NEWPORT NEWS, Va -- For the first time since she entered Newport News Shipbuilding in early 2009, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) conducted an overnight habitability fast cruise Nov. 5, reaching the complete crew move aboard milestone, which brings the Nimitz-class carrier closer to rejoining the fleet as an operational asset.
"There is a key event called complete crew move aboard during the refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) period," said TR's Executive Officer, Cmdr. Mark Colombo. "It shows that we have the ability to sleep, house, berth, feed and accommodate the entire crew. It's an important indicator of where the ship is in its RCOH period. The fast cruise proves just that - that we can sleep the crew onboard safely and securely."
More than 2,000 Sailors crossed the brow Monday morning with backpacks and seabags, prepared to spend a night aboard the ship as a crew for the first time in three years.
"This is the culmination of the hard work of our crew, the shipyard, and the contractors over a three year period of time," said Colombo. "The mess decks, the wardroom, the chief's mess, that's all up and running - the TV studio we used for captain's call - that is part of the crew being able to exhibit that it can use all of the spaces that are normal, operational functions for an aircraft carrier at sea."
During the course of the day, special training was given to help prepare Sailors for when the ship becomes fully operational out at sea, including a general quarters (GQ) drill.
When the GQ alarm sounded, TR's 10 repair lockers responded with their damage control teams to simulated casualties throughout the ship. Additionally, the medical training team and propulsion plant training team were integrated into the exercise.
"The GQ drills get Sailors in the mindset that we're going to be operational very soon," said Chief Logistics Specialist (SW/EXW/AW) William Bunton, a member of the ship's damage control training team. "Sailors learn what GQ consists of and how to combat the ship in case of any casualties. It's very important to conduct training like this, because it gets us out of the mindset of being in the shipyards and into the mindset of being operational and doing what is going to be required of use as a carrier in the Navy."
After dinner, the crew was invited to attend a mentorship fair on the mess decks to learn how to better themselves personally and professionally.
"Everyone has been working hard during RCOH, and working hard today on our first fast cruise. This just gives them all a chance to concentrate on their career and finance and other important things. The Navy isn't just about your job - it's about your life," said Senior Chief Information Systems Technician (SW/IDW) Nicole Fulton, the ship's mentorship coordinator.
Additionally, the opportunity was given to Sailors to take advantage of an "Enlisted Surface and Air Warfare Rodeo," which aimed to streamline the warfare qualification process.
"It was a great idea. It gives everyone an opportunity to get help with signatures and walk throughs at a single location," said Electrician's Mate 1st Class (SW/AW) James Thornton, a reactor walk-through coordinator. "It helps put junior Sailors in an operational mindset, since it gives them an idea of what the ship will be like during combat scenarios. It also helps give them a better idea of how to save the ship if they need to."
More than 400 Sailors participated in the event, including Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Michael Shannon (AW) who is working on his ESWS qualification.
"It was a great help to get info on surface warfare, and to start making progress on my pin," said Shannon. "Getting pins is important to Sailors' careers. Without a pin, your advancement suffers."
With the successful completion of complete crew move aboard, TR is nearing the end of RCOH at Newport News Shipbuilding, and is closer to returning to the fleet.
"The only key milestone that we have left is the finish line," said Colombo. "What we have left is the end. It's time to focus on all the things we need to do to get to the finish line successfully and as expeditiously as possible so we can get back to the fleet, back to the operational Navy and do what our country has asked us to do."