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USS Carney Emphasizes Damage Control Training
“Major fuel-oil leak! Major fuel-oil leak! Major fuel-oil leak reported in main engine room number one. Set Condition II DC; man all repair lockers.”
The ominous bells ring out over the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney’s (DDG 64) announcing system as Sailors move with a purpose to their assigned stations and prepare to combat this critical ship-board casualty.
The mood, while serious, isn’t as tense as one would expect. Roaming around are Sailors wearing special ball caps for the Damage Control Training Team, also known as DCTT. They are trainers and facilitators and this is all a drill.
The DCTT aboard Carney is made up of experienced Sailors who coordinate and evaluate damage control drills in order to ensure the crew maintains optimal battle readiness. They ensure Sailors know what they need to do if the ship suffers heavy damage — damage that could threaten Sailors’ lives.
For Damage Controlman 1st Class Aaron Bean, the DCTT coordinator, this is serious business. He’s been in the Navy for nearly 15 years and in his tenure he’s fought numerous class ”charlie” fires in circuit breakers, toxic gas leaks, major flooding, and a fire in a JP-5 (jet fuel) pump room on an aircraft carrier.
He is experienced and shares his knowledge with all of Carney’s Sailors. On any given day when Carney is conducting damage control drills, you can see Bean on the deck plates with a headset, a radio and of course a DCTT ball cap. He mentors and monitors Sailors in a variety of scenarios designed to keep the crew ready to fight any casualty that may arise.
“You can’t fight the ship if the ship fights you,” said Bean. “This happens on a ship, whether you like it or not, whether we’re in a hostile environment or not. When you have someone who’s experienced with these sorts of casualties, it is your duty to lead from the front.”
DCTT is not limited to damage controlmen or engineers. Navy Counselor 1st Class Charles Winter is a former Hospital Corpsman and has served for 11 years. His job on the DCTT is to accompany investigators as they search for damage and ensure a safe perimeter, or fire boundary, is set and maintained around the casualty.
Winter stresses that DCTT ensures the ship’s crew is ready to fight. Without the constant damage control training, skills become rusty and new Sailors might not know what to do if an actual casualty occurs.
“If we’re lackadaisical with the training, a Sailor can overlook a boundary; or as an investigator, damage can go unnoticed. That could ultimately cause severe, if not fatal, damage to the ship,” said Winter. “During casualties, it’s apparent that the training that we do every day contributes to effective mitigation of damage, and can prevent loss of life. The training may seem tedious at times, but you can’t argue with results.”
Carney is forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, and is currently on patrol in the U.S. 6th fleet area of operations. As a forward-deployed ship, Carney has patrolled from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, and has participated in numerous exercises and training events with NATO and regional allies. Last April, the ship and crew participated in Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) with the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy.
FOST provides participants with realistic and rigorous training across all warfare disciplines.
For Carney, FOST provided fully integrated scenarios with a heavy emphasis on damage control.
Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Timothy Walleck, a damage control investigator, said FOST was challenging and brought a sense of real-life danger into a training environment that most people have never seen.
“FOST told us, ‘this is what you can expect,” said Walleck. “If there was flooding, then you would have to patch a pipe or plug a hole. You would go into a space and it’s completely smoked out and dark and you couldn’t even see the person in front of you. I recommend the training for everybody.”
Walleck is a member of Carney’s at-sea fire party, the ship’s first responders. According to Walleck, damage control should be second nature to any ship-board Sailor.
“You never know what’s going to happen, where it’s going to happen or when,” said Walleck. “Every Sailor needs to know how to respond accordingly. This ship is our home when we’re underway. We eat, work, and sleep here. We are trained to defend it, and defend it we will.”