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NEWS | Feb. 19, 2016

USNS Lummus crew conducts zero-visibility drill, shows importance

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Fulton, Task Force 73 Public Affairs

GULF OF THAILAND (NNS) -- Civilian mariners aboard Military Sealift Command (MSC) Maritime Prepositioning Force ship USNS 1st LT Jack Lummus (T-AK 3011) participated in a zero-visibility drill in the Gulf of Thailand, Feb. 17.

The drill instructed the crewmembers on the proper methods for using teamwork and communication to conduct a search in a situation in which vision is obscured.

"It was very informative for the ship's crew," said Able-Body Seaman Bryan Howell, drill participant. "We all got to experience the same training. We donned the masks, we donned the air packs and we went through the spaces together, learning how to work together throughout the drill."

The drill involved participants wearing vision-obscuring masks as well as self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) tanks in order to accurately simulate a plausible zero-visibility situation, such as a fire in the ship's spaces. The main focus of the drill was to prepare the crew for a real-life zero-visibility situation by demonstrating the importance of cooperation and preparation.

"When we all do the training together, it gives us the outlook of what the scenario is going to be like if we were really going through this situation," said Howell. "If everyone had to go through a space searching for a crew member, we know how to do it; how to go about it. Everything should go smoothly. We should be able to get the crew member out of there, and it should go the way we planned it."

The drill included instructions on how to sweep the room by touch in order to rescue a person who cannot be seen and cannot respond to verbal commands. It also included a tutorial on how to use a thermal imager to search for body-heat signatures in a smoke filled room.

Howell advised all ships to integrate a zero-visibility drill into their regular training schedules so that all MSC ships can reap the benefits of this unique training.

"Definitely, if they are not doing it, they should participate in this," said Howell. "It is very informative, and everybody should be in-tune with what we are doing here. It helps out the crew a lot if something like this ever happens; teaching them what to do and how to do it."

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