FEBRUARY 23, 2017, GREAT LAKES (NNS) – Over 50 students were the first to go through the Live Fire Fighting Trainer (FFT) course at Surface Warfare Officers School Unit (SWOSU) Great Lakes, Feb. 22.
The training will be delivered to over 10,800 surface accessions Sailors attending SWOSU, Center for Surface Combat Systems Unit Great Lakes, as well as staff members at the various commands across Great Lakes as they transfer back to sea duty, each year.
The two-day curriculum encompasses in-classroom lessons pertaining to fire chemistry, fire party organization, portable extinguishers, protective equipment, as well as self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) during the first day, and live firefighting trainer labs cover wild hose, hose handling, and firefighting procedures during the second day.
“The life of a ship and our shipmates may someday depend on the training our Sailors receive at our facility,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Eric Sanders, leading chief petty officer of damage control (DC) “A” school, SWOSU GL. “This course is designed to prepare each Sailor for qualification as a member of a shipboard damage control organization. We are very excited to be bringing the Great Lakes Firefighting Trainer back online. This will help support the fleet with basic firefighting skills for Sailors prior to reporting to their first ship or, in some cases, returning to the fleet.”
Attending the firefighting course while at a Great Lakes area command will save ships countless man-hours in planning, scheduling, and sending personnel to trainers prior to arriving to the command, or after they have already arrived.
“It has been a long time coming,” said Cmdr. Eric Williams, commanding officer of SWOSU GL, “and there has been quite a bit of preparation from all sides for us (SWOS and SWOSU) to deliver this added firefighting capability back into accession training and in support of fleet readiness. As commanding officer and a fleet engineer, I’m very excited not just in the project delivery, but also in the dedication, motivation, and skill of my staff. I’ve watched them over the past few months prepare and train vigorously internally with the goal and option being to have fun, but to ‘get this right.'”
FFT in Great Lakes was originally commissioned in 1996 to provide realistic training for students at DC “A” school until 2002, when all accession engineering students began receiving the training. The trainer provided live firefighting training continuously until 2006, when a combination of fiscal constraints and a requirement review determined the training was met through other courses in the trainee pipeline.
Subsequent increases in basic firefighting requirements created a situation where firefighting training in the fleet concentration areas were incapable of keeping up with fleet needs, ultimately resulting in a significant backlog.
Discussions began in 2010 to determine the feasibility and cost associated with re-lighting the FFT in Great Lakes, but a plan of action was not agreed upon and placed into effect until SWOS Command; Commander, Navy Installations Command; Naval Facilities Engineering Command; and Naval Air Warfare Command, with resources from Surface Training Systems (PMS 339), hired Jacobs Engineering to scope the project and reconstruction efforts for the facility started in late 2015.
“Shipboard life requires every Sailor to be a firefighter, if need be, and the training that we provide here is by far the most important training the crew of a ship can receive,” Sanders said.
By Brian Walsh, Training Support Center Public Affairs