USS Nitze's Damage Control Program Gets a Makeover

Story Number: NNS111213-05Release Date: 12/13/2011 1:14:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman, USS Enterprise Public Affairs

USS NITZE, At Sea (NNS) -- Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) put its new damage control program to the test while underway Dec. 9.

Nitze recently adjusted its damage control program in an effort to better fight the ship in a multi-mission environment.

With the implementation of the Rapid Response and Isolation (RRI) team, Nitze is innovating the way their Sailors respond to damage, to any part of the ship, while the ship is performing any of its myriad missions.

"With the increase in multi-warfare platforms and technology and decrease in personnel, reorganizing the remaining Sailors to complete missions of increasing complexity is key to success," said Cmdr. Christopher Nerad, Nitze commanding officer. "Nitze Sailors are now functionally aligned to fight the ship and to save the ship. This organizational approach maximizes both combat readiness and our ability to sustain operations when deployed."

Sailors on the RRI team are distinguishable by their red coveralls, setting them apart as personnel whose primary responsibility is the combating of fires, toxic gas and hull damage, which could occur at any time.

"On other ships, when a casualty is called away, sometimes Sailors may be delayed while waiting for watch relief for whatever station they may be at," said Lt. j.g. Dirk Wooten, the damage control assistant aboard Nitze. "Using our method, the only other watch a Sailor on the Rapid Response and Isolation team might be standing would be an under instruction watch, meaning they can report to the assigned repair locker immediately and not have to wait for someone else to take over that station."

The primary team is made up of Sailors with a higher level of damage control training and experience. They are the first to respond to any casualty that may be called away. These Sailors are constantly on standby to fight the ship, making damage control readiness their watch station.

If the initial response team cannot combat the problem on their own, one of three specialized and functionally aligned "attack" teams will be called in to assist. Attack team alpha specializes in fighting fires, while team bravo responds to hull damage, from flooding to burst pipes, and team charlie is responsible for crash and salvage on the flight deck, as well as toxic gas leaks. Attack team bravo is also the primary rescue and assistance crew.

"Normally, Sailors assigned to a certain repair locker will respond to any type of casualty that occurs as long as it happens in the area assigned to that locker," said Wooten. "We have teams that cover the entire ship, but only respond to their team's assigned casualty type."

Organizing Sailors with this method leaves plenty of time to train the Rapid Response and Isolation team for all possible variables, while leaving the rest of the ship with an adequate number of Sailors to maintain a three-section watch rotation.

"As far as I know, we're the only ship that has our watchbills set up to the point that we can run full damage control drills during other major evolutions, like a replenishment at sea," said Damage Controlman 1st Class John Pogue, the Damage Control Training Team (DCTT) coordinator.

The RRI team keeps the ship from going to general quarters for anything less than a simulated combat emergency with multiple casualties, or a situation determined by the commanding officer. The DCTT runs multiple casualty exercises daily to keep the RRI and attack teams prepared to work together and, ultimately, discover the best way for all teams to repair any casualties as a cohesive unit.

"We've been using this system for around six to eight months, and after we started getting the initial kinks worked out, we're seeing a big improvement in our abilities to maintain the ship," said Pogue. "I wouldn't be surprised at all to see this type of damage control organization get picked up by the rest of the Navy."

Nitze is currently underway preparing for an upcoming scheduled deployment as part of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility.

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