ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- The attitude was all business in Hangar Bay One aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) March 21 as the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) that were to be released over Iraq in the early morning hours were taken to the flight deck to be loaded on aircraft.
It was business as usual, just on a much larger scale. The hangar bay was blocked off and flooded with a sea of Sailors wearing red jerseys identifying them as aviation ordnancemen. They all worked in concert, checking the bombs that had previously been loaded onto racks and then taking them to the aircraft elevator for their trip to the flight deck.
It was a massive load-out, but the Sailors who prepared these weapons for their eventual destination with Iraqi targets said it is what they trained for.
"We train the way we fight," said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (AW) Rob Upton. "We're prepared for this. It feels good knowing that we're going to do what we've been trained to do ... that we're going to be able to use it now. We're going to make a difference in whatever actions are taken."
Upton credits training and teamwork for the efficient operation. "Everyone was ready to go and right on cue. Each of the divisions worked hand-in-hand together to get the ammunition up to the flight deck and to the squadrons. Everything just gelled."
The ammunition load-out went smoothly and with a great deal of professionalism, but there was a sense this was something more than routine. Several Sailors and Marines stood on the edges of the boundary - many taking photographs - and there was a feeling they were witnessing a piece of history.
"I've spent my entire Navy career working with helicopters, so I've never seen this much ordnance," said Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class Jonathan Nash of Sea Control Squadron (VS) 22.
As he watched the elevator lift the 1,000 and 2,000-pound JDAMs to the flight deck, Nash continued, "I just want all the jets to come back. They can go off fully loaded and come back slick. As long as they all come back it's fine with me."
Hours later, the first jets were launching, and the flight deck was alive with Sailors and Marines doing the jobs they were trained to do. Inside the ship, it was eerily silent. As HST entered Operation Iraqi Freedom in earnest, the crew seemed to hold its collective breath, their thoughts with those flying off the ship to liberate Iraq.
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