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'Olympics' return to the waterfront

May. 17, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Surface Line Week
Sailors from the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio participate in a May 14 team dress-out competition during the 2014 Surface Line Week Damage Control Olympics. (MC3 Lacordrick Wilson/Navy)
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NORFOLK, VA. — Firefighting. Evacuating casualties. Starting a pump. And patching a leaky pump.

The Surface Line Week Challenge returned to the East Coast in mid-May after a four-year hiatus, as nearly two dozen squads from ships and commands competed for top honors at the hardest tasks demanded of ship crews.

The Damage Control Olympics, held May 14, featured six tough stations: a 50-question knowledge test; ladder, P-100 pump and desmoking relays, pipe patching and a dress-out race.

“On the ships, you train for this every day,” said Lt. Brandon Christian, director of the Farrier Firefighting School in Norfolk, which hosted this event. “Every sailor is a firefighter and everyone knows damage control, so you should be able to bring anyone into the schoolhouse and compete.”

The ladder relay was especially challenging for the crews from 22 ships and commands. The timed event required one sailor to carry a fire hose up four decks while a second rigged and hoisted a 35-pound peri-jet eductor to the site. Four other sailors quickly dressed out, entered the blackened space, retrieved a casualty and carried the stretcher back down.

Proficiency in shipboard skills was a centerpiece at the Surface Line Week, which has been held on the West Coast in recent years. Sailors tackled the corpsman relay; search and rescue; swimmer and marksmanship competitions; and ship handling. But the competition also veered into off-ship activities — volleyball, softball, basketball, golf, and, of course, chili cook-offs and a best-burger battle.

The pipe-patching event caused the most heartache. Large holes were plugged with wood and secured with a rope wrap. When the water was turned on, it often doused the crew in a spray.

Though competition was fierce, Hull Technician Second Class Joshua Lepus echoed the sentiment of the dozen competitors from the amphibious assault ship Wasp.

“It’s always good to get out and compete with other ships,” Lepus said. “Yeah, it’s a typical Navy competition. Everybody is talking smack. But when it comes down to it, we’re all on the same team.”

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