Channel 3's David McKay took a look at the life of a sailor and heard from some of our own hometown heroes.
The United States Navy invited Channel 3 down to Norfolk, Virginia, which is home to the largest Navy base in the world. However, the Channel 3 crew wasn't on the base for long before the trip continued out to sea.
Channel 3 reporter David McKay stepped aboard the USS Harry S. Truman.
McKay was off the coast of Florida about 16,000 feet in a C2 Greyhound or the COD as the supply aircraft that they usually use.
The cargo door opened as McKay was welcomed aboard the USS Harry S. Truman.
“This ship, first of all, is the finest ship in the Navy and I won’t blush saying that,” USS Harry S. Truman Capt. Nick Dienna said.
There are 5,400 men and women aboard the USS Harry S. Truman and ready to go to battle at a moment’s notice.
“We can conduct and execute any mission that our leaders will direct us to,” Dienna said.
To see pictures from our tour of duty, click here.
Part of being ready is to practice.
“They’ve been working hard,” CMDCM Antonio Perryman with the USS Harry S. Truman said. “They’ve been training hard but the biggest thing is they’ve been training to win.”
It’s a dangerous dance on the deck that is carefully orchestrated by the crew of the USS Harry S. Truman. Dienna walked the 4-and-a-half-acre flight deck every morning to talk to his crew and he doesn’t sleep until operations are complete.
“Forty percent of our crew is under the age of 21-years-old so these are the finest men and women from all fifty states,” Dienna said.
In 2016, the ship had an eight-month deployment for operation inherent resolve, conducting air strikes against ISIS targets in the middle east. Seventy aircraft sit aboard ready to rocket off at a moment’s notice.
“Aircraft director, basically just move aircraft from the flight deck to the hangar bay and vice versa,” AVH3 John Gandy with USS Harry S. Truman said.
Gandy showed McKay how to secure an F-18 to the deck.
Every shirt color has a specific job; every signal has its purpose. From up top to below this is where the work continues where they unload supplies to the hangar bays and also load on some of the aircraft. The $4.5 billion warship stands more than 20 stories above the water line. It’s 97,000 tons and two 30 ton anchors hold it in place. Each link in the chain weighs 365 pounds.
“We will moor the ship,” Lt. Commander Alex Torres with the USS Harry S. Truman said. “We will get the ship underway, anything that has to do with lifesaving equipment will fall under my cognizance.”
Torres, grew up in Meriden, worked his way up the ranks, and is now one of the most respected onboard as head of the deck department.
“When you do the job you love it’s easy to do it,” Torres said.
Torres puts a lot of responsibility in the hands of young sailors, but he added that it pays off.
“We’re one percent of the population of the country,” Torres said. “One percent if not less than that that serves the military and we are able to afford everyone else the freedom they have because we are willing to fight for them.”
A carrier is known for being one of the most effective in a fight.
“Alright, we’re going to basically go down six decks down to the shaft alley so pretty much just watch your head,” Lieutenant Junior Grade Brian Fritz, 25, with the USS Harry S. Truman Reactor Department said.
Fritz works with the ships two nuclear reactors.
“From Simsbury High School I went to the U.S. Naval Academy, commissioned there after four years studying American Politics and Law and Economics,” Fritz said.
There are three things they do as nuclear operators.
“Providing propulsion, providing steam for our catapults so we can launch aircraft and the last being providing electrical power,” Fritz said.
The ship is almost completely self-sufficient only needing to refuel their reactors at a half-life of 25 years.
“These are attached to our main engines, which we provide steam for, so the steam turns the main engine, which goes through a turning gear which turns these shafts and at the end of these shafts is a gigantic propeller and we’ve got four of these bad boys which allow us to obviously move through the water,” Fritz said.
Fritz said keeping the lights on is critical.
“Without having a safe and functioning nuclear reactor and all the guys that are involved, all the illicit sailors that make that possible we wouldn’t be able to fulfill or mission,” Fritz said.
Fritz said he relies on those back at home.
“I’m fortunate to have an extremely supportive family,” Fritz said. “I have a fiancé Kelsey Keegan who is also from Simsbury, we’re going to be married this March in Simsbury so headed back there to our old stomping grounds.”
When climbing back to the upper decks the loudspeaker comes on, the faces of every sailor become stern and they spring into action.
Within minutes everyone onboard is accounted for and all is OK, things settle back to normal. Sailors head to the mess hall to relax and talk about their day. AO Diamond Pannell said “board games, the gym, sleeping,” are some of his favorites to do aboard the USS Harry S. Truman.
Here are the previous stories in this series: Channel 3's David McKay becomes a sailor for a day Channel 3's David McKay goes aboard USS Harry S. Truman Sailor for a Day Photos Sailor for a Day VideosCopyright 2017 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.