PHILIPPINE SEA -- The U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) completed its largest replenishment-at-sea (RAS) for the 2013 patrol with Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition USNS Charles Drew (T-AKE 10), Nov. 30.
While RAS's are nothing new to the Sailors aboard George Washington, the ship received nearly 700 pallets of supplies at once, three times the amount of a standard RAS. This produced a unique and rare challenge for the Sailors of the ship's supply department.
"The biggest challenge was trying to move all these supplies around as quickly and safely as we could." said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Damon Candelarie, from San Leandro, Calif. "It involved a lot of cooperation and effort from everyone. For most RASs we normally have around 200 Sailors helping, however, we needed more than 300 for this one."
George Washington conducts approximately three to four RASs over the course of a month while on patrol under normal operating conditions. Due to certain circumstances, the ship was forced to skip some of them.
"Since we were busy operating in the Philippine area to help with [Operation Damayan], we weren't able to get supplies for the ship regularly," said Senior Chief Logistics Specialist Hai Tran, George Washington's shipping and receiving leading chief petty officer. "The supplies we would've got piled up, so once we could do a RAS we ended up taking everything all at once."
In order to move the supplies to where they belong, each pallet had to be air lifted from Charles Drew's flight deck to the drop zone on the fantail of George Washington, taken from the drop zone to the hangar bay via aircraft elevator where they were processed and sorted to be sent to various storerooms.
"Once the pallets get to the hangar bay we have to sort and catalogue each one," said Candelarie. "After that, we have to take them down to the proper storage place, which takes about another day or so to finish."
Safety plays a huge role in large ship evolutions like replenishments-at-sea. In order to finish the mission without incident, like any other mission, every Sailor must keep their head on a swivel and maintain good safety practices.
"To safely execute a large evolution like a RAS, training and planning play crucial roles," said Cmdr. Richard Morrison, the ship's safety officer. "Our procedures are written in blood, knowing and following them is essential. Planning helps anticipate and prevent problems before they occur. But above all else, everyone must be alert and keep searching for hidden dangers."
George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.