USS JOHN F. KENNEDY, At Sea (NNS) -- The Navy is known for its numerous uniforms, which like the styles in Paris, change with the season. Ceremonial, functional or flame retardant, these uniforms often represent the wearer's task at hand. For members of USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) At-Sea Fire Party (ASFP), the change in wardrobe makes more than a fashion statement, it makes a safety statement.
Kennedy's Fire Marshal, CWO2 John Shortall, recently gave his fire party members a new look: bright red coveralls. These coveralls, he said, provide the ASFP numerous benefits, including safety, comfort and a recognition which could save lives.
"Whenever there is a casualty, security members restrict access to the area," he explained. "The fire party needs to be easily identified so they can get through a secured area."
Until recently, the ASFP wore red hats to set themselves apart from Sailors who are not responding to a casualty. However, during flight operations these hats become a safety and potential foreign object damage (FOD) hazard.
Shortall said the Navy has authorized red coveralls for approximately 10 years. While this isn't a requirement for fire parties, he decided it was an item the ASFP deserved.
"A few months ago, I saw a photo in All Hands magazine of a fire party in red coveralls carrying an American flag with members of the Fire Department of New York," he said. "I decided then we were going to get the coveralls. It's not just practical; it's a pride thing. They wanted something to help them stand out."
The benefits of the coveralls are numerous, according to Damage Controlman 3rd class (SW) Matthew Overacker, one of 19 fire party members. While pride is a motivator for wearing the new coveralls, practicality is paramount.
"We stand out now," he explained. "Before, when the alarm sounded, we would be running through the passageway with blue coveralls. Now, when the bells ring, there are red coveralls, signifying the At-Sea Fire Party. When people see us coming, they get out of our way."
The safety benefits of wearing the new uniform are sizeable. Damage Controlman 2nd Class (SW/AW) John Restrepo sees the new addition to his wardrobe as a way of keeping himself, and the fire party members, safe.
"The blue coveralls aren't fire retardant," Restrepo said. "The red ones are made of the same type of material as our flash hoods. The material helps keep us safe."
Along with the material, there are other safety features included in the design of the coveralls: No belt loops, effortless to put on in an emergency and the legs fit easily over boots.
Overacker noted the comfort features as they apply to the different types of fires to which the fire party responds.
"For a class bravo fire, we wear a Fire Fighting Ensemble (FFE)," he said. "When fighting a class bravo fire, the red coveralls are more comfortable to wear, especially under the FFE. They keep us cooler better than the blue ones."
Overacker added the new coveralls assist with class alpha and class charlie fires as well. The fire party wears an Oxygen Breathing Apparatus (OBA) and rolls down their sleeves to get into battle dress for those particular emergencies. For this, the fire retardant material is a plus.
When the bells ring, signifying an emergency, crewmembers know to stand aside and let Kennedy's fire department go to work. With the red coveralls, the At-Sea Fire Party can easily be identified in a crowded passageway. For these brave Sailors, security holds open the door.
For more information on USS John F. Kennedy, go to www.navy.mil/homepages/cv67.