USS NEW ORLEANS, At sea - Sailors and Marines deployed aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) conducted a firefighting drill on the ship's flight deck, Jan. 26.
The bi-annual "Smash and Crash" drill tested the reactions of Sailors and Marines who work on the flight deck during a helicopter crash. The drill covered all aspects of a crash scenario from first response to flight deck firefighting skills.
Lt. Anthony Petrosino, assigned to New Orleans' aviation department, said the training was a critical skill-set to maintain for all personnel working on the ship's flight deck.
"When a pilot comes in, they want to know they're going to be safe because things can go bad really quickly," said Petrosino. "So it's important to have a well trained, professional crew that knows what they're doing."
Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Mark Thornton, the on-site team leader for the drill, stressed the importance of repetition while performing the drill saying the more it's done, the better the flight deck crew will be prepared for scenarios that could endanger the ship and its Sailors.
"We're the first response and our number one job is to save lives if a helicopter goes down, so we need to be ready," said Thornton. "We need to have what to do fresh in our minds so when it happens, we don't think, we react, it's just muscle memory."
The simulated crash required two hose teams manned by Sailors and Marines attacking the fire with charged hoses firing salt water, and combat cargo Marines providing background assistance. Thornton said the Marines played a vital role in the drill.
"Their role is critical to our success if we were to fight a fire," said Thornton. "They would help us by relieving the nozzle men and making sure they provided us with the necessary relief so we can continue to fight the fire."
New Orleans and the embarked 11th MEU are part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.