Flooding, Flooding, Flooding

Flooding meets its match

by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeremy Starr and Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin Steinberg, Defense Media Activity
29 April 2016 Ships have an uncanny ability to either save your life or end it.
Although noble, when a ship starts sinking, not many really want to go down with it. While precautions are always in place to help ensure that doesn't happen, life can throw a big wrench into things.

The USS Buttercup, located at Farrier Firefighting School in Norfolk, has been helping Sailors work around those wrenches by ensuring Sailors are trained to keep their ship afloat.

Although it has a funny name, the training is serious. Elements of an actual flood are mimicked perfectly: cold, dark, hectic. Water is flooding in from every which way, pitting Sailors against real world scenarios they could find themselves in at the drop of a hat.

"Overall, the importance of the Buttercup is to give a real life scenario, or a real life situation, to pipe patching, bulkhead repair and shoring," said Damage Controlman 1st Class Kreig Newton, an instructor at Farrier. "Stuff you will see and be able to do in case you hit something."

Newton has been at Farrier for about three years and has seen more than 40,000 students go through the various trainings. That's more than 40,000 Sailors that have been trained to save lives and ensure the safety of the ship.
VIRIN: 160429-N-TB177-001

Although the training is only a day long, it is intense. This is not just classroom training. This is real-world -- no holds barred training developed to build confidence.

Students start with about two hours of classroom education before they enter Buttercup. The instructors make sure that students know the basics of damage control. The students are then ushered to the pipe patching lab and then taken on a walkthrough of Buttercup. Then it's game time. It's time for trial by fire and flood.

"The challenges for the Buttercup is being cold and having the water spraying in your face, you don't have that time to sit there and just turn off the water," said Newton. "You got to stop it yourself, so you're going to have water spraying in your face. You're going to have water spraying all over components. It's going to be mad chaos. Lights are off, smoke is everywhere and it's supposed to give you that realistic feel that your ship is sinking and you have to save it."
VIRIN: 160412-N-TB177-002

That cold that Newton describes is during the pipe patching lab, which the happens prior to going into the Buttercup. They use regular city water that is not heated and spray the students continuously while they desperately try to focus and properly secure patches onto broken pipes and bulkheads. This freezing water can break a person's concentration and Farrier school does this intentionally. It's the same temperature that Sailors might experience if they were to have to do this in a real-world situation. So while it's anything but comfortable, there is a method to Farrier's madness. Sailors aren't being trained just physically; they're being trained mentally too.

As for the Buttercup, that water is filtered, heated and chlorinated to ensure the water is safe and clean. But that comes with a tradeoff. Sailors are in the water longer and have more being thrown at them. If they didn't want to work as a team before, they have to now.

The last part of the Buttercup is having to abandon the ship. For this, Sailors have to escape a scuttle while water is poured down through it. Sailors have to grab at a ladder that they know is there but can't see. Then they have to deal with the force of the water pushing them down as they are trying to climb up.

In the end though, it's worth it.

"Even though it was cold and I might have been a little scared or nervous, it was still very good," said Logistics Specialist Seaman Recruit Jordan Perdue, one of the students who went through the training. "The instructors make sure you do well and they did a really good job teaching us how to shore and make sure we work together as a team to make sure that the water leaves the ship."

At the end of the day as Sailors dump the water from their boots and wring out their uniforms, it's a pretty safe bet that they'll always remember this experience. Should they find themselves in an actual emergency situation in the future, hopefully they will remember their training and suck it up, Buttercup.
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