Sailors of FMB Norfolk
By Brian McNeal, Norfolk Naval Shipyard Public Affairs
In motor sports the difference between winning and losing can often come down to the pit crew. A team
of specialized individuals who hop the rail to perform critical service to get the car back in the race. No
matter how good the driver; no matter how well-constructed the car; if the pit crew doesn’t do their job
quickly, safely and correctly - the checkered flag will be waving for another racer.
Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) has its own pit crew, the Fleet Maintenance Submarines (FMB)
department. FMB performs both scheduled maintenance and emergent repairs of submarines nominally in
35 days or less, which compared to maintenance periods that can last over two-years, is similar to a pit
stop. Most of the work is performed onboard operational submarines pier-side at Naval Station Norfolk,
but FMB will travel to foreign ports to accomplish its mission. Typical repairs include sail mast and
antenna restoration and repair, machinery and mechanical system repairs (pumps, motors, valves), combat
system repairs (torpedo tubes, missile tubes, sensing systems), and diver components (ballast tank, hull
appendages and shaft/screw). In the business of repairing submarines, FMB is the proverbial “tip of the
One of the aspects which makes NNSY FMB unique is the composition and integration of the workforce.
“FMB is fully integrated military/civilian. Part of our charter as an Intermediate Level (I-Level)
organization is to train Sailors in maintenance who will then return to the Fleet, more knowledgeable of
ship repair and capable of conducting repairs,” said Repair Officer Cmdr. Kai Torkelson. “The
military/civilian combination at FMB is essential to that charter, as the Sailors work directly with skilled
artisan experts of the NNSY FMB civilian workforce.”
The relationship between civilians and Sailors has allowed FMB to operate at a very high tempo as they
have completed 93 availabilities since August 2010 with a 98 percent on-time completion rate. “Recently
we also completed the USS Helena (SSN 725) Drain Pump replacement, an emergent job just prior to her
deployment, led by Shop 38, in only 12 days, well within the scheduled loadout period for the ship. This
is a first time accomplishment for NNSY FMB since MARMC/FMB merged into NNSY in 2008. This
12-day timeline is a significant achievement, previously thought unachievable, and only possible through
the hard work of the NNSY FMB team,” said Torkelson.
Other recent successes at FMB include an extensive Auxiliary Seawater acid flush procedure on USS
Scranton (SSN 756), completion of Normal Fuel Oil tank inspections and repairs on USS Boise (SSN
764) normally conducted in dry dock which avoided more than $30 million in contracted cost to the
Navy, the transition from Advanced Industrial Management Express to AIM to be in better alignment
with other NNSY projects, and the piloting of WEBAIM in an I-Level work environment which is still
being evaluated but an important step to determine the feasibility of this management tool.