USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- Fourteen female Sailors assigned to USS Abraham Lincoln's (CVN 72) Air department formed an all-female catapult crew to launch aircraft in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Jan. 23.
Thirteen Aviation Boatswain's Mates (Equipment) (ABE) joined catapult and arresting gear officer, or "shooter", Lt. Cmdr. Jessica Parker, from St. Louis, to form the all-female launch crew manning critical positions such as topside safety petty officer and catapult deck edge operator to launch the missions over the deck.
On and below the flight deck, 167 ABEs maintain and operate the catapults on a daily basis; six percent of which are females.
"The rate for females only opened up not too long ago," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Airman Sheila Seripap, from Atlanta, Ga. "Every work center only has a handful of females in it."
Lincoln's ABEs work long days and nights to keep the catapults in a readiness condition, which has led to more than 1,400 sortie missions launched since October 2010 in support of OEF.
"Aviation boatswain's mates are some of the hardest working people on the flight deck of the ship," said Seripap. "It is not that many of us, but we can do it."
Parker, the only female shooter aboard Lincoln, inspected the waist catapults prior to flight operations and signaled the launch of aircraft. She attributed the unique opportunity to field an all-female team to the tenacity of the team members.
"If it weren't for the guys training the women, and the women having the courage to work in the most dangerous four-and-a-half acres of sovereign U.S. territory there is, then we wouldn't have had the opportunity to have an all-female catapult crew," Parker said. "These ladies are awesome, and the guys they work with are awesome too."
The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.
For more news from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn72/.