The crew of amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) started a vigorous shipwide training program to ensure the Sailors aboard are ready for operational status.
Training, along with preparation and restoration of the ship, has been the priority during an 18-month, $200 million Dry-dock Planned Maintenance Availability (DPMA).
“We made it through the shipyard and now our goal is to become fully operational again,” said Lt. Cmdr. Dan Chilton, the ship’s training officer. “Training is now the top priority of everyone from the commanding officer down to the most junior Sailor because it’s essential for us to get certified and get back out there on the water.”
To accomplish this mission, Essex’s Training department is focusing on medical, damage control (DC), anti-terrorism and ship’s Maintenance and Material Management (3M). To accomplish the training of more than 1,000 Sailors, the training is conducted via the ships in-port duty sections three times a week. Sailors train with the shipmates they stand duty with in the classroom and in real-time drill scenarios designed by the different departments.
“When we first started it was very basic, then we started ramping up and teaching advanced skills in order to respond to high stress situations,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Cierra Zielinski, a Medical Training Team Instructor. “Now each duty section has gone through the emergency medical response training several times, and not only are they able to react quickly to a medical emergency, they are also capable of notifying medical, securing the injury scene and transporting the Sailor if they need to.”
During the emergency medical drills, duty sections are separated into teams and each member is tasked with an important job such as treating for shock, checking for secondary injuries, and retrieving the nearest first aid kit. In addition, each duty section is responsible for making sure its Sailors are CPR qualified.
Essex Sailors are also learning shipboard DC and how to take action in the event of a fire, flood, or power outage. While in their duty sections, they are assigned to in port emergency teams and are tested weekly with level of knowledge quizzes.
“General shipboard awareness and knowledge is a huge part of what we teach,” said Damage Controlman 3rd Class Lehiwa Ohelo, a Damage Control Training Team instructor. “The more Sailors know about the ship and the equipment and compartments around them, the better prepared they will be to help out during a fire or flood.”
The training program was implemented once the ship came out of dry dock in October 2013. It gained momentum in February 2014 once all Sailors were allowed to move back onboard from the temporary barge provided during the dry dock.
“We have come a long way, and I’m confident we’ll make it back to reach our goal,” said Chilton. “We’re a tough and hard working crew; the Iron Gators will make it happen.”
Press Release, April 7, 2014; Image: Wikimedia