(ed. Online Damage Control school/library here. – SJS)


So it has been a couple of days since we pulled back out of our home away from home. I know, I know, I was just there; but the powers to be decided to vary our sked up so we showed back up. Spent the time in port getting caught up in trying to complete my Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist PQS. I don’t know why I am doing this; I am in information overload right now trying to figure out all of this information. Other then that I went to the movies in town and the first class mess of my command went out for one night to dinner out in town. One of the nights that I came back and had a chance to use the USO’s computer center I stopped by your website and saw the posting about nuclear weapons and proliferation. That is an interesting topic and sort of leads me into my postcard for today. Drills! I can’t wait to get home and not hear the 1MC (general announcing system onboard a ship) pipe up with whistles and the phrase “This is a drill! This is a Drill!” followed by a series of bells. We drill for all sorts of things; fire drills, flooding, loss of steering, loss of power, aircraft crashes, fuel spills, medical emergencies, drills on drills. It gets to the point that we become like Pavlov’s dogs, when we hear a bell we start to run to a location to man up for something or to get out of the way.

The biggest set of drills that we perform are General Quarters drills or GQ drills. That is where two hours out of the day are used to train on how the save the ship in case of enemy attack. We have two types of GQ’s the regular and the sucking rubber kind. The regular GQ is where we practice defending the ship from torpedoes, missiles, bombs, mines, suicide attacks, and other conventional weapons attacks. The way a regular GQ starts is that training officer sets the training environment and explains that the training teams begin their walk through for safety. Right after that a selected member of the intelligence shack gives a brief on the geo-political reasons that GQ is being set. Sometimes it is hilarious what nations we are facing. For example recently we went to GQ because the nation of “OZ” refused to submit to UN monitoring of storybook character protection. So we were there to help enforce an embargo which the leader, Wicked Witch of the West, threatened us if we didn’t leave the waters around Oz. During that the training team in combat direction loads up their NeintenXstation and begins to overload the folks in there with all the threats. This is to train them on how to recognize typical tactics would be used to get close and delivery high explosives to us. That inevitably leads to the bonging of the general alarm and the Bos’n Mate of the Watch (BMOW) to pipe out “General Quarters, General Quarters. All hands to your battle stations. Up and forward to the starboard, down and aft to the port.” Nearly everyone runs off to their battle stations. For some it is to man up repair lockers or unit lockers. Others just hang out in their workspaces locked down tights. Most of us air wingers head up to the flight deck to do flight deck drills. A repair locker or unit locker is like your local fire house. There are personnel assigned to that which have additional training on such things as fire-fighting, flooding control, how to brace hatches and doors, medical injuries, etc. So they receive training from their training team on such things as fire fighting properly to not kill people, how to rescue injured personnel in spaces, how to rig up wooden shoring to stabilize a deck or hull plating. So while some of those people are sweating pounds off down in the hangar bay and below deck spaces; air wing is up on top dealing with aircraft crashes, fires on the flight deck, mass casualties, hot explosives, and how to assist in repairs of the flight deck to resume flight ops. One of the best things to get training in on the flight deck is rigging the barricade.

The barricade is a huge nylon net which is designed to help and stop an airplane that can’t recover on the ship. If the decision is made to recover a damaged plane on the ship and not to the beach (or if we can’t safely send it to the beach) then they call out a rig the barricade. The ABE’s strip out a couple of the arresting wires and while that is being done a couple of tractors which constantly have this net hook up to it go hell bent for leather across the landing area dragging out the barricade. At which everyone that can on the flight deck goes running out to pull this straight and untangle it all. It is also hooked up to a pair of stanchions on the deck which then raises the whole thing up. Once the barricade is up it looks like a huge volley ball or badminton net. Once it is up everyone go and runs out of the way because if the landing is mis-judge then all hell will break loose on the flight deck. The LSO’s help land the aircraft and what they aim to do is keep the speed down and the nose up to safely engage this netting. I have never seen it used in real life only in practice; the last time I heard of it being used was during Desert Storm on a few aircraft. After the aircraft lands we start to drag out all sorts of hoses and begin to fight any fires while crash and salvage guys go out to cut the aircrew loose from the cockpit. Once the aircrew is loose then Tilly the crash and salvage crane comes out to pull the aircraft free of the landing area. It is then drop someplace where the squadron decides on whether to salvage the plane or write it off.

So that is what usually happens during a regular GQ. The other GQ we have which totally sucks is the sucking rubber version or CBR GQ. That is where we practice responding to chemical, biological, or radiological attacks. Nearly the same thing happens at the start of a CBR GQ, but instead a couple of hours before GQ actually starts we hear the training officer sets various MOPP levels. MOPP or mission orientated protective posture is various levels of how we defend our selves from CBR threats. Out to sea the US Navy uses four levels of MOPP. The lowest being number 1 and the highest being 4. Number four is where we are wearing masks, and CBR suits, have various antidotes issued to us, and nearly everyone but monitoring teams head to deep shelter. We hate CBR drills mainly because wearing the masks is a pain in the buttocks. Your breathing is restricted, your vision is restricted and it is very hot to be in. We usually wait around for the attack to come and then wait for the monitoring teams to search for contamination. Then those work centers in a contaminated section are sent to a CBR shower. A CBR shower is not fun. Basically you are escorted down a certain path by folks still in a suit and mask. From there you’re cut out of your clothes. So if you are shy around people other then your wife or husband well suck it up because everyone in certain sections will go through the same shower. You actually go through three different showers of various degrees of heat and water pressure to make sure all contamination is removed. After which you get to the other side and wait with a corpsman to see if you have continuing symptoms from the contamination. If so well bend over and kiss your ash good bye.

The scarier part of sucking rubber drills is they show all those really cool Navy videos about chemical, biological, radiological attacks. So we get to see pictures of guys getting into CBR suits and then they cut to some videos of the old school tests or of results form chemical attack all the while some calm voice tells us not to worry. Right! You watch video like Atomic Cafe or even some of the old school DOE, DOD video of the above ground nuclear tests and tell yourself not to worry. Let alone look at the videos from World War 1 of chemical burns from mustard gas and tell yourself not to worry. However, chemical and biological warfare has been around since the start of warfare.

I really can’t wait to get home and not think hard nor study any of this stuff anymore. I also can’t wait to get home and sleep on my huge bed and take a real hot shower for an hour.


Southern Air Pirate




  1. JoeC

    Well, the one drill I always hated was the OBA (that WAS Oxygen Breathing Apparatus – the one with the burning oxygen candle). Seems in the ’70s the navy was always short of cash…so we got to ‘share’ one OBA for drill. The first guy got to light off the candle and breath acrid smoke for a minute while it got going. The worse part is, if you were number two, you got to put the recently used OBA on and try and activate it with enough moisture and CO2 from your own breath….all the while hoping that the guy didn’t have a garlic habit or other obnoxious halitosis when it came your turn to have sloppy seconds in a recently used OBA.

    I was on the chief’s sh*t list for both cruises I did and was damage control and PMS for the shop. Oh. Joy. What’s worse is I also worked second shift on port/starboard and the Captain ALWAYS did GQ drills from 9-noon. Made rack time a bit short.
    At least you get movies with yours. I don’t think we saw a single training film the whole time I was aboard the America (I was an AT2, AIMD, ship’s company WC610 and 655) Oh, well, go defend the nation and see the world from inside umpteenth tons of floating steel. (from that view it all looks the same)

  2. Once again, Southern…thanks for your postcards. They’re always entertaining and always informative. And ya can’t beat that combo with a stick! 🙂

  3. GM Cassel AMH1(AW) USN RET

    Rigging the barricade was always so much fun 😯
    Many years ago on the Good Ship Independence, we did it in under 2 minutes.

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