ABOARD USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- Safely recovering aircraft aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) requires more than just a team of well-trained flight deck personnel.
Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Launching and Recovery Equipment) Airman Kevin Harris, of Air department's V-2 division, recently drove home this point, when he potentially saved the lives of several Vinson crew members simply by doing his job.
Recently, an E-2C Hawkeye returned to the flight deck of Carl Vinson by catching the number-four arresting wire. The pilot lifted his tail hook a few seconds too early, and as a result, 340 feet of wire laid slack on the deck.
As the deck-edge operator recoiled the cable on the flight deck to prepare it for the next trap, Harris stood one level below as the starboard sheave damper operator for the fourth arresting-gear engine.
One main aspect of the sheave damper operator's job is making sure the wire retracts safely and properly, said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Launching and Recovery Equipment) 2nd Class Eddie Rawlinson.
Just as the deck-edge operator finished retracting the wire and was about to call 'battery,' meaning the four wire was again ready to take trap, Harris called 'foul deck' into his sound-powered phone.
"I heard this funny noise, like a loud, metal-to-metal scratch," said Harris. "I overlooked all of my equipment. Right before they called battery, I realized that the cable, which is supposed to be on the sheave, was off. It was wedged between the sheave and the manifold."
When Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Launching and Recovery Equipment) (AW) Joseph Volker, V-2's branch chief, arrived on the scene to further investigate Harris' discovery, he also found a kink in the wire. The damage was so severe that one more trap could have caused catastrophe on the flight deck.
"If he wouldn't have noticed the cable had come off the sheave, and we would have taken a trap, the cable would have parted," said Volker. "It would have been like a giant metal rubber band whipping all over the flight deck, cutting people in half and damaging aircraft."
Two days later, with his shipmates in attendance, Carl Vinson's Commanding Officer, Capt. Rick Wren, recognized Harris for his life-saving professionalism and attention to detail by awarding him the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
Harris admitted he was initially unaware of the magnitude of his catch, and expressed humble gratitude for the award.
"I feel a lot of honor and pride, but I also know that I was just doing my job. I know anyone else would have done the same thing if they were in the same situation."
For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn70.