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    Damage Control: The Crew’s Responsibility

    Imagine it’s two in the morning and you are fast asleep, exploring the depths of your mind when you hear a loud crash that abruptly awakens as you as you’re tossed across your rack. As you regain your awareness, you hear faint shouting in the distance and smell smoke in the air. A piercing sound of bells screams over the announcement system throughout the berthing area you share with 65 to 70 of your fellow Sailors.

    “GENERAL QUARTERS, GENERAL QUARTERS! ALL HANDS, MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS.”

    You jump out of your rack into a foot of salt water on the deck that sends chills through your body. Your senses are heightened and adrenaline is speeding through your veins as you reach for your uniform and boots in the dark.

    It’s time to fight the ship. You’ve spent your entire career training for this. Whether you’ve been in for 20 years or 20 days, you have a job to do.

    Damage control in the U.S. Navy is a systematic concept of training and executing pre-planned responses to casualties aboard Navy vessels. Damage control is unique in that it’s not just the responsibility of a single division or department, but of an entire crew.

    Lt. Kristin Rovito, from Virginia Beach, Virginia, Damage Control Assistant (DCA) aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance, shared her thoughts about damage control.

    “The best advice I have for Sailors reporting to Spruance or any ship for that matter is, whether or not you’re a Damage Controlman, it doesn’t matter,” said Rovito. “Damage control is everybody’s responsibility. If something happens, we are the fire department. We are the plumbers. We are the people making sure that things get fixed.”

    In the last few years there have been a few mishaps involving U.S. Navy ships that required all-hands efforts to contain damage control casualties. Damage Controlman 1st Class Vincent Vargas, from Fresno, California, a Damage Control Training Team (DCTT) member aboard USS Spruance, expressed the reality of damage control relying on all-hands participation.

    “If we go down, the ship can’t stop the fight,” said Vargas. “Someone else has to step up to fill that void and take over those responsibilities. That is the only way we’re going to get home safe.”

    On any Navy ship, the DCTT is a group of Sailors with extensive knowledge in combatting damage control casualties, and they share that knowledge with the crew. It is DCTT’s responsibility to ensure all Sailors onboard have completed required training and are confident in their ability to respond to real world casualties with the correct equipment to keep the ship in the fight.

    “It’s important for all Sailors on Spruance to be cross-trained and proficient in all aspects of damage control,” said Vargas. “It is my responsibility, as well as DCTT’s, to ensure that knowledge, training and experience is passed along to the crew. When we drill, we put our Sailors in a variety of realistic damage control scenarios that are designed to test them and build confidence in their equipment, their training and their shipmates.”

    The DCTT frequently publishes drill packages to test the crew’s ability to respond to simulated real world casualties such as flooding, firefighting, structural damage and toxic gas. Vargas explained that DCTT training is designed to test and stress the entire ship’s crew.

    “We are on a warship so there is inherent danger to that,” said Vargas. “When we deploy, we deploy to some of the most dangerous regions on the planet. We will more than likely be placed in harm’s way. We have an obligation to the crew to ensure that they are well trained, knowledgeable and confident in combatting a damage control casualty.”

    Lt. Rovito expanded upon what goes into putting together a damage control training drill package.

    “A ton of planning goes into creating any damage control evolution that we do onboard,” said Rovito. “We spend hours writing drill packages, walking spaces, making sure that any kind of isolations we might have in a drill does not affect the real world operations while training, making sure that the spaces are safe for us to be doing the training in, and ensuring everything is set up properly to conduct valuable training for the crew.”

    While a lot of pressure is placed on the DCA and the DCTT to ensure the crew is ready to preserve the ship, when it’s all said and done, the task at hand is to go over the horizon and complete the mission.

    “It’s truly an awesome responsibility, but at the end of the day it’s about getting this ship and her crew back home, safe and in one piece,” said Vargas.

    Spruance is underway conducting operations in international waters as part of a dual carrier strike force exercise. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Pacific region routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional security, stability and prosperity.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 12.04.2018
    Date Posted: 12.07.2018 05:15
    Story ID: 302537
    Location: PHILIPPINE SEA

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