Vinson 'Cat Operators' Get a Break With No-Fly Days


Story Number: NNS030618-10Release Date: 6/18/2003 3:59:00 PM
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By Journalist Seaman Chris Fahey, USS Carl Vinson Public Affairs

ABOARD USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- At 5:30 a.m., USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) air department's V-2 waist-side catapult operators report to their workcenter clean, dressed and ready to work.

Unfortunately, dirtying their uniforms while greasing up crucial catapult machinery is the first check mark on their daily 'to-do' list while preparing for flight operations. The 'green shirts' then scatter to their selected functions to help coordinate the day's take-offs.

As the day goes by, the clock's hour hand passes 12 twice, and by 2:30 a.m., they patiently wait for 'he who brings sleep' - their chief. After about 19 hours of work on the flight deck, the duct-taped chairs offer comfort. Other workers sit on the deck or lean against the bulkhead to rest their legs. The room is filled with a mixture of yawns and laughs, and bets are taken on who will fall asleep first.

"We consider ourselves the 'Navy SEALs' of the air department," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Robert Lucio, V-2 catapult operator. "We work the hardest."

After waiting several minutes, their chief arrives, and the hard-working team hears news causing them to rejoice.

"Great job guys ... no-fly day tomorrow ... you're secured," yells Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) (AW) Marc Nau, waist-side catapult leading chief petty officer.

"It takes about five minutes for the news of the no-fly day to sink in," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Jean-Paul Hurd, steam catapult hold back operator. "Then you can hear cheers coming from everyone. Some people even clap."

On a normal work day, the 42 V-2 crewmen are usually secured after launching nearly 70 aircraft per day with no shift changes. During Exercise Foal Eagle, they launched 100 'birds' each day for 10 days straight.

No-fly days offer the crew a break from the flight deck, and it allows time to perform preventive maintenance on machinery and to conduct training.

"They stay proficient at what they do, and that is important, because we could not do our job without them," said Marine Strike Fighter Squadron 314 pilot Capt. Jack Bolton. "They're great."

Staying skilled on the flight deck is essential to mission readiness.

"Without us, (Carl Vinson) might as well be a cruise ship," said Nau. "With no aircraft in the air, the ship would be left nearly defenseless, and flight operations could not happen."

The occasional holidays also offer the crew a chance to hang out and develop as a team.

"We are all connected in one way or another," said Hurd. "Unity is what makes our shop work."

The connection is important, because staying focused can sometimes become a challenging part of the job.

"We all pull the same weight though, and we always have each other's back ... no matter what," said Hurd.

When it is all said and done, no-fly days give the crew a reason to sing.

"I get so happy, I sometimes sing 'Oh Happy Day' when I go down to the chow hall," said Hurd.

The Carl Vinson Battle Group is currently deployed in the western Pacific Ocean as part of America's standing commitment to maintain peace and stability in cooperation with allies and friends in the region.

For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn70.

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