By Danna Eddy, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard public affairs officer
PORTSMOUTH NAVAL SHIPYARD, Maine — A 2009 Penquis Valley High School graduate and native of Brownville Junction is serving at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine, 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.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Bruce Benoit 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.
“Serving my country through SurgeMain and during the time of COVID-19 is rewarding for me,” Benoit said. “I know I am needed here at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and am capable to do the job set before me.”
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, Virginia, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Washington and Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Honolulu, Hawaii. 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.”
Benoit is an electrician’s mate responsible for building and repairing fiber optic hull fittings for the boats out of the electronics shop in the Antenna Restoration Facility.
“I enjoy getting to put my hands on something not many people would be able to see,” Benoit said.
According to Benoit, the values required to succeed in the Navy are similar to those found in Brownville Junction.
“I grew up working for what I wanted,” Benoit said. “I’ve developed a good work ethic from family and friends in my hometown. ‘Never say you can’t do something’ are words instilled in me.”
As a member of the U.S. Navy, Benoit, 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.
“To be mobilized right now tells me our workforce is being met by ready hands and minds, not just my own, but also those of my fellow sailors,” Benoit added. “I’m proud to know our fleet will stay ready in even the hardest of times.”