NORFOLK, Va, (NNS) -- “The thing that I fear most is writing paperwork that says somebody couldn’t come home,” said Damage Controlman 2nd Class Jocelyne Terrado. “We go in thinking, ‘We’re all going to come out, it’s just like the drills,’ but in reality, it’s not always like that. That’s my biggest fear: not seeing everybody at muster the next day.”
Terrado is a duty fire marshal aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Her job requires her to be one of the first responders to any kind of emergency onboard the ship, from a burst pipe to a blazing fire. One of the ways she does this is by leading the ship’s In-Port Emergency Team (IET).
“The team consists of a bunch of different people from all sorts of rates coming together,” Terrado said. “It’s organized chaos! Everybody knows their roles and responsibilities from the time they join the team.”
Terrado explained that IET is the ship’s first line of defense against casualties while in port - and they take their job seriously.
“In an actual emergency, we man repair lockers, we combat the casualty, and the duty section musters in case we need any extra bodies,” she said. “We train every duty day.”
Terrado noted that although the team is made up of many Sailors individually assigned to different departments, they are all qualified and tasked with the same responsibilities as rated damage controlmen.
“Since it’s not their regular day-to-day job, it’s really good for them to get hands-on and in the groove of things,” Terrado explained. “It gets them out of their comfort zones, but in a good way.”
Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Joshua Espinoza, an IET team leader, is all too familiar with being out of his comfort zone in the face of an emergency. As a new member of the team in 2016, Espinoza encountered his first actual casualty.
“We had just pulled into port, and a steam pipe in a locker overheated,” Espinoza recalled. “It got up to more than five-hundred degrees. The lagging, which is the protective coating on the pipe, caught on fire.”
Espinoza said he began to combat the fire as a boundaryman, tasked with keeping the flames from spreading. He said he was quickly, and unexpectedly, promoted on the spot.
“The team leader had to move up to fill another position, and ordered me to be the new team leader,” he said. “She asked me if I knew what I was doing, and in the back of my mind I thought, ‘Not at all,’ but I trusted my training and took charge of the team anyway.”
Espinoza said it was that moment of pressure, in the face of real danger, that proved to him just how instrumental IET can be.
“As we fought the fire, my training kicked in and I started to realize that I actually knew exactly what I was doing,” he said. “It took us three or four hours to fight that fire because of the re-flash, and by the end of it the space had about three or four inches of water on the deck. It was a rough night, but we got it done.”
In addition to his new understanding of IET, Espinoza said he learned more about himself from being under that kind of pressure.
“I’ve discovered that I’m a natural leader. I’ve gained some confidence in what I can do for the team, and I love to give training now,” Espinoza said. “It’s satisfying to know that I can put my trust in my fellow Sailors when we’re out to sea. I take pride in that.”
Chief Warrant Officer Tremayne Fredrick, the ship’s fire marshal, said he likes to instill confidence in his Sailors with a single phrase. “Love life; stay motivated,” he said with a smile. “I put my faith in my training petty officers, and they do the best they can.”
Fredrick echoed Espinoza’s sentiments about the responsibility that comes with being a member of IET.
“The bottom line is that I have no choice but to put my trust in them as a team,” Fredrick said. “We train like we fight. At the end of the day, as long as you have ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes and one nose, that’s a good day.”
Terrado agreed that the gravity of being a part of IET can be a lot to handle. As a duty fire marshal, her responsibilities put her shoulder to shoulder with Sailors who mostly outrank her. She said it can often be a daunting task.
“It’s very nerve-racking,” Terrado admitted. “I’m the only second-class that’s a qualified fire marshal. I’m up there with the big dogs, the khakis, the ones with the gold leaves and stuff like that. When I muster with the departmental duty officers, I look to my left and right and all I see is gold on their collars.”
Terrado said she’s developed a healthy outlook on taking a leadership position. For her, it’s about more than just doing her job.
“I’m proud of myself to have come this far, but I’m not done yet,” she exclaimed. “I have so much more to do and learn. I think that’s the most exciting part about this; you learn a lot more than you think you do. It’s fun!”
The same can be said for Espinoza, who has his own goals in mind.
“I hope people see that I take IET seriously and it inspires them to do the same,” Espinoza said. “It’s great to know the basics of damage control, and we get to really sharpen those skills on the team. Going forward, I see myself becoming a duty fire marshal. You never know what you’re going to learn on IET. I learn something new every time we train, and I love it.”
Harry S. Truman is currently moored at Naval Station Norfolk conducting targeted maintenance and training, and remains operationally ready.