ATLANTIC OCEAN — The crew of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike) returned to sea, Aug. 28, following a 23-month dry-docking planned incremental availability (DPIA) at Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY).
With 14 deployments to its credit, Ike commenced the availability period in Sept. 2013, to receive upgrades and maintenance required to sustain operational readiness for the next decade.
The ship's force integrated with NNSY maintenance workers and contractors to complete more than 1.2 million man-days of work. The work forces collaborated to complete a workload, encompassed 50 percent growth from the original work package on ship systems, such as the shafts, rudders and distilling units that required more maintenance than anticipated.
The revitalization of the ship comprised of more than 117,000 square feet of spaces with 25 crew living compartments and 774 racks rehabilitated; 150,000 square feet of non-skid surface on the flight deck removed and replaced; and all four catapults overhauled.
Despite the extended yard period and lack of crew proficiency at sea, Capt. Steve Koehler, Ike's commanding officer since July 2013, is certain everyone will rise to the occasion as they have during the shipyard period.
"We just completed the most extensive DPIA for any CVN, and I promise it was not always easy," Koehler said. "Every department had their share of long days and nights, but through it all, the work was completed and our Sailors still managed to garner several awards along the way."
Since entering the DPIA, Ike earned the 2013 Commander, Naval Air Forces, Atlantic Yellow E Award; the 2013 and 2014 Ramage Awards; and the 2014 Retention Excellence Award which the crew proudly displays with its golden anchor. Additionally, Medical department earned consecutive "Blue M" awards and two consecutive CNO Health Promotion and Wellness "Blue H" awards with Gold Stars.
Koehler said as he has watched the turnover of the ship's crew, one thing has remained constant. "I never cease to be impressed by the incredible dedication and pride every crew member has demonstrated with the hard work they all put in day in and day out," Koehler said. "We're at sea today because of them."
As the first ship to implement the optimized fleet readiness plan (OFRP), Ike begins the basic phase with sea trials off the coast of Virginia.
"We're back and we're more than ready to begin putting this great warship through its paces," said Koehler. "The crew will test a broad range of the ship's capabilities, from basic surface operations and deck seamanship to adjusting to an underway schedule and running flight deck and damage control drills."
Upon completion of sea trials, Ike will return to its homeport at Naval Station Norfolk and begin a full work-up schedule to certify the flight deck and return to underway flight operations. This training cycle will culminate in a deployment next summer.
"The pace for this crew will be fast, but they have proven time and again that they are up for the challenge," Koehler said. "We are returning this ship to service, and with this crew on watch, I have no doubt that Ike is more than ready to conduct the necessary qualifications and training to once again take the fight to the enemy and make our families and our nation proud."