PACIFIC OCEAN - The U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) celebrated a significant milestone in the ship's history, June 13.
George Washington conducts more daily, flight sorties and recoveries than any other aircraft carrier in the fleet, allowing the ship to conduct its 150,000th safe arrested landing since its commissioning July 4, 1992.
"Because we are part of the forward-deployed naval force, we reached this milestone faster than most carriers," said Lt. Chris Denton from Angleton, Texas, George Washington's arresting gear branch officer. "We launch more aircraft and have fewer no-fly days than anyone else in the fleet."
The Sailors who maintain George Washington's arresting gear work around-the-clock to ensure that the arresting gear cables can safely catch aircraft from its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5.
"Our operational tempo has a heavy impact on the arresting gear, and our Sailors that work in the gears are feeling it," said Denton. "We fly more than 100 daily sorties, and they work tirelessly to ensure that we can conduct our operations safely. Say what you will about our catapults, the ship can't maintain a warfighter-ready stance without a fully functioning arresting gear."
George Washington's aviation boatswain's mates (equipment) work 16-22 hours daily in the arresting gear engine rooms, monitoring the gear cables, communicating between the gear rooms and the flight deck, and conducting daily maintenance.
"When the wing is not flying, we are still working," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Airman Brittany Hearne from Colorado Springs, Colo., one of the Sailors working on the arresting gears. "We are constantly doing maintenance on our equipment. We have to take readings on anything that gets used, and inspect it to make sure that the equipment doesn't fall apart to wear and tear."
Because of the Sailors' busy schedule, the 150,000th milestone almost went by unnoticed, said Hearne. "Today was just another day for us down in the engine rooms, until we heard the number mentioned," said Hearne. "We fly so often that it's no surprise that we've hit this 150,000 mark so soon."
Arresting gear Sailors, along with George Washington and CVW-5 senior leadership, attended a cake-cutting ceremony in honor of the milestone.
Lt. Cmdr. Colin Price, from Brandon, Fla., assigned to the "Diamondbacks" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102, the pilot who conducted the 150,000th landing, and Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Eric Brown, from Brigham City, Utah, the engine operator who caught Price's aircraft, had the honor of cutting the cake.
"Because we're so busy, I would've never known about this milestone if it hadn't been mentioned to me," said Brown. "We catch aircraft day in and day out; we had no reason to believe that today was special. This is truly something for the history books and something I can pass down to tell my children that I took part in something so significant."
George Washington departed Fleet Activities Yokosuka May 26 to begin its 2012 patrol. George Washington and CVW 5 provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region.