ABOARD USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- An aircraft carrier's flight deck during flight operations is widely recognized as one of the most dangerous places to work, so the Sailors and Marines of USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 are constantly on the lookout for dangers. For them, safety of the crew is paramount on their four-and-a-half acres of sovereign U.S. terrority.
Recently, as the "Gold Eagle" navigated through the waters of the Western Pacific, Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Jason Countryman of Electronic Attack Squadron 138, the "Yellow Jackets," demonstrated attention to safety and spectacular alertness, as he rushed to save a shipmate from being blown into the intake of an EA-6B Prowler's roaring jet engine.
As a member of Rampage 502, the team that maintains the squadron's aircraft, Countryman was conducting pre-launch checks on a Prowler for an upcoming flight. Working on aircraft elevator two, additional Rampage 502 personnel surrounded the aircraft to check for any pre-launch discrepancies. Other aircraft crews were conducting similar pre-launch checks throughout the flight deck.
With all pre-launch checks complete on an F/A-18 Hornet, that aircraft was directed out of its parking space, as Rampage 502 crewmen neared completion of their inspections. Transiting the flight deck, the Hornet swept its exhaust in the direction of the Prowler and the deck crewmen surrounding it. While maintaining a watchful eye on his fellow aircrew, Countryman noticed that another 502 Sailor was about to be caught off guard by the sudden force of exhaust. The powerful gust possibly could have blown him into the Prowler's intake.
"We concentrate on our jet, but we also watch aircrew to see if they need any help," said Countryman.
Countryman saw the Hornet begin its turn and correctly anticipated that the exhaust would sweep across the Prowler's crew. Immediately reacting, the 21-year-old raced to his shipmate and shoved him to the deck. They huddled there as the strong blast of hot air swept above.
"Petty Officer Countryman's quick action and situational awareness saved his fellow Sailor from serious injury at least, perhaps from death," said Yellow Jackets Commanding Officer Cmdr. Stephen W. Beckvonpeccoz. "Very certainly, he saved the CVN 70/CVW-9 team from severe damage to an extremely valuable jet engine and loss of a critical EA-6B."
Countryman has remained very humble over the situation.
"I'm not making a big deal about this, just doing my job," he said, as he referred to the event and to his shipmate who was caught off guard. "We joke about it now, but we know it could have been serious."
Saving his shipmate from possible harm, however, has been recognized by Countryman's superiors.
"Especially being the junior guy, he did a great job," said Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class (AW) Jerry Williams, a quality assurance representative who witnessed the event. "He's new but was very aware."
The Farmington, N.M., native has been in the Navy for three years and a Yellow Jacket since June 2000.
Chief Aviation Electronics Technician (AW) Brian Buchanan, avionics armament leading chief petty officer, said Countryman's actions clearly demonstrated his competence and how important it is to always be alert.
"This shows me they are keeping each other safe and alive up there," he said. "We only put the best of the best up there, because it's such a dangerous environment. These guys are a really tight group, and that's how it has to be."
The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is currently deployed in the western Pacific as part of America's standing commitment to maintain peace, stability and theater security cooperation in coordination 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.