SEPTEMBER 13, 2016, ARABIAN GULF (NNS) – The body harness scraping against the ladder can be heard as Electronics Technician 3rd Class Brian Evans and Electronics Technician Seaman Krystal Paquette climb all the way up the never-ending ladder inside of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower’s (CVN 69) (Ike) mast.
The howling wind and shining sun greet them as they open the scuttle that leads from the mast’s inside to the 5-foot-wide platform where the AS-3134/UPX, or Identify Friend or Foe (IFF ring) radar awaits them for maintenance. They are now more than 200 feet above the sea and neither can hide their happiness to be aloft, so far from everyone else on the ship with a view only few people can experience.
In order to maintain all radars and antennas, going aloft is a necessary requirement for electronics technicians aboard Ike. Ensuring the equipment is working properly is vital to the ship’s security and maneuverability when out to sea, especially in hostile waters.
“The types of things that we, combat systems as a whole, provide to the operators and to the ship to maneuver and operate in this environment is extremely critical,” said Chief Electronics Technician Jasper Haywood. “If any of the radars that help and support aircraft landing on the ship go down, it will be difficult to have them land. The more we maintain our equipment, the less likely it is to break.”
Quarterly radar checks are performed during every replenishment-at-sea when Ike receives fuel, stores and equipment necessary to maintain the ship’s crew and mission. During this time, everything on the mast is secured so personnel are able to climb up the mast to perform radar maintenance and ensure everything is working properly.
“Going aloft is a major part of being an electronics technician,” Evans said. “Everyone has to do it, and sometimes we need other people to help work on the multitude of equipment we have.”
Being known as an “everything technician” isn’t an uncommon term when referring to an electronics technician because of their ability to work on almost anything with a circuit board.
“We’re not limited to just one piece of equipment,” Paquette said. “We have to know how to work on all of the radars and what goes with them.”
But the thrill of going aloft is not without its risks, which include the hazard of falling, dropping equipment, or radiation emitted from the radars. Safety measures are put forth to ensure everything is maintained correctly, safely, and that nothing is turned on while personnel are working aloft.
“I know there is always the possibility for people to fall or drop tools, and that is why we have briefs beforehand,” Haywood said. “Every time we go aloft we have a meeting with the Sailors going up to make sure they understand that they have to tie themselves off, look out for trip hazards, and look for anything else that could bring harm to themselves, others or the ship.”
Working on equipment so high above the ship can be nerve-wracking for some, but for others it can be the best part of their job.
“It’s exciting to go aloft,” Haywood said. “It’s an adventure that not many other people get to experience. It’s a way to escape from everyone and since it’s the furthest point away from everyone on the ship, you’re able to have a moment alone away from everything else going on.”