Snellville native supports U.S. Navy shipyard surge as part of COVID-19 response

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By Rick Burke, Navy Office of Community Outreach

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – Petty Officer 2nd Class Amberia Simpson, a Snellville, Georgia native, is serving at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility as part of the largest mobilization of reservists in Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) history. The mobilization is tied directly to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Simpson is a 2005 Shiloh High School graduate, 2009 Columbus State University graduate and 2017 Purdue University graduate with master degrees in public health education.

She is one of the reserve sailors deployed to the Navy’s four public shipyards as part of the Surge Maintenance (SurgeMain) program. Established in 2005 to augment the Navy’s organic civilian shipyard workforce in times of need, SurgeMain has 2,200 enlisted reserve sailors and 240 reserve officers across 75 units.

“I’m doing what I signed up to do and standing in and working alongside active duty and civilian partners,” Simpson said.

Between mid-March and late June, up to 25 percent of the naval shipyards’ production workforce had been on administrative leave due to being at high risk for severe complications tied to the COVID-19 virus. As a result, the four shipyards collectively experienced schedule impacts for most of the ships and submarines undergoing maintenance.

This delayed maintenance work could result in delays to ship and submarine maintenance which could cause disruptions to the Navy’s deployment schedules and require ships and Sailors to remain forward-deployed for longer periods of time.

NAVSEA, the largest command within the Navy, oversees the construction, delivery and maintenance of all the Navy’s commissioned ships and operates four naval shipyards – Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, VA, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, ME, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, WA, and Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Honolulu, HI.

Workers at each of these shipyards perform a vital role in national defense by performing maintenance on ships, submarines and aircraft carriers required for combat-ready fleet forces.

“The four naval shipyards are critical to providing deployable, combat-ready warships for our Sailors and Marines,” said NAVSEA’s Commander Vice Adm. Bill Galinis.

“Augmenting our organic civilian workforce with SurgeMain Reservists allows us to address the maintenance challenges generated by the pandemic so we can return ships back to the Fleet.”

Simpson is a machinist’s mate responsible for the organization, repair and upkeep of shipyard machinery systems.

“I enjoy meeting different people and learning from them,” Simpson said.

According to Simpson, the values required to succeed in the Navy are similar to those found in Snellville.

“I learned to stay open-minded, to be ambitious and don’t be afraid to accomplish your goals,” Simpson said.

As a member of the U.S. Navy, Simpson, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance. Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who will follow.

“It makes me feel like I’m contributing to my country at a time when it’s most needed,” Simpson added. “It’s hard making sacrifices but they will pay off when it’s over.”

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