Always Ready: The Importance of Drills

Story Number: NNS190129-09Release Date: 1/29/2019 10:58:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Ferrero, USS George Washington Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Jan. 21, 2019) (NNS) -- We train like we fight, and a big part of that is training early and often for any and all casualties that could develop aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73).

To ensure the Spirit of Freedom crew is prepared for the worst case scenario, they participate in drills, which are designed to inform and test participants in real time.

“It is important for Sailors to participate in fire drills to gain experience, and that allows us to be prepared for the real deal,” said Damage Controlman 1st Class Mark Carroll, leading petty officer of the damage control division and duty fire marshal of duty section 10 aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). “The drills the ship’s fire marshal prepares allow us to prepare for any scenario that may arise. By running drills, this allows us to gain familiarity with the ship’s layout and equipment, and can give us a good understanding that causalities can happen anywhere at any time. Another benefit to doing drills is so we can become familiar with all damage control equipment, and be comfortable in its utilization. When the real deal happens, that practice allows us to use our equipment without skipping a beat.”

Drills are only simulations, but they can have a significant impact on Sailors when it comes to handling the real thing.

“Active shooter drills are imperative for our Sailors, not just security, but all hands,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Susan Olander, the training leading petty officer for the security department aboard George Washington. “As active shooters are more prominent, it is important for our response forces to be ready to handle any situation. We try to keep the drill scenarios as real as we can. By practicing plausible scenarios, it brings home the reality of just how fast any situation can become an active shooter situation.”

A simulated emergency may lack the urgency of a real one, but not taking drills seriously could have substantial consequences.

“If Sailors were not prepared for a real-life experience, it could potentially cause further damage to the ship because we would not be able to contain it properly,” said Carrol. “Also, by not being properly prepared, that could cause one of our Sailors to become injured by not following proper technique or procedure.”

Preparedness through drills could mean the difference between life and death.

“If Sailors weren't prepared to respond to active shooters, both response forces and ship's crew, they would find themselves essentially lost,” said Olander. “This decreases our ability to stop the threat quickly and increases the opportunity for catastrophe. Treat every scenario as real and respond as if it were the real thing. Not treating a drill as the real thing can dampen the effect. Therefore, our response forces will not treat the real event appropriately.”

By actively engaging, Sailors can get much more out of the experience.

“All Sailors need to do to get the most out of each drill is to actively participate,” said Carroll. “Staying motivated and engaged during the drills and asking questions to the leadership can allow everyone to have a good understanding of what's going on at all levels. A big important aspect that most Sailors probably do not hold in high regard is the drill debriefs with [Damage Control Training Team]. By listening to the drill debriefs, it can allow Sailors to understand how to improve their technique and procedures, and even gets tips on how to do something better. These drill debriefs can allow us to see what we need to improve on and if Sailors take these things to heart, it can allow them to grow in their respective positions and improve in all facets.”

Sailors can be proactive in keeping themselves ready for an emergency scenario.

“Active shooter training is conducted annually,” said Olander. “Paying attention to the material and stopping to think "what would I do?" is an excellent way to prepare yourself.  Always having an escape route, or quickly identifying potential weapons to defend yourself is an easy way to place yourself in the proper mindset.”

Carroll also agreed that taking initiative is the key to preparedness.

“Pay attention and actively seek out to improve,” said Carroll. “When a casualty happens onboard, it will not just be duty section’s problem; it is a USS George Washington problem, and it will take all hands effort to combat the casualty. Practice always makes perfect, and fire drills are the best way we can practice for the real deal.”

By actively and enthusiastically participating in drills, every Sailor is doing their part to be a member of a team that will serve and protect the ship, their shipmates, and themselves.


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