By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Devin J. Bowser, USS George Washington Public Affairs
WATERS NEAR GUAM (NNS) -- An alarm sounds over the ship's announcement system. Sailors dressed in battle gear move expeditiously to their assigned stations. As watertight hatches and scuttles are sealed, passageways that were once open to traffic are secured. Every Sailor aboard the ship moves skillfully to protect and maintain the integrity of the ship, to battle the danger ahead.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) maintains Sailor readiness by regularly engaging in a general quarters (GQ) drill environment. The GQ alarm signals Sailors on board to report to special teams to perform jobs outside of their respective rating.
"If the ship were to sustain serious damage, there has to be a coordinated response in an attempt to stop the damage and save the ship," said Chief Petty Officer Felix Renoir, leading chief petty officer of damage control central. "All Sailors have to be in their respective positions and ready to assist in preventing any more damage."
During GQ, Sailors are assigned to one of the following teams: repair locker, firefighting, de-smoking, pipe patching, plugging, dewatering or battle-dress station teams.
"In the case of a real-life casualty, it's not just one division that's in charge of making sure that everybody is safe," added Damage Controlman 2nd Class Jacob A. Lighten, from St. Louis. "If an actual casualty occurs, everyone's life is at risk. You have to be able to depend on the person next to you regardless of that person's job. From the highest commissioned officer all the way down to the newest seaman recruit, everyone needs to be able to assist in the event of a casualty."
GQ drills help Sailors learn their responsibilities and how to react appropriately in their respective stations if a casualty occurs.
"Every Sailor needs to have at least the basic knowledge of damage control, because the information is capable of saving lives and the ship," said Renoir.
According to Renoir, George Washington's Damage Control Training Team (DCTT) is the source of expertise for everything concerning damage control. The ship's senior damage controlman trains all the members of DCTT. After receiving training and displaying expertise, DCTT members educate and train Sailors on board.
Lighten added that the crew trains to the point that their response becomes an instinctive reaction.
"DCTT has a huge responsibility of ensuring that all Sailors know the importance of damage control. They take Sailors who are completely inexperienced and get them up to speed as fast as possible," said Lighten. "The number one priority of our ship is warfighting. In the event of an actual wartime scenario, we won't have time to prepare. We have to be ready."
GQ drills challenge each team to combat multiple types of casualties including fires, floods, missile attacks and personnel injuries.
"General Quarters is all about teamwork," said Renoir. "It requires the effort from the entire crew to be ready, at all times, to save the ship and every Sailor. We train like we fight."
George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, are on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. George Washington will conduct a hull-swap with the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) later this year after serving seven years as the U.S. Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier in Yokosuka, Japan.