U.S. Navy damage control training is aimed at producing sailors and officers able to help keep their ship afloat in an emergency. It's also aimed at producing sailors who specialize in the job as their chosen career. To do so, enlisted men and women attend a formal school to become damage controlmen. All Navy personnel, though, must attend periodic training in damage control techniques. This is especially when going from shore duty to sea duty.
Importance of Damage Control
The value of damage control training has evidenced itself on several occasions. Two different Navy ships were almost sunk by missiles or by mines in the Persian Gulf, one in 1987 and one in 1988. Both ships could easily have sunk without effective damage control. In 2000, the USS Cole was heavily damaged by a terrorist explosive device. Rapid damage control efforts managed to save the ship from capsizing and killing many more crew members.
Types of Training
In terms of being a chosen career, a prospective Navy enlisted damage controlman must attend an eight-week course of instruction. The school is located at the Navy's instructional training base at Great Lakes, Illinois. It teaches a wide variety of damage control subjects. These include how to keep a ship from sinking in the event it's damaged during combat or an accident. Navy line officers also receive specific damage control training.
Features of Training
Damage control training consists of a mixture of classroom study and arduous practical training. Students spend a great deal of time in simulators. For example, they learn how to shore up damaged bulkheads and patch large holes in a ship's hull. They also learn shipboard firefighting skills as well as fire prevention. Chemical, biological and radiological defense is also mastered. Lastly, students learn how to instruct others in damage control processes and procedures.
Every sailor or officer stationed on a Navy ship is part of that ship's damage control team. Individually, each has a damage control station where he serves as part of a smaller team. Drills are a constant occurrence, and almost every sailor must be certified to have met minimum damage control competency standards. It doesn't matter whether a crew member is a senior officer or the most junior sailor – her role on the team is vital.
Damage control training is a fixture of Navy life. Navy damage controlmen are stationed aboard every Navy ship. When they're on shore duty, they spend a great deal of time training others in damage control techniques. They're skilled in helping "fight the ship," as shipboard combat in the Navy is called. Without them and the skills they teach to others, Navy ships would be less able to survive combat.
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