Saturday, April 7, 2012

Searching for casualties

MC3 Ian Cotter makes sure I'm good to go.  The oxygen tank on my back could save my life.  Photo by MC3 Jacquelyn Childs.

Imagine your average day at work.  It may consist of you showing up, dropping your stuff off at your desk/cubicle, and heading to the community coffee pot.  After a shot of caffeine, you might check your email for a while.  Maybe you read over some paper work, and chat with coworkers for a bit.


Suddenly, alarms go off all around you, threatening to disintegrate your eardrums.  There's a fire somewhere.  In a flash, your world is turned upside down, and priorities have changed from mundane to basic.

SURVIVAL.  SELF PRESERVATION.  Your first instinct is to evacuate, to get out of the building.  This is not an acceptable decision.  Your boss runs up to you and says:

"I need you to find that fire!  Report back to me when you have the location."

This is what it means to be a United States Sailor, holding the job of Investigator.  If you're thinking of enlisting as a Mass Communication Specialist, know that you are a Sailor first.  Everyone on the ship, from the cooks to the journalists, is trained to react to fires, flooding and worse.

There is no 911 on the ocean.

Investigators work in teams, and their job is simple.  Patrol their assigned areas like a beat cop, looking for any problems.  We call them casualties, and they come in many forms.  Don't open a door without checking for flooding on the other side.  Don't leave any bunks unchecked, as an unconscious Sailor may be in it.  Locate a casualty, then report back so the proper teams can move in and handle it.

When the General Quarters alarm rings out, the crew becomes a well-oiled Damage Control machine, with each Sailor performing a specific function.  My assigned job is actually Scene Leader.  After the Investigators report a casualty, I head to the location and coordinate the teams that are dispatched there.  It could be a hose team, desmoking team, or stretcher bearers.  All of them look to me to lead them.

And I have a lot to learn.  That's why I am an Investigator in that photo.  No one told me to do it.  In my mind, the better I know the jobs I'll come into contact with, the more effective I'll be at my job, at keeping people alive.  Are the stretcher bearers moving that injured Sailor properly?  Is the desmoking team ventilating the space effectively, or are they blowing smoke all over the place, creating more casualties?

Need another shot of caffeine?  Me too.

SURVIVAL TIP:  Don't assume your chain of command will hold your hand.  They are busy, and they're human.  If you don't feel like you know how to perform a job, ask questions, figure out the solution.

It could save your life.


Much appreciation to MC3 Cotter for rolling with the punches and taking me under his wing.  I kind of surprised him with my request to gear up as Investigator.

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