USS Carl Vinson Steps the Mast in Solemn Ceremony

Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Invoking millennia of maritime and shipbuilding tradition, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), currently in drydock at Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard, stepped its new mast March 6 in a solemn ceremony on the flight deck. The ceremony involved a series of remarks by distinguished guests and culminated in the welding of a commemorative metal plaque to the base of the ship’s new mast.

Carl Vinson Commanding Officer Capt. Ted Carter led the ceremony, and introduced its distinguished participants during his opening remarks: Rear Adm. David Architzel, Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers; Ken Mahler, vice president for carrier overhauls at Northrop Grumman Newport News; and retired Capt. Richard Martin, Carl Vinson’s first commanding officer. Rear Adm. H. Denby Starling II, Commander Naval Air Forces, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and Capt. Mike McMahon, supervisor of shipbuilding (SUPSHIP), Newport News, were also in attendance, along with representatives from the staffs of the chief of naval operations and the commander U.S. Fleet Forces.

As Carter explained, the ceremonial placing of coins at the base of a ship’s mast is a practice that goes back to at least the ancient Romans. It was thought to bring good luck to a ship and her crew, and the Navy adopted the ceremony as part of its traditional shipbuilding practice. “We have reached another milestone; this is a dramatic and visible step for us,” said Architzel, highlighting the outstanding teamwork between the ship, Northrop Grumman, and SUPSHIP Newport News that has brought Carl Vinson successfully through the beginning stage of its overhaul. Reading from the foreword to the first Carl Vinson cruisebook, dating back to 1981, Martin highlighted the importance of teamwork and morale to the spirit of the ship. Martin commanded Carl Vinson during its original construction and is familiar with the challenges involved with putting the ship into operation following a lengthy yard period. “It’s the crew’s job,” he said, “to bring the ship out of the yards with the same kind of spirit that has been with it forever.”

The stepping ceremony marked the 27th anniversary of Carl Vinson’s original mast stepping. The commemorative plate installed in the mast was the original which was installed on March 6, 1980, and removed last year during the rip-out of mast equipment conducted in preparation for the installation of the new mast. The last section of the mast was installed Feb. 21, paving the way for its dedication in today’s stepping ceremony. Carl Vinson is currently undergoing its scheduled ongoing refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) at Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard. The RCOH is an extensive yard period that all Nimitz-class aircraft carriers go through near the midpoint of their 50-year life cycle. During RCOH, Carl Vinson’s nuclear fuel will be replenished and the ship’s services and infrastructure will be upgraded to make it the most state-of-the-art aircraft carrier in the fleet and prepare for another 25 years or more of service.

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