DECEMBER 5, 2016, HAMPTON, Va. (NNS) – “There is nothing more dangerous than complacency and a false sense of security.” Those are words retired Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Lammey wants every Sailor to remember.
More than 2,000 Sailors assigned to Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) attended the command’s annual Winter Safety Standdown Dec. 2 at the Hampton Roads Convention Center. The semiannual event is aimed at providing professional training and resource information to help Sailors focus on safety, both on and off-duty.
Lammey, a guest speaker at the event, was one of six Sailors injured (two fatally) during a boiler explosion aboard submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) in Guam in December 2006. He founded “Safety Happens” as a way to educate others who work in high pressure, dangerous jobs — like many Sailors in the U.S. Navy — that safety matters.
“When things go wrong, they go wrong quickly,” said Lammey, who suffered 3rd degree burns on over half his body. “We have to take personal responsibility for our own safety; if you see something, say something. Safety happens if you make it happen.”
An urge for Sailors to take personal responsibility and make smart choices both on and off-duty linked the themes of the day’s presentations.
The event featured presentations on a variety of topics ranging from hazardous material procedures to shipboard electrical safety, as well as more than a dozen display booths with information on everything from domestic violence support resources to tire safety.
Commanding Officer Capt. Ron Ravelo kicked off the event by talking to the crew about developing the right mindset to successfully complete the ship’s refueling and complex overhaul and returning to the fleet in early 2017.
“We need to develop a mindset and say ‘This is where we are. Now, let’s find a way around the roadblocks,'” said Ravelo. “It may take some creative, out-of-the-box thinking, but we can do it. Look at the resources around you right now.”
Ravelo also shared some sobering statistics with Sailors involving off-duty motor vehicle fatalities.
In fiscal year 2016, the Navy had 28 private motorized vehicle (PMV) deaths, and three months into FY 2017 the Navy has had seven PMV deaths.
“I hope sharing these numbers with you has an impact on your off-duty decision making; they definitely scare me,” said Ravelo. “I urge you to use the resources available to succeed. Have a liberty plan, and control what you can control.”
Sgt. John LaFond, a Virginia State police officer and retired Air Force service member, echoed the captain’s words during his presentation.
“I was once in your seats … and the messages never sank in,” said LaFond. “Now that I am on the other side, I get the importance. If I can get just one person to stop and think; it’s all about the choices we make — control what you can control.”
Chief Petty Officer Larry Pugh, Abraham Lincoln’s casualty assistance calls officer, spoke on having to make a family notification and repeatedly stressed to the Sailors, “What you do and what you say matters.”
“Be honest with your chain of command about liberty plans and make smart choices,” said Pugh. “No parent or spouse wants to see me and chaplain coming to the door in our dress blues.”
Other guest speakers included John Bellis, Abraham Lincoln’s deployed resiliency counselor, who addressed suicide prevention and support, as well as representatives from the Newport News Fleet and Family Support Center who spoke on surviving the financial stresses of the holiday, promoted 2017 as the “Year of the Healthy Family,” and encouraged Sailors to reach out to FFSC counselors for help and assistance.
“Knowledge is power; it helps you make the right decisions,” said Chief Petty Officer Don Mahiai. “It’s easy to get immune to the information passed out every year at this time, but if we can reach a few Sailors and then they can turn around and reach some of their shipmates and that can save someone’s life, then we have succeeded.”
Abraham Lincoln is in the final stages of a four-year RCOH and is scheduled to be delivered back to the fleet in early 2017.