NORFOLK, Va. – A Copperas Cove High School graduate, Airman Jonathan Silva is serving on one of the world’s largest warships, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Silva works as an aviation boatswain’s mate aboard the Norfolk-based ship, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and one of only 10 operational aircraft carriers in the Navy today.
Aviation boatswain’s mates are the sailors responsible for launching and recovering naval aircraft quickly and safely from land or ships. This includes aircraft handling, fire fighting and salvage and rescue operations.
“Every day aboard this ship is different,” sad Silva. “I’m always doing something new.”
Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard Eisenhower. About 3,200 men and women make up the ship’s company, and they keep all parts of the aircraft carrier running smoothly. They do everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the nuclear reactors. Another 2,000 sailors comprise the air wing, the people who fly and maintain the aircraft aboard the ship.
Eisenhower, like each of the Navy’s aircraft carriers, is designed for a 50-year service life. When the air wing is embarked, the ship carries more than 70 attack fighter jets, helicopters and other aircraft, all of which take off from and land aboard the carrier at sea.
Powerful catapults slingshot the aircraft off the bow of the ship, and those planes land upon their return to the aircraft carrier by snagging a steel cable with an arresting hook that protrudes from the rear of the aircraft.
All of this makes Eisenhower a self-contained mobile airport and strike platform, often the first response to a global crisis because of an aircraft carrier’s ability to operate freely in international waters anywhere on the world’s oceans.
“I love the pure size of the carrier,” Silva said. “There are endless opportunities to learn and do new things.”
Eisenhower was commissioned in 1977 and named after former President and retired Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who distinguished himself through service and leadership during World War II. As the supreme commander of Allied Forces in Western Europe during World War II, Eisenhower led the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
“Every sailor aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower plays an integral part in our success, from the engineering and reactor spaces to the galley and flight deck, and everywhere in between, and I couldn’t be more proud,” said Capt. Paul Spedero Jr., commanding officer of Ike. “Our many successes are built on their sacrifices and the strength they provide each and every day.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Silva and other Eisenhower sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.
“I am lucky to serve,” said Silva. “I have family members who have served and are serving, so it’s kind of a family tradition.”