Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Okula.
Three small parts made one big difference for the crew of GC 109 Orion, a Dominican Republic patrol boat that received the critical components fabricated by a damage controlman aboard Coast Guard Cutter Oak in Saint Lucia during Tradewinds 2013.
The replacement parts were a gift, custom-tailored for Orion by Petty Officer 3rd Class Marilyn A. Brammer, a damage controlman from Atwater, Calif.
Brammer called upon nearly four years of training and experience to build these parts – three stainless steel, seawater strainers for Orion’s engine cooling system.
“One of the things I love about being in the Coast Guard is we’re always in the unique position to help other people,” said Brammer. “As a [damage controlman], my job is to basically fabricate things that are needed around the ship. If something breaks or needs modification, we’re there to fix it. We’re there to create something new. I gain immense satisfaction out of that.”
Crewmembers from the Oak and Orion have been working closely together since Tradewinds 2013 began May 20. Engineers from Oak’s crew toured the spaces aboard Orion several days ago and were made aware of various deficiencies aboard.
Both crews were most concerned by the trouble Orion was having with debris compromising the engine cooling system, said Brammer.
“There’s a lot of trash in the water,” said Lt. j.g. Contesor Gomez, Orion’s chief engineer. “Every 20 days or so we have to disassemble our engines to remove all the trash that’s brought in by the raw seawater.”
There are three main engines aboard Orion, each of which is supplied with saltwater pumped in from the ship’s exterior as a coolant. Ideally, saltwater passes from the intake and through three strainers prior to reaching the engines’ heat exchanger, where the filtered water then carries heat away from the engines and is jettisoned overboard.
The strainers aboard Orion were missing or in disrepair, which compromised the cooling system’s integrity. Garbage, crustaceans and other debris would get caught in the heat exchangers, plug them up and result in overheating.
Oak’s crew offered to engineer new strainers for Orion’s engines after they identified the problem. Brammer took the necessary measurements from the engine room and got to work designing and building three identical strainers.
“I saw firsthand what they needed, said that I could do it and we went from there,” she said.
The seawater strainers, which resemble perforated steel pipes with handles, were made from basic materials available in Brammer’s on-board machine shop. Brammer spent three consecutive days designing and assembling the parts using only the limited materials on hand.
“I’m very tired from building, but I had a lot of fun,” said Brammer. “There’s so much job satisfaction in just being able to help other people with such a frustrating problem. To be able to help in any way, it’s very gratifying.”
The strainers are a small but significant contribution to Orion’s engine cooling system and will allow for much more efficient and less hazardous operation of Orion’s main engines.
The crew of the Dominican Republic’s vessel assembled on their deck to shake Brammer’s hand after the parts were installed.
“All our gratitude goes to [Brammer] for making these strainers,” said Gomez. “God willing, we’ll get more rest now,”
Crewmembers like Brammer and Gomez are participants in Tradewinds 2013 a joint, combined exercise conducted in conjunction with partner nations, including the Dominican Republic, to enhance the collective abilities of defense forces and constabularies to counter transnational organized crime and to conduct humanitarian and disaster relief operations.