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    Engine room crew keeps ship's 'heart' beating

    Engine room crew keeps ship's 'heart' beating

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Jon Soles | Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremy Shobe, a marine warrant engineer officer assigned to...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Jon Soles 

    210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    ATLANTIC OCEAN - The engine room of the Maj. Gen. Robert Smalls, a U.S. Army Logistics Support Vessel 8, is a place of noisy machinery, the pungent smell of oil and diesel fuel fills the air and no natural light filters in from outside, but it's the heartbeat and lifeblood of the ship making critical Army logistical missions possible.

    Recently the Maj. Gen. Robert Smalls and its crew from the 203rd Transportation Detachment, 359th Transportation Battalion, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command set sail from its home port in Curtis Bay, Maryland, to provide crucial sea transport capability for equipment being moved as part of the 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) exercise Nationwide Move 15.

    Nationwide Move 15 is an annual Army Reserve approved functional training exercise designed to provide Reserve Component transportation units with valuable, realistic training, by conducting real-world operations in support of Continental United States (CONUS) activities.

    The ship moved vehicles from Bayonne, New Jersey, to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in support of the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New Jersey Army National Guard.

    Before the Smalls sailed, the watercraft engineers in charge of operating and maintaining the ship's power plant were working in the depths of the 318-foot long ship, preparing the vessel to sail. In the Enclosed Operating Space (EOS), a small control room located aft between the engines and the ship's rudders, the marine engineer officer on duty and crews of junior enlisted Soldiers constantly monitor an array of gauges and computer displays monitoring the ship's systems. The job involves analyzing the information to evaluate the ship's performance.

    "We have to watch alarms and look for trends to see what could go wrong," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Richard Conklin, a marine engineer officer assigned to the 203rd Trans. Det., and native of Emmitsburg, Maryland, "We check what has happened since the last watch, what has changed and what is running different and if a piece of equipment is not operating properly, we go through the troubleshooting process."

    Twin 16-cylinder, 2,260 horsepower diesel engines turn the ship's propellers, producing a low roar that can be heard and felt everywhere on the ship. The powerful engines are so loud, hearing protection is required when working in the engine room outside the walls of the EOS.
    Engine room operations are complex and involve technical know-how and the ability to anticipate and remedy problems. In order for Soldiers to improve these skills, they have to sail, Conklin said.

    “When we go down water and sail, we run our machinery and get our skill level to where it needs to be," said Conklin. "It's good to get the junior Soldiers out to sea so they can maintain their skills."

    Junior enlisted Soldiers constantly monitor the engines, pumps, fuel-oil mix, coolant systems, fluid levels, ballast tanks, temperature and pressure gauges. The machinery has to be monitored all the time so the Soldiers can stay ahead of any mechanical breakdowns. It is a good place for Soldiers who have an aptitude for repairing things.

    “I guess I like the feeling of accomplishment when I troubleshoot and solve a problem," said Spc. Edwin Olegario, a watercraft engineer from Virginia Beach, Virginia, assigned to the 203rd Trans. Det. “I’m always trying to fix things and figure out how things work.”

    Instead of monthly battle assemblies, the 203rd Trans. Det. meets quarterly for longer battle assemblies that allow time to sail. The recent mission is one of the unit's longest trips outside of annual training.

    "It's always good for us to get on the ship and set sail, because it allows us to conduct hands-on training and keep our skills sharp," said Spc. Annette Darcy, a watercraft engineer from Columbia, Maryland, assigned to the 203rd Transportation Company, 359th Transportation Battalion, 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary),
    In addition to the engine room, the watercraft engineers are responsible for the maintaining the heating and air conditioning systems, galley refrigerators, plumbing and various other systems. Some of those systems include; the freshwater generator, sewage treatment system and air compressors.

    Conklin said maintaining the ship is a full-time job. Contractors help maintain the ship when it is in port, but at sea when the ship may be miles offshore, the Soldiers of the 203rd have to be entirely self-sufficient.

    The Soldiers must be able to keep it going with the parts, tools and technical knowledge onboard and conducting exercises like this one ensures they maintain those skills and knowledge.

    "If something happens we go through the technical manuals and troubleshoot," Conklin said. "We can’t do everything, but we have the capabilities to do just about anything when it comes to repair at sea.”

    The engine room includes a machine shop and tools where parts can be made or repaired. Engineers can replace the ship's turbochargers or pistons at sea. Conklin said on-the-job experience is the best way to learn.

    "We learn the basics and overall theory of operations in school," Conklin said. "But there is no better teacher than having to take something apart and put it back together."

    The few days at sea helped the Soldiers keep their skills and expertise ready for any mission that comes their way and it also helped keep the ships “heartbeat” beating strong and fast.



    Date Taken: 05.09.2015
    Date Posted: 05.27.2015 10:12
    Story ID: 164639
    Location: CURTIS BAY, NJ, US
    Hometown: COLUMBIA, MD, US
    Hometown: EMMITSBURG, MD, US
    Hometown: VIRGINIA BEACH, VA, US

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