The Chancellorsville had been struck by a rogue drone during a training exercise off of Point Magu, California. The live, subsonic practice target — shaped like a missile and designed to test the ship's combat systems — punched through the port side of the ship and slammed into computer central, spraying jet fuel everywhere, before coming to a stop on the starboard bulkhead.
But not only did he ensure After ensuring the five contractors were safe, he also began fighting the fire by spraying CO2² bottles on the it., andwWhen he couldn't find any more CO2, he began to takefake out a hose and assemble a team to battle the blazeget a team together.
Piercey speaks to the Chancellorsville crew during a ceremony in which sailors were presented awards for heroism and bravery as a result of their actions as damage control first responders while combating a major fire.
Photo Credit: MC1 Trevor Welsh/Navy
In addition to Tuculet and Gentry, Lt. j.g. Clifford Ward and Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class Christopher Kesser both received Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals for their actions, and Lt. Cmdr. James Santymire received the Meritorious Service Medal.
"We shooting the five inch?"
When Tuculet, the ship's top enlisted damage controlman, heard the drone strike, his first thought was that it was the ship's massive forward gun discharging a round.
"We actually had the [damage control training team] assembled in the ship's classroom, getting prepared for the evening's general quarters drill," Tuculet said. "I looked at the [executive officer] and said, 'Sir, we shooting the five-inch?' And he said, 'No, we shouldn't be.' Then a few deep breaths later we got the word of white smoke in the computer central p-way."
According to crew members, the fire produced a heavy, thick white smoke that quickly spread through the cruiser's forward aluminum superstructure.
They were pushed back out of the space and found a hose team ready to attack the blaze. At that point, Hesser got on the ship's main announcing system and ordered the hose team to spray down the fire.
The word began spreading that Gentry was still in the space, but he piped up that he was out and actually manning a hose.
"It was at that point that they sent me to medical," he said.
The drone struck the ship just before 1:15 p.m., and by 1:27 p.m. the fire was out.
"It seemed like forever, but it was only a matter of minutes," Gentry said. "While you're going through it, it seemed like half a day's work, but it wasn't long at all."
Tuculet said that when he reconstructed the event, it took six minutes from the time first responders entered the space to the time the fire was reported out.
"You'd be surprised how fast you can put a fire out when it's your living room on fire," Tuculet said.
Gentry said that the fast response is a source of pride for the crew.
"The whole crew was really proud of how we reacted," Gentry said. "The whole crew kind of snapped into their training. It could have been much worse. It was a million-to-one chance for it to hit us, and it was a million-to-one chance for nobody to get hurt."
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.