Pacific Ocean. (September 10, 2023): These chilling words reflect one of the darkest fears of a Sailor at sea, falling overboard undetected while your mates proceed without you. In this photo by MC2 Matthew Cavenaile, Ensign Conor Backhaus, from Omaha, Nebraska, and his comrades conduct man overboard drills from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay. With thousands of Sailors at sea, the American Navy takes “Man Overboard” drills very seriously.
Sailors are taught to shout 'man overboard' until the entire crew is aware of the situation. The person who sees the man overboard should maintain eye contact as long as possible, noting distance and speed from the vessel. A lifebuoy is released, the position is marked by GPS, and a buoyant smoke flare is fired. If the person is close to the ship, flotation equipment is lowered in their direction.
These small boat drills test communications between the bridge, deck crew, and the rescue boats while they coordinate with other vessels in the vicinity. Their skill and coordination could very well save the life of a Sailor lost at sea.