Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Thomas, Training Team West.
Coast Guard instructors who routinely plan, coordinate and deliver training to Pacific Area Coast Guard units recently found themselves not only helping out their fellow Coast Guardsmen, but the newly appointed crewmembers of the Nigerian navy ship Thunder.
The Coast Guard’s Special Emergency Operations and Procedures Team were in familiar territory as they assisted the newly-appointed Nigerian crew with shipboard training and drills. While the crew was different the ship was very recognizable – the ship was previously commissioned as Coast Guard Cutter Chase but was transferred then re-commissioned as a Nigerian navy ship in March.
The SEOPS Team were the right people to call for the job as their unit has the unique mission of training Coast Guard ships on basic damage control, firefighting, communication and first aid training. The team, part of Training Team West, is comprised of Coast Guardsmen from various ratings who each lend a special area of expertise to the training mission.
In order to understand the Nigerian crew’s needs, the SEOPS Team first met with the new crew and discussed the training goals for the ship. Petty Officer 1st Class Chris Bemis, the newest member on the SEOPS Team, took the lead and conducted a pre-brief to assess training needs, crew expectations and assign instructors for each evolution.
With the initial assessments complete, the SEOPS Team went into action and used their individual expertise to begin classroom training and exercises with the crew’s damage control personnel.
“We had them pull out a few of the damage control kits and tools that we would need for teaching basic damage control, plugging and patching,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas, the senior damage controlman on the team. “Then, while more than 45 engineering crewmembers from Nigeria listened, Bemis began teaching how to use the equipment.”
After the classroom training sessions, Petty Officer 1st Class Bryan Evans, a machinery technician on the team, took the engineers to the fantail to go over P-100 pumps – diesel-engine-driven portable pumps designed for firefighting. Knowledge of these pumps is essential for shipboard damage control as they can reduce flooding in the event of a shipboard casualty.
Later in the week, Thunder’s engineers traveled to the San Leandro Fire Trainer to learn proper firefighting techniques firsthand. They learned the correct wear and use of fire protective garments as well as the self contained breathing apparatus – a device worn by first responders to provide breathable air.
Once the proper protective gear was covered, the training team walked the crew through hose-handling techniques and the application of water to fire. Under the watchful eye of the Alameda County Fire Department, the firefighting training structure was lit on fire and Evans led the fire teams inside to gain firefighting experience.
The last day of training was spent pier side on the SEOPS team’s training boat. The training boat isn’t just any ordinary boat however; it has been specially modified with added compartments that have intentionally damaged and broken pipes. Students use these broken pipes to learn the application of patches, plugs and various dewatering techniques.
The Nigerian crew split up into teams and the damage-control drills began. Soft patches and syntho-glass – techniques used to stop leaks in piping – were created and applied to the ruptured pipes. Once the patches were in place, water was forced through the piping system of the trainer boat to test the effectiveness of their work.
“Some of the patches leaked but it brought on a little friendly banter among the crew followed with high fives,” said Bemis.
“I believe that they gained a lot from our training, and I feel comfortable knowing that if in the face of fire or flooding, the Nigerian ship Thunder will arrive to their home port safely and complete,” Thomas added.
With their training mission accomplished, the Coast Guardsmen understood their work extended beyond just their two crews. Fostering partnerships with foreign colleagues and understanding their challenges allowed each SEOPS Team member to grasp an appreciation for their shared interest of keeping the world’s ocean safe for commerce.