News: Cross-training, teamwork keep Independence engineers at full throttle
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh
USS Independence Public Affairs
USS INDEPENDENCE, At sea—With just 10 sailors in the engineering department aboard littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2) as the ship sails to its homeport of San Diego April 13, the ability to do almost any job in the department is not a option but a requirement.
Independence’s engineering department of 10 rivals those in ships of similar size, which often have up to 60 personnel running the ship’s engineering plant.
“It’s a challenge because if something breaks, it takes more than half of the department to fix it,” said Lt. Eric Busig, chief engineer for Independence’s Gold Crew. “With two engineers on watch, two writing the casualty report, two fixing the equipment, everyone in the department has to be ready to respond at all times.”
With a combined diesel and gas turbine propulsion system and two sailors manning watches that cover all the responsibilities of a junior officer of the deck (JOOD) and an engineering officer of the watch, being well versed across and outside of a sailor’s rate keeps the department alive, said Senior Chief Damage Controlman Elvis Diaz.
“You might see a Damage Controlman changing out reverse osmosis filters or an Engineman troubleshooting a gas turbine engine,” said Diaz. “Regardless of rate, you have to get the job done.”
Engineers aboard Independence stand two watches: readiness control officer (RCO) on the bridge, and engineering plant technician (EPT), which is a roving watch throughout the engineering plant.
Senior enlisted members of the engineering department attend an eight-week JOOD school to learn navigation and rules of the road to qualify as RCO, said Busig, a qualification not usually held by engineers. The RCO-candidate attends several more schools and vendor training to learn the engineering plant before even reporting aboard.
The EPT covers a job usually manned by multiple sailors including an auxiliaries system monitor, a sound and security monitor and a propulsion system monitor.
“On any other surface warship, engineers are isolated by their job,” said Busig. “But here, one person does it all. The EPT has to be well-versed in the all engines and has to be able to test water, change RO filters, and handle any kind of casualty by themselves, where normally you’d have a whole team there to respond.”
Another unique feature of the department, which benefits its reduced manpower and increases its efficiency, is the engineering control system (ECS) that allows remote operation of all the installed engineering equipment onboard.
“With ECS we have the power to remotely open or close any valve, start and stop an engine, and monitor all systems with just the click of a few buttons,” said Lt. Julio Alarcon, main propulsion assistant (MPA) for Independence’s Gold Crew. “The fully automated system really makes a difference when it comes to the small department we have.”
In terms of the ECS, the comparison between a destroyer, for example, and LCS is dramatic, said Busig, who served as the MPA on an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. With LCS being nearly fully automated, he can have one watchstander transfer fuel using a computer, whereas it would take four watchstanders on a destroyer.
Engineman 1st Class Richard Romero, engineering department’s leading petty officer, responsible for the operation and maintenance of most of the engineering equipment along with four command collateral duties, said the personnel he works beside are the reason the ship sails.
“We all know there are only 10 of us, so we all help each other when it’s needed,” said Romero. “Having sailors on board who know how to run a plant and know that teamwork is the only way to get it done makes all the difference.”
Sailors assigned to Independence’s Gold Crew and embarked Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Squadron, Detachment 1, are underway for the ship’s maiden voyage to San Diego after successfully completing testing on the MCM mission package.