Combat Systems Six Keeps George Washington on Track
The room is dimly lit by blue lights accompanied by the glow of orange and red buttons, and green-colored screens that display information useless to anyone who doesn't know what to look for.
Electronics Technician 3rd Class Dennis Earl steps up to a large piece of equipment and pulls on a latch that opens up to a section of wires and knobs.
His navy-blue uniform contrasts with the yellow multi-reader he slowly unwinds from its wires and places in sections of equipment, the purpose of which only he and a handful of Sailors aboard the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) know.
Earl, from Richmond, Mich., is one of the 23 Sailors that make up combat systems (CS) department, CS6 division, who specialize in radar maintenance. CS6 is responsible for keeping more than 21 navigation and radar equipment throughout the ship in top condition whether in port or at sea.
"Everyday is a challenge in CS6," said Earl. "Due to the nature of our gear, there is a spot light on us when things break. The pressure is on us when things go south to get our gear online as fast as possible. Because if something breaks, it compromises our ability to complete the primary mission."
One of the challenges for Earl is time, he said. Not only is he a technician, he is also in charge of ordering all the repair parts for his division. This is an important job because CS6 requires a lot of parts every week to keep their systems up and running.
"If anything breaks it's on me to get the parts ordered properly," said Earl. "Not to mention also taking care of whatever task I need to take care of for my own system, or helping others trouble shoot their systems. It can get hectic and stressful but the challenge is what keeps this job interesting."
"Earl is a stellar Sailor and dedicated young technician," said Chief Electronics Technician Gregory Guier, CS6's leading chief petty officer. "He functions at a level of a much senior petty officer and he has a willingness to take on more and succeed in more. He also keeps his peers and senior leadership in line and sets the pace for everyone in the division."
"It is fun when things break," said Earl with a quick smile and a head nod. "It is sort of like being an investigator, and I like to fix people's problems."
"Without us our equipment operators would lose a lot of automation in their line of work," said Earl. "I and the other Sailors in my division are like the 1-800 hotline for our equipment on the ship. We are always available and ready."
Any operator who experiences a malfunction with equipment owned by CS6 has only to call the combat systems maintenance center to report the issue. The Sailor on desk watch then calls the appropriate technician to troubleshoot the problem.
"Everybody on the bridge relies on us to do our jobs right," said Earl as he re-winds the red and black wires around his multi-reader. "CS6 owns all the navigation radars, and nearly all the displays on the ship," said Earl, "We are like a warranty that follows the ship everywhere and lasts forever."
A CS6 technician is sent to investigate the issue and may perform a simple calibration, or if that doesn't work, he would open up the system to take a reading. Simple operational errors are common if no problem is found.
"When I joined the Navy, my biggest goal was to be able to help people on a daily basis. And I feel like I get to accomplish that here onboard the USS George Washington. I've gotten to go places and see things that I would never be able to do as a civilian. And even though I have to sacrifice a lot of my freedom to be able to enjoy these things, I think it's worth it."
Earl closes the door with a click as the cool, blue room disappears out of sight. He strides down narrow passageways and escapes through metal doorways to return the multi-reader and anticipate his next investigation.
Whether the equipment is above the hangar bay or deep in the depths of George Washington, Earl and his fellow CS6 Sailors are ready to fix vital ship's equipment to help the ship and its crew move safely through the Pacific.
George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
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