Scoop Deck blogger Lance M. Bacon took a day trip with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead this week. This is the play-by-play report.
Sailors assigned to the guided-missile submarine Florida practice skills controlling the boat in the Ships Control Team Trainer at the Trident Training Facility in Kings Bay, Ga. (photo by MTCS (SS) Nicholas Davies)
We are in the “Ships Control Trainer,” where the gold crew from the guided-missile sub Florida is being put to the test. The diving officer of the watch is giving direction to sailors manning the helm on his right, which controls minor depth changes and rudder, and the stern on his left, which controls the boat’s angle. To port, the chief of the watch is using weight and ballast to maintain depth and adjust trim.
The simulator can do a 45-degree angle and 39-degree roll, which is more than twice what the crews will normally see. Florida’s crew doesn’t get hit with such extremes, but there is no shortage of alarms sounding nonetheless. The crew remains calm throughout – and under the chief of the boat’s watchful eye.
Scoop Deck has entered the “Virtual Simulator” with Wyoming’s gold crew. A lieutenant junior grade has a simulator strapped to his head, making him look like X-Men’s Cyclops on steroids.
Junior officers on the boomers and GNs don’t get a lot of time to drive the sub in the open ocean. They may be surfaced 12 hours going out, take a three-month dive, and then get 12 hours coming in. This is the solution.
This virtual reality simulator gives them the practice they need, replicating numerous ports in ever-changing weather conditions. As the navigation team feeds him info, the officer stands in a near-scale sail and does a 360-degree search for virtual contacts. From a tanker in the distance to a fast approaching sailboat, nothing gets past the team.
Fire, fire, fire!
The training center has a mock-up engineering space for fire training. And we’re not talking about little camp fires – we’re talking about being fully engulfed by heat that pushes you back as your duty pushes you forward. After all, everyone on board a sub is a damage control specialist.
“Most people run from a fire. A submariner runs to the fire,” said MTCS (SS) Nicholas Davies, senior enlisted adviser for the Strategic Weapons Department. “If you run from a fire on a sub, you’ll die.”