A glimpse of what goes into maintaining an amphibious assault ship

Navy ships as big as the U.S. Navy’s Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Boxer need a lot of maintenance of damage control equipment that ensures the material integrity and survivability of the ship.

One division aboard Boxer, known as equipment repair, or ER09, is dedicated to maintaining and repairing that equipment.

Comprised of personnel handpicked by their respective departments, approximately 30 Sailors serve as damage control petty officers, or damage control subject matter experts to keep Boxer in the fight.

“ER09’s mission is to keep the ship at its war fighting readiness, point blank,” said Damage Controlman 1st Class Taquisha Sims, ER09’s leading petty officer.

“We are here to ensure the highest level of readiness in the event of any casualty. That includes the need of firefighting agents, flooding preventive measures such as providing sound water tight integrity throughout the ship. We are here to assist the ship’s flying squad as qualified basic and advanced damage control petty officers.”

The sheer volume of equipment ER09 personnel must account for presents challenges in and of itself. Each piece of equipment requires varying levels of preventive or corrective maintenance.

“I would say the biggest challenge is that there is such a massive amount of equipment all over the ship,” said Chief Damage Controlman Christopher Brennan, ER09’s leading chief petty officer.

“Also ensuring all of the equipment gets the correct level of maintenance, that there is maintenance assigned and it gets the correct level of attention. We also organize the consolidated ship’s maintenance plan, making sure everything is annotated correctly and coordinate the efforts to rectify each piece of equipment.”

ER09 is responsible for approximately 10,000 pieces of equipment, a sizable amount considering the number of personnel assigned to complete maintenance and ensure the operability of each piece of equipment.

“ER09 takes care of every quick acting water tight door, individually dogging water tight doors, hatches, scuttles, portable and relay battle lanterns, portable CO2 bottles, portable AFFF and PKP bottles,” said Sims. “ER09 encompasses a large variety of jobs and personnel with the knowledge to get those jobs completed.”

Many people seemingly underestimate the importance of an assignment to ER09. A maintenance check as simple as a CO2 bottle check, if not performed, correctly could potentially result in a fire casualty spiraling out of control and causing severe damage to the ship and the unnecessary loss of life could occur.

Most professional organizations utilize quality assurance measures to ensure procedural compliance; in ER09, every damage control petty officer has to perform a weekly spot check. Spot checks are conducted by senior leadership to verify that the person performing the maintenance is a qualified damage control petty officer and that they have correctly completed the maintenance. This ensures the program correctly adheres to Boxer’s safety standards.

Maintaining Boxer’s material condition provides crewmembers with the added benefit of preserving the ship’s habitability. This is an endless battle pitting crewmembers against the unforgiving elements while operating on the ocean.

“The personnel assigned to ER09 are rated above the rest, certified to maintain shipboard material condition and ensure the water tight integrity that helps the crew sleep well knowing in the event of a missile attack they can count on the dependability of the ship’s water tight fittings and closures to keep them above water,” said Sims.