ABOARD USS FRANK CABLE (NNS) -- Water can shape mountains, carve valleys and transform earth. But when it heats up, it takes on another role aboard USS Frank Cable (AS 40). The water becomes steam, which in turn becomes the way the ship moves from pierside to alongside other Navy vessels, accomplishing the Guam-based submarine tender's mission.
The Sailors in charge of producing and managing this steam, work deep in the hottest part of the ship. Once called boiler technicians (BT), the rate has since diversified, joining the ranks of the machinist's mates.
"I was a BT before the merger," said Machinist's Mate 1st Class (SW/AW) Ed Menezes. "I'm still a BT at heart, but I think it's good for everyone to cross-train."
Menezes works as an "Oil King" in the ship's oil lab. Since the boilers that produce the steam require a particular fuel mix, it's Menezes' job as the Oil King to ensure the boilers only get the best fuel to burn and water to turn to steam.
"Chemistry is what we do," he said. "We make sure the water is in standards to prevent corrosion and ...damage to the ship."
The oil lab also manages the ship's potable water, as well as controlling and distributing the 1.8 million gallons of fuel aboard the ship.
Once the fuel and water are deemed fit for use, the process of integrating them into the system begins, with the crucial first step of lighting off the boilers. This is a hazardous job, according to Engineman 3rd Class Graeme Oxley.
"There's at least 25 known casualties that can happen during the light-off process," he said. "That's why we have our people observe each step of the process four times before we let them take over.
"The hardest part of it is repeating back the string of commands," Oxley added. "The steps are routine, but it's just repeating back everything he says."
Oxley has helped light the boilers nine times.
"We usually run only one boiler during drills, for safety. So afterwards, we light them up again," he said.
From start to finish, the steam cycle aboard the sub-tender is an event that requires cooperation from all levels of engineering. The light-off is one example of the teamwork displayed aboard the ship. During the operation, members from different rates all chip in to make sure the job is done safely.
"We're here to help out our shipmates," said Oxley. "It's good cross-training for everyone, and it's good to be able to help fill in the gaps."
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