Story by MC3 Dugan Flynn
Photo by MC3 Will Tyndall

When the bell rings on the 1MC, everyone strains to hear if it’s a drill or an actual casualty. The flying squad responds urgently just the same, stopping whatever they are doing to run to the repair locker and get to the scene of the emergency.

The flying squad is composed of about 75 members, most of them damage controlmen, and they are the first response to all shipboard casualties. Their job is to save the ship and Sailors aboard.

“We have to respond just as enthusiastically to a drill as we would an actual casualty,” said Damage Controlman

2nd Class (SW/AW) Sandra Kimball, a flying squad member for about three years.

“We have to train like it’s real. If we don’t respond with the same enthusiasm, how are we going to know if we are prepared when something does happen? It’s our job.”

Once members of the flying squad arrive at the repair locker, the locker officer will send out different teams depending on the casualty and ensure everyone has a job to do.

“The entire flying squad always responds no matter what the casualty is,” said Kimball. “Even if somebody’s not being used for their normal job, we find something for them to do. Let’s say it’s a flooding casualty. Even though there’s not a fire, the desmoking team can still do other things like carry box patches to the scene.”

While the rest of the members muster at the scene, the rapid response team goes directly to the scene of the emergency to assess the situation and fight the casualty.

“We are the first on-scene in the flying squad,” said Stennis’ Fire Marshal Chief Warrant Officer Bill Hedderman, who leads the rapid response team. “If it’s a fire, we’ll try to fight it or set boundaries if it’s too big.

We also evacuate the spaces and ensure there are no personnel casualties. Once the scene leader gets there and has control, we turn over to them.”

Not only do members have to be able to perform a multitude of different jobs, they also have to be ready to respond to casualties at any time, like the middle of the night or during chow.

“Being on the flying squad can be really hectic,” said Damage Controlman 3rd Class Jarrod Stepp. “We do a lot of drills and running around. It’s fun though. You’ve got to be a little bit crazy to run into fires, but to me, that seems like the best part.”

The flying squad also does many drills with other departments in order for the entire ship to be capable of dealing with casualties.

“We also run a lot of drills with reactor department and the hangar bay,” said Stepp. “Whenever they run drills, we run drills.”

To become a flying squad member, interested Sailors must be DC 307 and 308 qualified, route a special request chit through their chain of command, and have a Page 4 attached.

“You’ve got to be motivated to be on the flying squad,” said

Kimball. “Sometimes it takes a lot of time out of your day.

Your chain of command has to understand that you’re going to be gone sometimes. When the bell goes off in the middle of the night, you have to be willing to make that sacrifice and get up and take care of whatever it is.”

With all the sacrifices the members make to be on the flying squad, Hedderman says they still pull through to work together as a team.

“The flying squad is definitely a unique group of individuals,” said Hedderman. “Their performance is superior, their attitude is excellent, and I’m honored to be associated with them.”

For additional information on the flying squad or how to join, contact CWO2 Bill Hedderman via e-mail or at J-6510 or Senior Chief Damage Controlman Steve Quick at J-6556.

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