IT IS A FAR cry from the days when the pioneers in fire-control development shouted ranges and “spots” from the tops to the guns through a fire hose (which was the forerunner for the design and installation of voice tubes) to the present day of modern fire-control equipment with self-synchronous transmission. Similarly, the gunner’s mates are virtually as far apart from the fire controlmen of today as former “gun laying” is from modern fire control.
The creation of a new rating was obvious, was necessary, and became an accomplished fact. Specialists in fire-control equipment were needed while the guns and their equipment were still served by the continuance of gunner’s mates. There resulted the present rate of fire control-man.
The tendency in the business world and in the Navy is toward specialization in organization. Men are no longer seamen or gunners, they are turret captains, torpedomen, signalmen, radiomen, photographers, aerographers—name the specialty and we will show you the rating for it. A situation similar to the early fire-control days confronts us today in damage control.
Damage control is not a new subject any more than fire control was new in the days of Sir Percy Scott’s and our own Admiral Sims’s pioneering attempts to improve it. What is new is the modern effort to perfect and make a specialty of the control of damage in time of battle.
The tendency of damage-control progress is toward such specialization that a new rating is, or very soon will be, necessary to cope with the growth of the subject—the rate of damage controlman.
At the present time the “damage controlmen” are a motley assortment of shipfitters, carpenter’s mates, electricians, various engineering ratings, and whatever other ratings might be included in the repair parties. These men are handicapped when the “damage” is beyond the scope of their rating. What is needed is one rate that will combine the shipfitter’s knowledge of fire mains, drainage, and ventilation; the carpenter’s mates’ knowledge of shoring, the electrician’s mates’ knowledge of rigging jump cables, handling power leads, location of switch boxes; the engineering ratings’ knowledge of fuel oil riser cut-offs, steam cut-offs, location of principal steam lines and cut-offs, and a certain familiarity with firerooms and engine-rooms.
Think of the valuable asset that such men would be to the repair parties. They would be the right-hand men of the officers in charge of those parties; they would be the intelligent directors of the heterogeneous crews at each repair station, and would enable the repair parties to be several times more effective than they are now.
But we have only scratched the surface of the usefulness of these damage controlmen. One of their major functions would be the upkeep of the damage-control equipment throughout the ship. The proper fitting of water-tight doors and hatches, the free working of valves and quick closing ports, the proper marking and maintenance of marking of damage-control fittings, and the care and upkeep of repair station lockers would be within their province.
Shipfitters would then be free to attend to the upkeep of plumbing, new construction, regular repairs, and the thousand and one things that they are called upon to do. While there are some ships that list every job of any size as “beyond the capacity of ship’s force,” there are others that have had the shipfitters and carpenter’s mates installing new bunks, renovating and installing offices, installing new fittings for complete gangways; in fact their ability seems limited only by lack of material, time available, or the resources of the quarterly allotment.
There are two additional qualifications that our damage controlmen should have. These are: expertness in handling respiratory apparatus, flame and gas-proof clothing, and proficiency in using shallow-water diving outfits. This would concentrate responsibility for all gas masks, fire hoods, rescue breathing apparatus, and shallow-water diving helmets, and would result in a more satisfactory administration for maintenance and distribution.
Finally there is suggested the establishment of a school for training the higher ratings of damage controlmen. In addition to thorough instruction in a gas school and a diving tank, it is suggested that an old ship, destined for the scrap heap, be made available at the school for instruction in shoring, repairing cables and fire mains, cutting off steam and oil, and making repairs to flooded compartments.
An old ship, used as suggested, could have compartments flooded, various real damage inflicted by dynamiting (with, of course, the students well out of the way), and would provide a laboratory for the inquisitiveness of the damage controlmen that would result in improvements born of “being not seeming.”
Many a harassed first lieutenant and damage control officer would welcome a rate that would keep damage-control equipment and knowledge in an ever ready state of preparedness so that the duties of the “poor janitor” would not so overwhelm the overworked C. & R. Department as to result in a last-minute scramble to be fully prepared for an impending damage-control inspection.
This paper is submitted, then, in the hope that there will soon result:
(1) A separate rating of damage control-man which will combine those features of the ratings of shipfitters, carpenter’s mates, electrician’s mates, and engineers that pertain to damage control. The men are to have charge of the maintenance of damage control fittings, submersible pumps, gas masks, repair lockers, etc.
(2) A course of training for these men that will include the above knowledge (which will also mean familiarity with the blue prints of the various steam, fire, ventilation, and electrical lines) plus a knowledge of gas defense and diving.
(3) A school for the study of damage control with a real ship as a laboratory for the gaining of actual practice in repairs and shoring and for experiments and research in damage control
What man can consider himself fit to arrange and conduct a battle merely by innate qualities? What sort of artists would we have if the most enlightened among them had received no more than five or six lessons in his art?—Moe Beausobre.