Friday, September 18, 2009

Colors of the Flight Deck - Red

In a continuing series on my humble electronic home, I want to introduce you to the many and varied colors of shirts worn on the Flight Deck of your typical Aircraft Carrier. The color is significant in what the people are doing and even within the color there are differences.

Explained herein Today's lesson: The Red Shirt.

(Click on all photos for the large format.)

Oh the lovable Red Shirt. There are actually two different people that wear the Red Shirts on the Flight Deck.

The first of these is the Crash and Salvage crew members. These Guys are trained to pull trapped crewmen from inside wrecked aircraft. The first responders of this cadre wear those shinny silvery suits to protect them from flame but after the fire is out, the rest of them are in plane Red. They poke around checking for loose ordnance, liquid oxygen containers and leaking fuel. While one would think they do the actual fire fighting there are not enough of them to put out most fires. So, these guys act as the first response while the rest of the flight deck crew bring in the 2" hose lines that will put out or control a conflagration.

C+S Crew on a TAU (Twin Agent Unit). (USN Photo)

We really do call them that, conflagration; because a fire on the flight deck can get out of control very fast. There is no small amount of fuel, ordnance, liquid oxygen and hydraulic fluid in the modern jet aircraft, having even one spilling this stuff out is a big deal, but to do it while breaking up in and among other aircraft similarly armed and fueled leads you right to a conflagration. That is why we send these guys in first; they throw down foam fire suppressant as quickly as possible hoping to control things until the hose crews arrive. They are sometimes sacrificed in this process. That other may live and fight on.

Here is why, the ready ordie stack. (USN Photo)
And this is by no means a lot of ordnance. (USN Photo)

The other members that wear the Red Shirt are our Ordnance Men, the many AO's that come from both Ship's Company and the Air Wing (individual Squadrons). These guys are almost always the muscular one's who frequently load aircraft the old fashion way, with a hernia bar. This is long steel rod that is screwed into the front and back of a bomb and then two; three or four of them grab the bar and lift it straight up onto the pylon.

Somtimes they don't use the Hernia Bar, they just stuff it onto the pylon. Like here. (USN Photo).

Now, my squadron had AO's as well. We carried a variety of armaments from torpedo's to Zuni rockets. Mostly the VS AO took care of the sonobuoy package that each of our aircraft carried. Every squadron had AO's and some of the Attack squadrons they were the most numerous rating in the command.
Arming a Sidwinder. (USN Photo)

Iron diplomacy x1000 pounds. (USN Photo)

One could argue the sanity of anyone who would intentionally want to mess around all day with explosives however we lose very few of these guys so, they must be doing something right.

A 'Gunner' oversees the Arming of an F-14 prior to Launch. (USN Photo)

The AO community has a kind of a cult following, and you rarely hear of anyone cross-rating, that is changing from any other rate to AO. They are of nearly a single mind and are the butt of many a Joke told within the Naval Air community. But their loyalty to the Rate is legion. You often see this acronym in their spaces: IYAOYAS. Don't bother asking them what it means because you get chided on not knowing.

So there you have the famous Red Shirt.
Now I can tell you a story about them.
BT: Jimmy T sends.


Buck said...

We call our AO equivalents "BB stackers." Those of us who ain't BB-stackers, that is. :D

JimmyT said...

Buck, they were called that too in my neck of the woods. They were something. Never had a friend that was an AO, unlike the other Rates, I had friends all around the boat but never a BB Stacker.

BT: Jimmy T sends.

Barco Sin Vela II said...

I hung out with AO's all the time. Comes from being on the stupid s&*t nuke load team on my first tour.

AO's were great fun and I am still friends with some of them.

JimmyT said...

Barco, yeah I had to deal with them when I was PRP. The team I was on had only 1 AO on it and we did good in all of our inspections and audits. The team that had 4 of them were always fighting and arguing, right in front of the guys from Kirtland too. Not good. I also had a run in with a Gunner (a WO) later working as an Engineer. It was not good, I had to tell the Wing Comodore that this guy needed to be fired. Ugly.

BT: Jimmy T sends.