Fighting the fire of 18C Hornet

Navy Veteran ABH 3 E-4 Daniel Strickland of Livingston, Montana served in the Navy from July 2007 to July 2012.  As part of the USS Carl Vinson’s first rate Crash and Salvage Techs, Strickland served on the USS Carl Vinson and became part of history in the making.

Signing up with the Navy, Strickland wanted to be a firefighter. That would have been Disaster Control, known as a DC man on ship, but there were too many people trying for that spot. He was told Crash and Salvage was the next best thing when he found he couldn’t get into Disaster Control. What he didn’t know was he’d have to work his way up to take position and in the mean time he’d be directing planes off the flight deck and possibly not fight fires at all.

He requested a West Coast Ship to be closer to Montana when it docked. That meant the USS Carl Vinson. But there was a catch… it was docked in New Port, Virginia under construction two years to put in a new reactor to last for the next fifty years.

That put into motion a set of circumstances where there was an opening for Crash and Salvage. There were only eleven people in B-1 flight department and so with no competition to speak of Strickland got a shot at the job he wanted. He began training for Crash and Salvage in between helping with construction on the USS Carl Vinson. Crash and Salvage was required to have two welders at that time, so he was sent to Portsmouth, Virginia to become certified in welding. He was then back on the Vinson for a month before being sent to the USS Abraham Lincoln on TAD (Temporary Assigned Duty). There he shadowed the Crash and Salvage crew there earning experience from one of the most experienced in-sync crews in the fleet.

Aboard the USS Carl Vinson Strickland was able to become witness to and participate in moments of history. The Vinson was about to go to South Africa when the earthquake hit Haiti. Since they were only about 600 nautical miles away, the Vinson was one of the first responders to the disaster. All planes were flown off the deck to make way for the HELO Squadron of SH 60’s and H46’s to retrieve bodies. He was also part of the skeleton crew allowed on deck when Osama bin Laden was buried at Sea off the USS Carl Vinson.

Did you ever have to use your training?
Fires on deck are rare. You usually deal with hydraulic failures or fuel spills and in the five years I served I had two fires, noting big just little stuff until the one day we got the one we were trained for…

I was training a guy, on TAD (Temporary Assigned Duty) from the Washington, and he was shadowing me that day. There were the usual ops and training flights when all of a sudden squadron 113, plane 311 a F/A-18C Hornet came in for a training touch and go, as it takes off you see flames come out of one engine and then you see flames come out of the other engine. The pilot turns and we think he’s going to eject when all of a sudden he decides to land it instead. He catches the hook and I tell myself, “I’m trained for this I know what’s going to happen here…”

After it stops, fuel from the plane engulfs the back of it in flames. A B-25 Fire truck fights it on one side and my buddy and I grab a hose from the catwalk and hit it from the other side. We go in from a 45 degree angle, sweep in and push it back having it out in four to five minutes. Hooked it on and tractor and pulled it out. It was known throughout the fleet as a perfect text book Airplane crash and firefighting. It earned 15 of us Navy Marine Achievement Metals and a meeting with the Admiral, and he gave us all his coin.  (You Tube Video of event above)

Why did you decide to serve?
It was more economics than anything. I was working as an EMT working toward becoming a Paramedic, working as a bartender and trying to go to college. I was looking for a way to get experience and pay for college.

What did you like most about serving?
The travel, because I was able to see a lot of different places I wouldn’t have normally gone to. The people I met along the way, because I made a lot good friends and the GI Bill.

What were some of the challenges?
Deployments were tough. You were gone for six months and the e-mail didn’t always work or you couldn’t get time on the computer, so it could be pretty isolating. Being away from family was hard. Then I missed my friend’s wedding and the birth of his first child and holidays with my family. It was hard to be apart. About three fourths of the people I served with had either a divorce or trouble with a cheating spouse. It was hard on everyone…

What was the most rewarding thing about serving?
Only one percent of the population serves and saying I was one of them who got to serve gives me a great sense of pride.

What are the advantages of serving?
Health care and the GI Bill, contributing to something bigger than yourself.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to serve?
Read the contract. Know what you want to do and be prepared for what you are getting into. Be willing to make the sacrifices and do your research.




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