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NEWS | Aug. 8, 2022

Team Connecticut members feel the heat during firefighting training

By Max Maxfield, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility

The USS Connecticut (SSN 22) Project Team and USS Connecticut Ship’s Force members at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility partnered with Code 304, Ship Safety, and Navy Region Northwest Fire & Emergency Services to have members of Team Connecticut participate in realistic firefighting training July 20, at a commercial fire training facility near the Bremerton Airport.

According to Matt VanRavenhorst, Connecticut Project Team deputy project superintendent, Navy Region Northwest Fire and Emergency Services, Code 304, Ship’s Force leadership and the Command Fire Safety Council collaborated extensively to plan and execute the training at the state-of-the-art Shipboard Training Center, which is designed to provide realistic and challenging firefighting training that simulates fires aboard naval vessels.

Commands and ship crews can choose among various scenarios at the civilian company WRG’s owned-and-operated facility, which works often with surface fleet ships and commands in the region, according to VanRavenhorst. The Connecticut Project sent about 60 personnel for training, including Ship’s Force, ship’s leadership, and project leadership from zone managers to the project superintendent.

Capt. Jip Mosman, commander, PSNS & IMF, and Darrel DeHaven, senior Naval Rectors representative for PSNS & IMF, observed the training. Mosman participated in one training iteration to evaluate the realism and effectiveness of the training firsthand.

VanRavenhorst said conducting training at the purpose-built facility provides more training benefit than some of the regular training in close quarters can.

“The normal training we do inside the shipyard includes dry-runs into the boats with no actual heat or smoke,” he said. “Facing a real fire allows the participants to feel the heat, experience reduced visibility, feel the effects on their bodies and learn what they can actually do. Each activity is important, but this brought much more realism to this team, and they should react to a fire more effectively now.”

Cmdr. Jon Baugh, commanding officer, Connecticut, said the realism and the collaboration he witnessed among PSNS & IMF personnel and Connecticut Sailors resulted in valuable skills and confidence among the participants.

“This integrated training capstone was a unique and fantastic way to go beyond the typical fire response that crews normally execute for drills,” Baugh said. “The ability to feel the heat of the flames and weight of the gear prepares my Sailors and my shipyard team members to face the real thing with confidence. Watching them all unite to combat one of our biggest threats in the maintenance environment was comforting, and the dedication I saw during the training assures me we can work together to meet any challenge."

Matt Kusche, PSNS & IMF command fire safety manager, said the training plan developed by the team and the training location contributed to an effective session.

“One of the awesome things about this training was that it allowed us to perform three full 8010 Chapter 12 fire drills in one day,” said Kusche. “All with real heat and flames. The 'safe-to-fail' environment created a positive atmosphere and I heard conversations and learning that we could never deliver in classroom training."

The training was designed to not just test people’s firefighting skills. Teams were also evaluated on how well they exercised command and control of the overall situation.

All five stations—staging, accountability/operations, incident command post, firefighting, and rehab—captured lessons learned and helped groups improve their performance throughout the day, according to VanRavenhorst.

“The three training session taught them a ton,” he said. “The first run was a bit rough. The second run was better. By the last run, they would have passed any training drill we have. I have faith they would be able to fight a fire effectively if the need arose. This one day of live training provided more vital learning than we could have gotten from a dozen drills. I believe this goes for both Ship’s Force and shipyard personnel.”

VanRavenhorst said basic firefighting skills are essential across the U.S. Navy. No matter how satisfied teams might feel after being able to effectively fight a fire, not having to fight a fire is also important.

“Knowing how to manage and fight a fire or emergency is a very important part of our responsibility,” VanRavenhorst said. “A perhaps more vital part is that of prevention. We need to spend equal efforts ensuring we never find ourselves in a position to need to send firefighters into harm’s way.”

Kusche said PSNS & IMF is committed to working with local firefighting professionals to maintain the high quality of training available for project teams and their Ship’s Force partners.

“The support from Fire and Emergency Services and the opportunity to teach the Sailors from their experience was invaluable,” he said. “We are working on doing more of this training in the future, and also incorporating firefighting professionals from mutual aid departments in the area.”