ABOARD USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- In the 1990s, the "Unabomber" made Americans a little apprehensive about opening their mailboxes, and after Sept. 11, arguably the most horrifying word in the English language was "Anthrax."
For as long as it's been around, the postal service has dealt with suspicious packages, and it's no different aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).
The current state of affairs around the world puts the post office at a "heightened state of alert," said postal officer, Chief Postal Clerk (SW) Robert Ryan.
Postal clerks aboard Carl Vinson conduct suspicious package drills on a regular basis, but coordination with everyone involved is vital. The word rings out over the ship's announcing system, beginning a drill that is dependent on the teamwork of not only the post office, but Security department, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Unit and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), as well.
"Everyone working together is the key to success," said Master-at-Arms 1st Class (SW) Mike Rutland, Security department leading petty officer.
Security is the first to get a phone call. They ensure communication and coordination of everyone involved.
"They're the first ones on the scene," said Ryan. They set up a command post, evacuate spaces, close hangar-bay doors and get EOD on the scene as soon as possible.
According to the Naval Aviation Training Operation Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) manual, two EOD personnel are required to be aboard Carl Vinson during flight operations.
"The primary reason we're on board is to take care of ordnance on the flight deck," said Chief Aviation Ordnanceman (EOD) Kevin Borkowski. "The fact we can be around to take care of suspicious packages is an added bonus."
EOD takes on the job of handling the package and making recommendations to the commanding officer and officer of the deck on the bridge, to decide the best possible way to dispose of it. "Usually, the package has been through the mail, so we know it can be moved, but we need to know what will happen when it's detonated," said Borkowski. "We want to minimize the damage to the ship. We need to know exactly what's in there."
The EOD team carefully places an X-ray machine right to the package, determining whether or not it contains a functioning explosive device. Drill or not, EOD team members take every precaution in handling the package.
"We train like we fight," said Borkowski.
"To the EOD guy on the scene, this is an actual device. It gets the respect it deserves."
Assuming the X-rays prove the package to be a threat, EOD makes plans to move and detonate it.
"The fantail or one of the smoking sponsons are the best places to detonate," said Borkowski. "We want to be as far away from planes and fuel as possible."
By the time EOD is ready to destroy the package, NCIS is on the scene ready to pick up the pieces and gather evidence.
"(NCIS) will be on top of the situation," said Borkowski. "As far as handling the package, (EOD) wants to do as little as possible - no prints - no disruptions. The goal is to keep the evidence intact."
Before detonating the package with an electrically-charged .50-caliber round, EOD personnel carefully choose the angle the round enters the package, maximizing what evidence is left behind and hopefully bringing the culprit to justice.
The country may stay at a heightened sense of alert, and post offices around the world will no doubt continue to deal with suspicious packages. This is no different aboard Carl Vinson. The training will continue, and if the time should come, the team will be ready to neutralize any threat.
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.