Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, cuts a ribbon with Sailors from the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during a ceremony to open the Navy’s newest auxiliary personnel lighter (APL) 68, Nov. 21, 2022. Truman Sailors will be the first to live and work aboard the barge, which will provide living space and berthing for the crew while the ship undergoes a planned maintenance availability. USFFC is responsible for manning, training, equipping and providing combat-ready forces forward to numbered fleets and combatant commanders around the globe. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Theodore Green)

Navy leadership celebrated two new additions to Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) with a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Navy’s newest barge, Auxiliary Personnel Lighter (APL) 68 as well as a new self-service Navy Exchange (NEX) Micro Mart, Nov. 21.

The facilities aim to provide better living accommodations and improve quality of service for Sailors stationed aboard ships during planned maintenance availabilities. Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, along with additional leadership from Fleet Forces, NNSY, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), and Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) attended the event and delivered remarks.

“Just as we’re committed to improving the quality and sustainability of our warships, we are equally committed to improving the quality of the barges that house the Sailors who live in them,” said Caudle. “And this is only the first of many, with more being constructed right now; a testament of our commitment to enhancing Sailors’ quality of life.”

APL 68 is the second in a new class of berthing barges set to replace the 27 legacy berthing barges that are reaching the end of their service lives. It has berthing for up to 609 personnel and messing facilities able to accommodate food service for 1,130 personnel to have three meals a day. It also features washrooms, classrooms, lounges, laundry facilities, offices, a barbershop, a fitness center and a medical facility. The barges provide a home away from home for crews of ships – particularly the duty section – while that ship is going through extensive maintenance.

USS Harry S. Truman Sailors will be the first to utilize APL 68. The ship will soon enter a planned maintenance period after returning from a nine-and-a-half-month deployment.

“The Navy has plans to build 12 barges for this new class and we’ve already taken delivery of our second, APL 70, which will be going into service this spring. The Navy also has plans to build 26 new medium sized berthing barges,” said Rear Adm. Bill Greene, Fleet Maintenance Officer, U.S. Fleet Forces Command. “These new barges are designed to support cruisers, destroyers, LPDs, and LSD amphibious ships, and submarines as they undergo depot level maintenance.”

As for the new NEX Micro Mart at NNSY, the facility officially opened to Sailors and shipyard workers in October and since then, roughly 1,100 people have passed through the doors. Not surprisingly, officials say coffee is the number one selling item.

“This Micro Mart is on its way to being one of the busiest in the world. We have 64 of these operating right now and this location is doing over 1,000 transactions a day. The important point is that it’s taking care of our Sailors and our civilian workforce team,” said Retired Rear Adm. Robert Bianchi, Chief Executive Officer, Naval Exchange Service Command. “This is a great day for all of us, because we’re focusing on quality of life and supporting our Sailors and civilians.”

The new Micro Mart operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week, using a self-checkout system and is within a few minutes’ walk of APL 68. It provides Sailors and shipyard workers healthy choice food items such as salads, fruit and snack options as well as hot and cold beverages, a variety of heat and serve meals and sandwiches. This Micro Mart was designed as a facility that will save people time and provide more options during work days and during transit to and from the shipyard.

In 2022, NEXCOM opened 10 new Micro Marts with plans for 20 more in the new future.