Crew members of the aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) participated in two in-port emergency team (IET) training evolutions on Oct. 24 and 26, to build teamwork and cultivate best practices across ship platforms and in collaboration with the Naval Station Norfolk base fire department.
“This has been a big joint effort,” said Lt. Cmdr. Brandon Summers, the damage control assistant on board the John C. Stennis. “The training required coordination between not only us, but the USS Gerald R. Ford and the base fire department. It’s basically what we call ‘game time,’ it’s a chance for the [Sailors] to show what they worked and trained so hard for.”
The IET training focused on integrating members from both Stennis and Ford during a casualty situation, Structured to help Sailors from both ships better understand the process and necessity of teamwork in a high-pressure environment.
“The purpose of this drill was to increase our proficiency in reacting to a casualty while also fine-tuning procedures for requesting and integrating assistance from outside the skin of the ship,” said Summers.
The integration of the two ships’ fire teams with one another and with base firefighters reflects what would occur during a real-life casualty, and greatly benefits the Sailors’ by adding an extra layer of realism into the training scenario.
“It’s key for our teams to learn how to interact with one another in the event of a major casualty,” said Lt. Cmdr. Tabitha Edwards, Ford’s damage control assistant. “Practice makes perfect, and the more we train, the more we will know how to respond in the event of an actual casualty when providing or receiving assistance.”
The drill mirrors the emergency response efforts seen on board the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) in July of this year, when fire broke out on the ship while pier-side at Naval Station North Island. The tragic fire underscored the ability of sailors from as many as 13 ships and base personnel to adapt to situations rapidly and to work together as a team with a common goal to fight fires.
“We have never practiced a large-scale firefighting drill like this with other ships supplying all the gear and the Sailors we need to back in the space to fight,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Andrew Woods, Stennis’ fire marshal. “That’s why we are integrating carrier teams, and then from here it’s probably going to evolve where small ships will support carriers, and carriers will support smaller ships.”
Casualties often happen during least expected times. By participating in integrated training evolutions, participants can help identify the hazardous variables before a casualty occurs and then after reviewing the damage, previously unforeseen causes and effects become recognizable.
“Integrated training allows us the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Shannon Foster, Ford’s fire marshall. “We need to take time to slow down, ask questions, and figure out where we went wrong because in an actual casualty there is no reset button.”
Summers added, “It’s important that Sailors participate in this drill because this is their home and thoughtful, aggressive training reflects ownership. The famous quote is to ‘fight like we train,’ so if we train hard, when it’s time to actually get in the fight, we will be ready to go.”
John C. Stennis is partnering with Newport News Shipbuilding to complete the aircraft carrier’s refueling complex overhaul on schedule with a trained, resilient and cohesive crew. Gerald R. Ford is conducting an 18-month post-delivery test and trials phase of operations.