USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) conducted an all-hands man overboard drill Aug. 23.
During man overboard drills, departments assemble their personnel while George Washington's deck department conducts a search-and-rescue drill to ensure their Sailors develop timely, safe and efficient training in the event of a real scenario.
The drill begins with the ship's intercom system giving five whistles and the announcer repeating "man overboard". From there, personnel muster with their respective department to ensure all personnel are accounted for. All departments are required to have an accurate muster of their people within a 15-minute time frame; this allows the ship's leadership to decide if they need to deploy additional man-overboard measures.
"It's important to muster face-to-face with your department," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Rashawn Williams. "It is the only way to ensure everyone is aboard the ship and not lost at sea."
While Sailors are making their way to their offices to account for their whereabouts, the deck department calls all hands to the starboard davit to launch a rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) for a search and rescue operation.
Before the launch, the entire deck department has a role to fill to ensure that the RHIB is safely launched. Line handlers stand by while a full crew enters the RHIB and prepare for launch. A full crew consists of a coxswain, who is in charge of driving the RHIB; a boat officer, who is in charge of communicating with George Washington; an engineer, who ensures the RHIB is running properly; a Bow Hook, who searches for the victim; and a search-and-rescue swimmer (SAR), who is in charge of swimming into the ocean to save the man in the water.
"The training is paramount because we are the first line of defense if one goes overboard," said Williams. "We try to make it less than 12 minutes because anything after that is not good. You have to be well-trained because you don't want to be a casualty yourself."
Once the team is ready, the davit operator lifts the RHIB while line handlers ensure the RHIB makes a safe landing on the water. The RHIB must be in the water under four minutes and the man overboard must be recovered in less than 12 minutes.
"It is one of the exercises that relies heavily on time and efficiency," said Seaman Jerry Thompson. "If someone goes overboard, they want to get picked up as fast as possible."
Once the announcement is made, Sailors must be prepared to give a helping hand at a moment's notice.
"I'm not always ready, but a sense of urgency and staying calm and collected is important," said Seaman Kyle Whited, a qualified SAR swimmer. "If no one is ready, things can get worse."
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