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Every Sailor is a Damage Controlman

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ARABIAN GULF (NNS) -- A lookout spotted three black spheres in the water, and the officer of the deck swiftly brought the frigate to a halt; he proceeded to back out of a minefield. However, the mine's foil trigger was crushed and two-hundred fifty pounds of TNT exploded.

On April 14, 1988 the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) was mined resulting in more than four hours of damage control efforts to save the ship. 

The guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) based their hands-on training for damage control efforts on this historical lesson.

"I was doing some research on the Samuel B. Roberts and it was steaming by itself in the Arabian Gulf when it took a mine hit," said Chief Damage Controlman Brian Martin, Cole's fire marshal and damage control training team coordinator. "The ship performed shoring, pipe patching, plugging and dewatering, all while steaming by herself. And since the Cole was out here earlier this year by herself, I thought it was a fitting scenario." 

The drill was a mine hit, and the ship immediately went to general quarters and set zebra. Then each repair locker made their way to the flight deck to practice shoring, pipe patching, dewatering and plugging. 

"This was a hands-on water flowing, shoring erected, holes being plugged active lab," said Martin. "In other drills you have flags and white smoke, but this was hands on."

"The goal was to get Sailors to understand it's how they're controlling the damage and why they're controlling the damage," said Martin. "They got to see how water shoots out of a pipe, how a shoring is really heavy to erect and how water will pour out of hole even if you plug it." 

"We give so many briefs, training and power points in the Navy," said Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) 3rd Class Anthony Walker. "I could easily talk a Sailor through putting on goggles, but having them do it themselves is more empowering. If we could start a class Alpha fire and put it out ourselves, I would be all for it, but of course we can't do that just yet." 

Watching his shipmates' reactions turn from panic to calmness and then confidence was one of the most rewarding parts about the training Walker said. He was able to train a group on emergency water activated repair patch is and how to use it. Then, they tested its effectiveness on the pipe through a connected and charged hose. 

"I think it's very encouraging training," said Walker. "I saw a lot of joy from their faces as they thought 'wow I did that.'"

According to Martin, the training took Sailors, who are not damage control (DC) specialists, and instilled some sort of muscle memory if something were to happen. Considering where the Cole was bombed on the port side in October 2000, if the DCs and chiefs were in the chief's mess, he can only imagine what would have happened. 

"Every Marine is a rifleman and every Sailor is a damage controlman," said Martin. "Every Sailor needs to know how to fight a fire, patch a pipe, plug a hole, put shoring up and what to do in case something happens to the designated expert." 

Cole is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners, and to preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.

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