Muscle Memory: The Importance of General Quarters

Story Number: NNS161028-16Release Date: 10/28/2016 11:22:00 AM
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By Seaman Jake Stanley, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Public Affairs

Arabian Gulf (NNS) -- Aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike), general quarters (GQ) training is held every two weeks to ensure mission readiness in the event of a casualty scenario, and it all begins with putting the ship in the safest material condition possible.

"In GQ we completely batten down the ship," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Richard Armstrong, Ike's fire marshal. "We want to give the ship as much protection as we can against any possible threat to prevent the spread of smoke, fire, flooding and chemical agents."

During the GQ scenarios, mock missiles are often fired upon the ship to simulate an attack. Firefighting, desmoking, flooding control, shoring, pipe patching and medical emergency response teams are mobilized and sent across the ship to combat the casualties and render medical attention to injured Sailors. The goal is to simulate an actual attack that might occur during normal operations and make the situation as realistic as possible.

"While it technically isn't everyone's job, every Sailor aboard a U.S. Navy ship is a damage controlman," Armstrong said. "When the bells ring, it's all hands on deck." Chief Will Merchen, the Damage Control division leading chief petty officer, entered the Navy in 1999 and knows first-hand how important it is to be prepared to fight the ship.

"The training that we do gives everyone that unconscious response that we need to make sure they get into the right place with the right tools and aligned with the right people to get the job done," said Merchen, who was stationed aboard USS Cole (DDG 67) during the October 12, 2000, terrorist attack that killed 17 Sailors. "When things are really bad and people are hurt or killed, the brain doesn't do a lot of thinking. It is reacting one way or another. Fight or flight."

While Armstrong and Merchen are overseeing the entire GQ, Sailors such as Petty Officer Second Class Enoch Moffett, scene leader for repair locker 1B, are charged with managing the small teams who combat casualties.

"Being a scene leader in GQ is like being a player in a game of chess," Moffett said. "We are responsible for moving each individual piece to make sure that we win the game."

As with any evolution, practice and repetition are keys to success. GQ is held repeatedly and with different categories of casualties thrown into the mix that test a Sailors instincts and memory under various circumstances.

"The importance of these drills is muscle memory," Armstrong said. "The more we practice having certain casualties, the more our reactions become second nature. When something does happen, we will be able to respond quickly and without panic, able to calmly execute the things we have been trained to do."

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