NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (May 7, 2019) (NNS) -- One of the main missions of an aircraft carrier is the launch and recovery of aircraft at sea. With this capability, aircraft carriers bring enhanced lethality, forward power projection, and sheer presence from and to any ocean on Earth. These embarked aircraft in turn deter aggression, support troops on the ground, and give warfare commanders a strategic edge in the fight.
Crucial to supporting this mission are aviation boatswain’s mates (AB). ABs specialize in the launch and recovery of aircraft on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, in the fueling and fuel systems of aircraft, and in aircraft handling, firefighting, and salvage and rescue operations. ABs are a versatile group of Sailors, and can further specialize in a unique aspect of the rate. One such specialization is aviation boatswain’s mate (equipment) (ABE).
“As ABE’s we maintain any launch and recovery equipment, such as catapults and the arresting gear,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Jacob Fraley, from Shelbyville, Kentucky, and assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). “ABE’s are also responsible for visual landing aids, such as lights on the flight deck.”
Like other Sailors, especially those attached to “floating cities at sea,” ABEs work tireless hours and sometimes in tough conditions to complete their mission and keep aircraft launching off the flight deck.
“The job of an ABE comes with long days and a lot of hard work. In the morning you are up an hour or two before flight operations start,” said Fraley. “All of our gear and equipment needs to be pre-opt [pre-operations] for flight operations. Flight operations last usually for 12 hours or even more than that depending on how long they want to fly for. After we finish flight operations, we need to post-opt [post operation] all of our equipment, then do any maintenance required on the equipment. After that, we make sure everything is good to go for tomorrow, get some sleep, and do it all again the next day.”
Although the job of an ABE is drastically different during refueling complex overhaul (RCOH), they still play a vital role in George Washington’s current mission of returning to the fleet.
“Our job as ABEs here during RCOH is different than when we are out at sea, because we are not launching and recovering aircraft and we are not really working on any of our own equipment,” said Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Robert Lightner, from Mayville, Michigan, leading chief petty officer of preventative maintenance (PM) 13. “We are spread out all over the ship on various PM teams helping to get George Washington out of the shipyard on time. After we are done with RCOH, we will have all new and updated equipment, which will help the longevity of the ship for years to come and be able to launch aircraft anywhere in the world to defend our country.”
From preparing spaces for maintenance and upgrades during RCOH to the launching and recovering of aircraft out to sea, ABEs remain a keystone to the success of George Washington’s mission and the Navy’s global mission.
“Without ABEs, the launching and recovery of aircraft wouldn’t be possible,” said Fraley. “We play a huge role in naval aviation and in the daily operations of an aircraft carrier.”
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.