PACIFIC OCEAN - Lt. Kacee Jossis, a shooter aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), verifies all the pre-flight checks have been completed and everyone on the flight deck is in position to commence flight operations. She looks up at an F/A-18F Super Hornet from the “Diamondbacks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102 and gives the signal to launch the aircraft.
These seemingly routine operations require the teamwork of many highly-trained personnel, including a small group of 11 yellow-shirted catapult officers known as “shooters,” who are responsible for the the safe and efficient launch of the ship's aircraft.
A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) during a war at sea exercise as part of Valiant Shield 2014 in the Pacific Ocean Sept. 18, 2014. Valiant Shield is a biennial U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps exercise held in Guam, focusing on real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro)
“The catapult officer is responsible to ensure the catapult is prepared and ready to launch aircraft, the aircraft is properly configured to launch, all personnel are in their proper position and any observers are behind the foul lines,” said Lt. Cmdr. Robert Neff, a shooter aboard George Washington. “We inspect the entire catapult system, the jet-blast deflector and input our calculations for wind to determine how much steam is needed to launch aircraft.”
In order to become a shooter, a catapult officer must accomplish numerous qualifications and on-the-job training.
According to Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Kreutz, George Washington's lead catapult officer, all the qualifications can take anywhere from three to six months to accomplish, but upon completion, being a shooter is one of the best jobs a Sailor can have on an aircraft carrier.
“For us, it's all about being around flight operations and continuing to do so,” said Kreutz. “All of us come from different backgrounds as naval aviators, and being a shooter is a completely different job than we're used to, so it's nice to see a different side of the aviation world and control flight operations.”
In addition to these duties, shooters are the division officers for the five divisions that make up George Washington's air department.
“Air department is the biggest department on the ship, with nearly 750 Sailors,” said Neff. “When we're not out there on the flight deck shooting aircraft, we're running our divisions and leading our Sailors.”
In true shooter fashion, Jossis upheld a catapult officer tradition by tying her flight deck boots around a catapult and launched them into the ocean.
“For my last shot on the flight deck, I was able to shoot my boots to signify my completed tour as a shooter,” said Jossis. “It was a nice way to send me off and onto my next command.”
Jossis reflected upon the two years she spent as a shooter aboard the ship.
“It's been a good experience,” said Jossis. “If you're going to come to a carrier as a pilot and not fly, shooting is the best job you can have. I really enjoyed working with everyone in air department. It's bittersweet to leave, but I'm ready to fly again.”
George Washington is currently participating in Valiant Shield, which is a U.S. only exercise integrating Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps assets, offering real-world joint operational experience to develop capabilities that provide a full range of options to defend U.S. interests and those of its allies and partners.
By U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro
Provided through DVIDS
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