USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) -- Approximately 50 Sailors from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) deployed with USS George Washington (CVN 73) Jan. 20 to get some at-sea experience that will be crucial to their ship's success when they become operational again.
Eisenhower is approaching her fourth year in the shipyard at Newport News, Va.
"Getting this time on GW is critical to our development," said Lt. Cmdr. John Okon, Ike's meteorology and oceanography officer. "With George Washington going to fight a war, and Ike in its infancy, our Sailors can contribute to the fighting effort and at the same time receive training that will benefit their ship when they return.
"The skills and qualifications acquired here are things to take great pride in, and being out to sea is the only time you can use them," Okon said. "It's been a great team effort, where both ships have been able to help each other."
The help hasn't stopped at earning qualifications and getting hands-on experience. Okon has also noticed the positive affect that being out to sea and getting to do the jobs they entered the Navy to do has had on Ike Sailors.
"Morale is hard to maintain in the shipyards," he said. "The living conditions off the ship aren't optimal, and the ship itself is being gutted. Now when I come across Ike Sailors, they have smiles on their faces, and are saying, 'Wow! So, this is what the Navy is all about.'"
One of those awed Ike Sailors is Seaman Jami McMurry, who is currently working in Deck Department's Second Division. McMurry has been in the Navy less than a year and, except for a short fast cruise with USS Bataan (LHD 5), all she has seen of the Navy is the shipyard.
With the advancement exam coming up in March, the boatswain's mate hopeful is thankful for this opportunity because she knows that the only way she can learn her rating is to get out to sea and work in it. In addition to becoming a third class petty officer during her GW stint, she has her sights set on earning her master helmsman qualification and enlisted surface warfare specialist pin.
"Working in the shipyards, I don't even feel like I'm in the Navy all the time," she said. "I have learned so much in so little time out here. During the underway replenishment (her first), it was unreal how well everyone worked together and what we were able to accomplish. Right now, my focus is on learning as much as I can, and taking what I learn back to Ike and training others."
That desire to train also runs deeply in the heart of Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Matthew Earley, whose task it is to watch over the progress of Ike's Air Department personnel aboard GW. His primary concern is ensuring the 20 aviation boatswain's mates in his charge earn their flight deck qualification and become acquainted with the intricacies of the catapults.
"The crew we have on Ike is inexperienced. Three-fourths of them are fresh out of boot camp and have never seen what a catapult does," said Earley, who has set lofty goals for himself of earning his enlisted air warfare specialist (EAWS) pin, panel operator qualification and getting re-qualified on the flight deck.
"We need them to learn the job out here so they can help train Sailors on Ike when they return," said Earley. "Working on the flight deck has been an eye-opener for them. It may have taken them by surprise, but it was also energizing. I want them to take that same energy back to our ship."
Another Sailor looking to take something back to Ike is Aerographer's Mate 1st Class Jeff Lankford. Lankford recently graduated from the highly regarded Forecaster "C" school, and is anxious not to let that knowledge go to waste in the yards. Currently under instruction aboard GW as a forecaster out to sea, Lankford admits that it was a little disheartening to receive orders to a ship in the yards, and he is relishing his chance to bring some knowledge home.
"I can give junior personnel who have never been attached to a ship before a perspective of what life is like out to sea," he said. "This is a great opportunity for me to earn my in-rate qualifications, material, maintenance and management, EAWS, damage control and take some college courses."
Some Ike Sailors will stay for the entire deployment, but most will return home after three months in order to give their shipmates in the yards the same opportunity to train at sea. But no matter how long they are here, they are a welcome addition to the Spirit of Freedom, and their contribution has not gone unnoticed.
For related news, visit the USS George Washington (CVN 73) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn73.