime if any one of them goes on leave."

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