The forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) conducted a 1,333-ton ammunition offload, which signifies the near completion of its 2012 patrol Nov. 18.
George Washington's Weapons department planned and executed one of the most dangerous evolutions that can occur aboard a warship before returning to its port.
"Units afloat scheduled for an availability period in excess of 45 days shall be completely offloaded of all ammunition except for that quantity of small arms ammunition that the ship's commanding officer considers to be required for maintaining security aboard the ship," said Lt. Cmdr. Jose Colon, George Washington's ordnance handling officer.
The ammunition offload can take up to three days to complete due to the amount of ordnance that has to be transported from the ship's weapons magazine to the hangar bay and flight deck.
"Normally, we get 10 hours of daylight per day, and due to the amount of lifts we have aboard, we are forced to use three days," said Colon. "There is no way around that. Forward Deployed Naval Forces are top heavy when it comes to having ordnance aboard."
Sailors plan thoroughly in advance to ensure that the evolution is completed as quickly and safely as possible.
"We conduct an all-hands safety brief," said Colon. "In addition to our all-hands safety brief, we conduct on-station safety briefs for our personnel working in the hangar bays, the flight deck and in the magazines.
The ordnance must be packed and protected prior to being offloaded to ensure its preservation for future use.
"The aviation ordnancemen spend days before the offload disarming torpedoes and missiles," said Airman Scott Ricker, from Newman, Ga. "We have to band the ordnance together to ensure that the packages secure in case they fall. The boxes have to be water and air tight to protect them from the elements."
The ammunition offload requires each and every box of ammunition and every missile is properly accounted for.
"As the ordnance is offloaded, we make sure all of the serial numbers match the contents of every container," said Ricker.
Colon is personally proud of the work production of his Sailors during the evolution.
"I would like to add that it is eye-watering observing our Weapons department personnel working together like a fine-tuned machine," said Colon. "I'm truly honored to be a part of our Weapons department team. We are a solid lethal machine and more importantly, we are a family."
George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 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 Asia-Pacific region.
Article by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brian H. Abel, USS George Washington Public Affairs