“Material cost avoidance was close to $50,000 for a
[three-cent] design,” Dejute said.
Word of the Tru Clip’s success spread quickly. A
version of it later was transferred electronically to
astronauts for use on the International Space Station.
At the I-level maintenance production shops, Sailors
garner hands-on experience aimed at making them
better at fixing systems and equipment. Sailors earn
certification under two separate protocols — the Navy
Afloat Maintenance Training Strategy (NAMTS) and
Maintenance Assist Teams.
The program evolved out of necessity, due to changes that took place more than a decade ago. At that time,
the Navy consolidated most Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activities. As a result, the number of limited-duty surface-engineering officers dropped.
“As billets dissolved, the majority of … work previ-
ously done by Sailors migrated to the naval shipyards or
private repair contractors,” Daniel Spagnone, MARMC’s
director of intermediate-level production, said in a state-
ment prepared for Seapower. “More and more Sailors
showed up for shipboard assignments without the knowl-
edge and skills to repair or maintain the equipment.”
Recent budgets allowed for some additional man-
power, I-level maintenance still will lose 709 uni-
formed personnel, with a 20-percent decrease in train-
ing and production as well.
RMCs have had to focus on new forms of training
and deck-plate teaching, with a new focus on develop-
ing ship maintainers rather than mere operators.
Maintenance schedules for ships both underway
and scheduled for maintenance availability are complicated by budget cuts, said Chief Petty Officer Gary
Reed, a hull technician who serves as hull division
production officer at MARMC.
“Properly trained, well-rounded Sailors fill in the
gap between underway schedules and CNO [chief of
naval operations] maintenance availabilities, where
the majority of work is performed at the depot level,”
Reed said in a written statement. “It is imperative that
I-level Sailors provide and receive the highest level of
training” to do the job, he said.
The results of the shift have borne fruit within the
fleet. Statements provided to Seapower by the RMCs
showed that Sailors on the amphibious assault ship
USS Iwo Jima who achieved qualification in I-level
maintenance completed some “necessary repair work”
on the vessel — without help from contractors — that
saved the Navy more than $30,000.
“The NAMTS program provides a challenge. I
like the way it takes me out of my comfort zone to
enable me to continue to learn and explore other JQRs
[job-qualification requirements] and enhance my confidence and repair skills. This really helped me learn
a lot,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class (SW/AW) Kristen
Bishop, a machinist’s mate on Iwo Jima.
Still, tight budgets present serious challenges.
“Reduced funding levels are just one of aspect of the
‘triple whammy’ that the Navy faces,” Richardson said at
the September hearing. “Those cuts come at a time when
continued mission demands result in high operational
tempo, and there is persistent uncertainty about when
budgets will be approved. The combination of these factors has resulted in Navy incurring substantial ‘readiness
debt,’ just like carrying a debt on a credit card.”
Reed noted that “during budget cuts, Sailors really
suffer because the ordering and receiving of specific
parts can get put on delay. Certain equipment may not
get fixed right away.”
Even though RMCs sometimes can fill the gap
caused by budget cuts, Reed said there are no guar-
antees. Sometimes, specific materials or components
needed for repairs simply are not available.
Still, the training offers participating Sailors the
chance to earn any of 21 Navy enlisted classifications
while they carry out preventive and corrective maintenance on shipboard systems and equipment.
“It’s a win-win for the Sailor and the Navy,” Spagnone said. n
Lt. Gregory Dejute, 3-D project officer for the Mid-Atlantic
Regional Maintenance Center, shows a radio with the 3-D
printed antenna clip, in blue, dubbed the Tru Clip, during the
Sea-Air-Space Exposition at National Harbor, Md., May 17.
The Tru Clip was designed by USS Harry S. Truman Sailors
to solve the problem of radio handset attachments that
often broke and were expensive to replace. The Tru Clips
can be printed aboard ship for just a few cents apiece.