NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (March 30, 2020) – “Fire! Fire! Fire! Class Alpha Fire reported. Cease all hot work. All hands not involved stand clear.”
This was the call over the 1 Main Circuit (1MC) on March 20, 2020, when Operations Specialist Seaman Nathan Trotter, a Portsmouth, Virginia native and a security watchstander aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), spotted and put out a class alpha fire on the ship.
“I was taking water up to one of our watches on the flight deck when a contractor stopped me and asked if I smelled smoke,” said Trotter. “I saw that a mop head was on fire, so I put it out using the water I was bringing to the flight deck.”
The quick wit of Trotter’s actions prevented a potentially hazardous situation before the fire could spread and cause damage to the ship.
“By pouring some water on the mop head so quickly, he prevented a lot of smoke and possibly a large fire,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Marc Short, George Washington’s fire marshal. “A quick and proper response within the first few minutes of most damage control casualties when they occur can prevent major damage, injury, or even loss of life.”
After noticing the source of the fire in front of him, Trotter knew that the water he had with him was the best immediate option from his training as a Sailor.
“He is all trained up, he knows what to do, and he took action,” said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Tajuan Taylor, a security watch commander aboard George Washington.
Trotter received a “spot” Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (NAM) for his actions from George Washington’s commanding officer (CO), Capt. Kenneth Strong.
“I honestly wasn’t expecting it,” Trotter said, in reference to the spot NAM. “I was confused, but honored at the same time.”
In addition to official recognition and appreciation from the CO, Trotter was also praised throughout his department and the ship for his actions.
“It feels great, honestly, for my Sailor to get rewarded for his actions,” said Taylor. “Anytime one of my Sailors can go out and accomplish things like that and do what is right, [it] is awesome.”
When Trotter put out the fire and let surrounding Sailors know what was going on, he said he just thought he was doing his job as any Sailor should do on the ship. It is commonly said that every Sailor is a firefighter, and Trotter’s quick response to the fire he spotted proved that adage true.
“Reporting incidents first is key, followed by attempting to isolate or combat the casualty,” said Short. “Damage control is everyone’s responsibility, and Seaman Trotter did his part.”
Trotter’s actions while on watch show that no matter the situation, any Sailor can be a first responder and can be the difference between safety and damage or injury.
“Don’t be afraid to take action,” said Trotter. “Do whatever your gut is telling you to do and alert bystanders as soon as possible.”