U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (1/20/2013) – In a world
far below the waterline, with a reputation as one of “the most
inhospitable environments” aboard amphibious assault ship USS
Peleliu (LHA 5), work a hardened group of sailors known as
U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS
Peleliu (photo courtesy of U.S. Navy)
“The entire Navy and Marine Expeditionary Unit team with Peleliu
form a war fighting system. The very essence of Peleliu starts below
on the seventh deck,” said Lt. Cmdr. Terrance Patterson, the ship's
main propulsion assistant. “Twenty-four hours per day, engineers man
the engine rooms and auxiliary spaces, providing the heartbeat of
Peleliu, steam for her propulsion main steam turbines, and
electricity for every piece of machinery, combat systems equipment
Nearly 70,000 gallons of potable water are
produced from one evaporator. Forty-five hundred amps and 2,500
kilowatts of electricity are constantly being generated by one of
four generators. Machinist's mates face many variables on a daily
basis, including high pressure steam, high voltage, and the constant
threat of fire or fuel leak.
“An engineer's job is never done; both in port and underway.
Underway, they work 12 hours per day under extreme environmental
conditions, living in heavy and hot flame retardant coveralls,
surrounded by high humidity, and temperatures ranging from 83 to 103
degrees,” said Patterson.
Every two weeks, the plant is
required to perform a boiler bottom blow which removes the sludge
left inside the boiler after steam production. This bottom blow
helps prevent buildup that would render the boiler inoperative.
Engineers light fires in Peleliu's main propulsion boilers, creating
a hot and steamy environment, with dangers of possible flash steam
at a moment's notice. The engineers don heavy steam-resistant
clothing, and occasionally leather, to help defend against the
space's highly flammable fluids and 700 pounds per square inch steam
While on deployment, as the crew goes about their daily
routines, the plant operators work to provide power and hot water
for prepared meals, hot showers and laundry.
“A lot of people
tend to not realize how important our rating is, but it is really
vital.” said Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Joseph D. Edwards.
of checks and operating procedures need to be followed in order to
bring the engineering plants alive. Even in port where the ship
needs to be ready for departure at any time, the machinist's mates'
“A lot of people forget that we will
always be the first on and last off the ship,” said Machinist's Mate
1st Class Derek Peel, forward main machinery room leading petty
officer. “The spaces are always in operation at every port we pull
An engineer's work can be long and difficult due to
the hard conditions that they face as they work in the plant. At
times, the operators will go with limited liberty and even sunlight
to provide Peleliu the power, water and drive to carry out its
For some of the engineers, the motivation to push
forward comes from other sources.
“With this job you rarely
get recognized for your everyday struggles so it takes a lot of
self-pride and motivation,” said Peel.
Another driving force
is the relationships that are tempered in the relentless “pit.”
“As a main space engineer, all you have are your shipmates that
you work with. We are like a family down here. You will never make
it as an individual,” added Peel. “You never know when the men and
women you stand watch with might save your life during a casualty.”
Although shipmates build bonds in the pits, the working
environment can test the links these sailors share.
are outside of work is not who you are inside of work. I believe
that's with any rate, but [in] engineering, specifically, you have
to think about the conditions you face in the pit; it's hot, it's
loud and people are tired,” said Edwards.
continue to be masters of their machinery and persevere under all
conditions to enable mission accomplishment.
clock, they answer the bell [and] generate electricity. Water flows
[to ship's spaces] to accommodate life for the crew aboard without a
second thought,” said Peleliu's Chief Engineer Cmdr. Aaron
Washington. “The hard work they perform day in and day out keeps the
heartbeat of Peleliu alive.”
Peleliu is the flag ship for the
Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 15th Marine
Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security
operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th
Fleet area of responsibility.
By MCS 3rd Class Alex Van'tLeven
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