Quality Assurance for the City at Sea

Rumbling engines reverberate off the walls of the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The smell of tractor exhaust permeates the air. These tractors are one of many items aboard an aircraft carrier inspected almost daily for optimal performance.

The Quality Assurance (QA) team inspects TR’s various systems and equipment to ensure they are equipped with the right parts and that Sailors installed those parts correctly.

“We are directly responsible to the [executive officer] for ensuring that all material, systems and structural systems are up to the original ship standards,” said Chief Warrant Officer Mark Swarringim, quality assurance officer aboard TR. “We maintain those standards so that no one gets injured and the ship does not get damaged.”

In 1990, the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LPH 2) pulled in to Manama, Bahrain, for repairs after developing a leak in a steam valve that supplied steam to a stand-by electrical generator. A local contractor completed the repairs and Iwo Jima began raising steam to get underway when the valve ruptured, flooding the room with steam. The incident, caused by the installation of incorrect repair parts, cost ten Sailors their lives.

The events on board Iwo Jima prompted the Navy to scrutinize the quality of materials used in shipboard systems and how Sailors verify the right materials are in the right system.

“There are a number of examples for why we do what we do. The USS Thresher was a submarine that was unable to do an emergency blow and return to the surface due to a pipe failure. The entire crew was lost and still rests at the bottom of the ocean,” said Chief Machinist’s Mate Nick Donahue, the assistant quality assurance officer aboard TR. “Those examples are why we do what we do.”

QA works with every department, from Air to Reactor, inspecting every system. If a system fails the check, QA works with that department to fix the discrepancy.

“We worked closely with Engineering Department’s repair division to perform over 90 welds a week in preparation for [the Board of Inspection and Survey],” said Swarringim. “We checked 80-90% of those welds to make sure they were done to the ship’s drawing specifications.”

Swarringim and Donahue are constantly training new Sailors working toward the QA craftsman qualification, one of three requirements to perform maintenance aboard the ship.

“We take a lot of pride in our work. You can see it not only in the 6 by 9 foot American flag we have painted in our office, but by the level of dedication that we have to ensure the systems on this boat are up to the highest possible standard of quality,” said Donahue. “I absolutely love this job. I was hand-picked to do this job and I can say without a doubt that my next job will be this. It gives me great satisfaction knowing I am directly affecting the safety of my fellow shipmates and the safe operation of all shipboard materials.”

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Heath Zeigler, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs

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