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Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic

Navy Reservists Return to SURFLANT Ships after COVID-19 Hiatus

by Lt. j.g. Caroline Leya, SURFLANT Public Affairs
26 October 2021

Navy reservists assigned to the Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic Maintenance Execution Team (CNSL MET) completed various projects aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), Oct. 17-19.

The presence of reservists on the waterfront comes after more than a year where, as a COVID-19-mitigation measure, they were not permitted to conduct drill weekends aboard ships, explains Lt. Cmdr. Elizabeth McGuinnis, CNSL Reserve Program Director.

“They weren’t allowed to go to the ships during [the worst months of the pandemic]. They would either drill via video conference or do their drill weekends at their Navy Reserve Center (NRC),” she said.

McGuinnis is in charge of 41 reserve units spanning the eastern half of the United States, and about 1,850 reservists total. She coordinates with the units’ commanding officers and reserve program directors to organize budgeting, manage support requirements, and help execute operations.

Machinist’s Mate Chief Ryan Alvarado, Deputy CNSL Reserve Program Director, detailed how the CNSL MET’s reservist drill blocks are designed, typically starting on weekdays when most of ships’ crews are aboard. This helps build trust between the two groups, enabling the reservists to do more work in a short amount of time.

“[The reservists belong to] a flex drilling unit. They do Thursday through Sunday [on a typical drill weekend],”explains Alvarado. “That gets them the handshake with the crew, which gives the crew the warm and fuzzies, and they’re able to build that relationship and build that trust so over the weekend [the reservists] are able to independently steam and knock everything out.”

During the most recent CNSL MET drill weekend aboard Mesa Verde, a mix of rates including gunner’s mates, enginemen, operations specialists, and boatswain’s mates contributed a total of 400 man hours to complete different projects. These included preparations for the Board of Inspection and Survey assessment, work on rigid-hull inflatable boat support systems and replenishment-at-sea stations, and maintenance on the ship’s SPS-48 air search radar.  

Prior to Mesa Verde, the reservists worked aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) in September, and the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61) in August, which was the first month post-COVID-19 that reservists could drill aboard ships.

Selecting the ships that will receive reservist assistance has its own coordination process to ensure that help gets to where it’s most needed. The Surface Maintenance Operations Center (S-MOC) of CNSL plays a big part in pairing reservists to ships, explained McGuinnis.

“I meet with the S-MOC director [Lt. Cmdr. Carleigh Gregory] prior to assigning the ships that the CNSL MET supports,” she said. The work of the S-MOC helps point to big-ticket repair items or casualties that require the most urgent attention, or more manpower.

Cmdr. Kevin Burel, commanding officer of the CNSL MET, is more than happy to help get reservists in his command back to ships for drilling weekends.

“Being able to return to ships, work in their rates and restore that more tangible connection to their active-duty counterparts has been a huge positive for our Sailors,” he said. “We look forward to partnering with more ships and getting a lot more projects done in the future.”

SURFLANT mans, trains and equips assigned surface forces and shore activities, ensuring a capable force for conducting prompt and sustained operations in support of United States national interests. The SURFLANT force is composed of nearly 80 ships and more than 30 shore commands.

For more SURFLANT news and photos, visit facebook.com/SURFLANT, www.surflant.usff.navy.mil, and Twitter - @surflant.


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