Story by Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Ryan Little
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 8, 2017) — The morning sun has barely risen over the horizon as reveille begins to blare over the 1MC. A crisp morning sea spray blows down the deck left over from the previous night’s storm. As Sailors onboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) awaken, the sound of morning maintenance has already begun. Engines turn and the firm tone of the flight deck repair team echoes within the wind.
For decades, crash and salvage has been a team of first responders that have taken the watch, overlooking the flight deck on numerous vessels worldwide. These flight deck warriors have provided, time and time again, security for pilots and crew upon the flight deck.
“It’s not so much a job, but more of a family,” says Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Patrick Michael. “We listen to each other’s opinion. That’s how we work as a team.”
The mobile firefighting vehicle known as the P-25, which is capable of dispersing up to 750 gallons of water, mixing with 60 gallons aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), is a perfect example of how teamwork is the soul of crash, Michael said. The three-man team on this truck is dependent upon one another when responding to the scene. The driver, senior man, and junior man are the first responders to a fire on the flight deck.
“The main turret’s primary purpose is to create a rescue path to the cockpit of the aircraft,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Second Class Jawann Murray. “It allows debris and flammable materials to be clear for rescue.’’
As soon as the fire has been pushed back beyond the cockpit, rescue then commences. Using a forklift and the rescue platform, the team lines flush with the side of the aircraft so that the rescue can be conducted.
“It’s only stressful if you’re not prepared,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Jordan Springer. “I like this opportunity to do something that I have never done before. It has made me well-rounded.”
As soon as the pilot is out of the scene and the fire has been extinguished, overhaul enters the scene to perform final residual heat inspection on the aircraft. Using the Thermal Imaging Camera, the team inspects the fuselage of the plane. Approaching and communicating in unison, each step is delicately positioned so that the AFFF is not disrupted.
Soon after the aircraft is removed from the landing area using a tow tractor, it is released to the squadron unit. Crash then returns to their work center to debrief.
“We are the subject matter experts, the A-team seeing the bigger picture and understanding what it takes to better ourselves,” said Murray.
Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Jarell Holliday, Crash and Salvage’s leading chief petty officer, expressed his outlook on fighting fires.
“Yeah it can be scary from time to time, especially during an actual emergency, but you get that sense of pride when you know that you have done your best with the knowledge that you have been given.”
Holliday was onboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) during the June 22, 2008 fire that broke out below decks. The camaraderie, sense of family and relationships with people who you will never forget are all things he said he will take with him from his experience in crash.
A legacy has been established throughout the years by the watchful eyes overlooking the flight deck. Prepared to save lives, always on the alert, this team will be forever manned and ready for what comes next. They are the Navy’s crash and salvage.