HMS ST. ALBANS, Baltic Sea — British Royal Navy ship HMS St. Albans (F 83) conducted joint rescue assistance training June 11 with U.S. sailors during Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) exercise 2009.
Twelve sailors from USS Forest Sherman (DDG 98) took part in an exercise where St. Albans acted as a flagged cable-laying merchant vessel requesting assistance for a fire in their cable room.
The sailors responded from Sherman in two small boats. After a safety brief, they engaged the simulated problem onboard, said British Royal Navy Petty Officer Tyler Helm, a St. Albans marine engineer.
"You have to help, you have to help, we are on fire," yelled Helm, while waving his arms and jumping, displaying a mixture of distress and excitement. "People are hurt please, please, follow me."
Sherman sailors quickly followed Helm through a series of ladders and passageways that ended in a space filled with smoke next to a repair locker full of firefighting equipment.
"I didn't really know what to expect," said Sherman Damage Controlman 2nd Class (SW) Chris Pagonis. "I have participated in damage control training all over the world, but this was completely different because we had to come to another ship and use someone else's equipment."
After assessing the scene, six sailors put on St. Albans' firefighting equipment while the rest administered medical treatment to the mock casualties laying about the area.
"They came straight over to me and started giving me proper treatment," said British Royal Navy Leading Engineering Technician Let Simpson, one of the mock casualties aboard St. Albans. "They kept reassuring me that everything was going be alright." The medical team from Sherman included three Hospital Corpsmen. They moved all the casualties to a secure location to administer medical treatment. By this time the firefighting team had moved into position and was ready to confront the fire with a few suggestions from St. Albans' staff.
"On our ship we use only one hose team with a second hose team on standby if we need it," said Damage Controlman Fireman Camila Landeros, hose team leader. "Albans showed us how to combat a fire with two hose teams. One hose team opens a ten foot disk of water creating a 'water wall,' while the other hose team combats from behind the water wall."
The two hose teams finished the exercise by walking through the smoke filled space with a Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC) checking for casualties.
"The TIC was different from the Naval Firefighting Thermal Imager I'm used to using on the Sherman," said Landeros. "It took me a couple of moments to figure it out, but really it was very similar."
The exercise ended with a short debrief by British Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr Pete Viney, a logistics officer aboard St. Albans, where he applauded Shermanns professionalism and enthusiasm.
"Although you were using equipment that was alien to you, you adapted successfully and extinguished the fire," said Viney, addressing the firefighting team. "In sum, this was an excellent team effort which illustrated the professionalism and dedication of this specialist team."
BALTOPS is comprised of forces from 12 countries and is the largest multinational naval exercise this year in the Baltic Sea. Annually hosted by the United States Navy, the exercise aims to improve maritime security in the Baltic Sea through increased interoperability and cooperation among regional allies.