CARIBBEAN SEA (NNS) -- Aboard any Navy ship, one of the most important skills that all Sailors must learn is damage control in case of an emergency. To that end, USS Wasp's (LHD 1) Damage Control Academy (DCA) teaches the methods that lead to success in the fight against potential catastrophe.
"Our purpose is to give crew members a general knowledge of damage control so that they will be able to fight fires and other hazards without getting hurt," said Damage Controlman 3rd Class (SW) Samuel Moore, one of DCA's instructors. "We also give them a general knowledge of the ship as a whole."
Sailors who complete Wasp's command indoctrination program are generally sent to the academy the following week, which both officers and enlisted personnel attend. The class is five days and includes classroom instruction and hands-on practice, such as donning a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). It concludes with students taking a 50-question test on which they must score an 80 percent or above to pass the course. Once minimum requirements are met, the Sailor becomes basic damage control qualified, and is eligible to fight casualties aboard the ship.
"We teach basic firefighting skills, such as how to properly wear an SCBA, as well as survival skills if you are caught up in an emergency," Moore explained. "These skills allow you to become more well-rounded as a Sailor and better able to take care of the ship and its equipment."
Although Wasp's damage control team members respond to emergencies first, one of the purposes of DCA is to train the rest of the crew to be able to provide adequate back-up.
"If an emergency happens and you dial 9-1-1, we're the ones who respond," said Damage Controlman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Adrian Edwards, Wasp's DC office work center supervisor. "But we also train the rest of the crew to fight fires because there's always the chance that we could be incapacitated in some way."
One of the most important skills taught at DC Academy is how to don emergency protective gear because it could mean the difference between life and death, Edwards explained.
"If we come under enemy attack, and you don't know how to put on an SCBA or emergency escape breathing device, you could get killed," he said.
Edwards cited the example of the terrorist attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) in 2000, in which the damage control training of the crew allowed them to prevent the ship from sinking, as a perfect example of why the kind of training provided by DCA is essential in today's Navy.
"People like me are specially trained in damage control, but we can't do it by ourselves," he said. "Like they say, you either 'learn or burn.'"
For more news from USS Wasp (LHD 1), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd1/.