Story by Seaman Apprentice Gwyneth Vandevender
USS Kearsarge (LHD 3)
ATLANTIC OCEAN—Machinist Mate Fireman Zachariah Murray, from York, Pennsylvania, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in April of 2020 to travel the world and learn new skills. The skills Murray wanted to attain had nothing to do with food service. However, two months ago after turning wrenches as an engineer aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), he began supporting his shipmates as a food service attendant (FSA) in the S-2 supply division.
FSA duty is a tradition of necessity in the surface Navy due to limited personnel and many requirements on a ship. The vast amount of support required to operate an amphibious warship, comparable to a floating city, require Sailors temporarily shift gears from their primary job to support different mission areas of the ship like supply, security, or damage control.
As an FSA, Murray helps prepare and serve meals to a crew of approximately 1,000 Sailors and Marines. He cleans dining facilities, restocks supplies, and sometimes works in the scullery washing dishes. It is essentially like working at a very busy restaurant.
One evening during Kearsarge’s underway in support of Naval Surface Forces Atlantic sea trials, Murray was performing his FSA duties when he learned of an issue in the main machinery room—his actual workspace as a machinist mate. The main engine was leaking lube oil and immediate repairs were necessary. Without hesitation, Murray dressed out in flame resistant coveralls, donned his hearing protection, and raced down to the machinery room to help his fellow engineers secure the leak. This is why he joined the Navy!
“We performed all of the proper procedures to secure the leak,” said Murray. “We coordinated with the officer of the deck and the commanding officer in order to temporarily shut down all of the associated equipment and safely make repairs.”
Murray emphasized that the repair was an all-hands effort. He said everyone had a part in fixing the ship and getting back to normal operations—he was just happy to be able to support when needed.
“It was really cool to see everyone come together to get the job done,” said Murray. ”Everyone had a task to do. Together we were able to promptly fix the issue.”
According to Murray, Kearsarge’s main machinery room engineers train regularly in order to maintain readiness for situations just like this, which happen from time to time, but they are always treated very seriously.
“I learned a lot during the repair process,” said Murray. “It was a good opportunity for me to see how the main engine worked and how to troubleshoot and adapt in situations where things might not go as expected.”
Machinist Mate 1st Class Bryan Greenman, Murray’s leading petty officer, expressed that Murray demonstrated a good sense of teamwork and an eager-to-learn attitude during the casualty.
“Murray is a fantastic Sailor,” said Greenman. “He took time out of his duties as a food service attendant within another division to come help us out when we needed to make repairs.”
The repair could have taken several days but was finished in a matter of hours thanks to the grit and determination of Kearsarge’s engineers and Sailors like Murray who ran toward the challenge, not away.
Murray will proudly serve as an FSA in the S-2 food services division for about one more month. He will continue to serve and fix hot meals for his shipmates—but if there is ever a need for an engineer, this FSA Fireman will drop his spatula, pick up a wrench, and fix the ship too!
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