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Greg McQuade discovers life on the high seas aboard U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower

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NORFOLK, Va. -- Just ask Kyle McCarthy about his job. And the adrenaline that flows through him like an electrical charge.

“Yes. Sir, Absolutely. It is one heck of a ride up here I’ll tell you what,” he said.

Petty Officer McCarthy tackles one of the most stressful occupations in the United States Navy.

“Because the first thing I see when I walk up is two jets turning around and moving,” said Kyle. “So you have missiles, bombs and torpedoes.”

Kyle McCarthy

Kyle McCarthy

The sailor from Chesapeake is part of the ordinance team on board the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“It is definitely a fulfilling experience,” he added.

The 24-year-old welcomed me to go below deck in a rare opportunity to be a sailor for the day.

But before accepting the invitation, I need to look like a sailor.

Our first stop at Naval Station Norfolk, was inside The Navy Exchange, one of the busiest spots in Hampton Roads, where we found Inell Lewis.

Inell Lewis

Inell Lewis

Ms. Lewis has been a seamstress for 50 years. She has dressed generations of military men and women. The Emporia native does not allow clients to leave until they appear, well, ship shape.

“We want to have our sailors looking good because if it is not done right it reflects on us,” said Ms. Lewis.

At Naval Station Norfolk security remains tight. Our second destination? The massive nuclear powered “Mighty Ike”.

Sitting at Sewell’s Point just west of the I-64 bridge tunnel, the second oldest carrier in the fleet just returned from a seven month combat deployment fighting the Islamic State in Operation Inherent Resolve.

greg-mcquade-sailor-for-day

As we discovered, each member of the Ike’s crew of 5,000 plays a critical role on board the carrier.

Petty Officer Nick Moffett, the ship’s banker and graduate of James River High School in Chesterfield, wears many hats.

“We’re on the front line if you will,” said Nick. “We’re on a ship. We’re not on the ground but we are definitely contributing in a hands on way.”

When he is not paying his fellow sailors Nick takes charge in one of the ship's fire stations, where he leads a team of sailors when crisis strikes.

“I was the scene leader for the entire deployment,” said Nick.

For the 28-year-old, training is paramount because, in the middle of the ocean, calling 911 is out of the question.

Sailor for a day

“If the ship goes down. We go down,” said Nick. “So we have to protect that. And we protect our lives.”

Firefighters on board train every two weeks for hours on end.

“So basically we bring all of this stuff out to the hangar bay. Everyone gets dressed to fight the fire or the flooding or any kind of casualty we might have,” said Nick.

Nick put this journalist through the drill, helping me don the heavy, hot firefighting gear.

“We don’t know when the next casualty might happen or how bad it is,” said Nick. “We need to be ready to fight the fire or fight the flooding or fight whatever happened as soon as possible.”

Putting on the equipment in mere minutes when an emergency arises requires several hands.

Nick Moffett

Nick Moffett

“Nick you have a lot of people helping you?” I asked.

“Yes a ton of people helping you out,” said Nick.

Another place on board where the temperatures soar? The four and half acre flight deck especially under the blazing sun in the Persian Gulf.

“So the heat index was 150 degrees,” said Kyle McCarthy. “I have never felt anything like that in my life.”

Kyle McCarthy and the ordnance team loaded jet fighters with everything from laser guided missiles to 2,000 pound bombs.

Flight deck

“From there it is pedal to the metal. It is pedal to the metal, man,” said Kyle.

The Chesapeake native does not take his responsibility lightly.

“We’re going to go right over here right down these steps,” he said. “I’ll take you in where all the planning is and all the magic happens.”

The 24-year-old led me to a room where the ordinance team members don life-saving equipment like the vest which has a transmitter inside in case Kyle falls overboard into the water. Kyle and his sailors work in tandem under and around supersonic jets in a type of high seas ballet.

greg-mcquade

Each teammate is assigned to a different task depending on their colorful shirt.

“We’re the Skittles on the flight deck because you have all of the colored jerseys,” said Kyle.

The 70 plus F/A 18’s on board the “Mighty Ike” were launched in missions against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“Our seven month deployment we dropped 1,222 pieces of ordnance on the bad guy. On ISIS,” said Kyle.

He said with so many moving parts on the flight deck his duties can be hazardous. It is a dangerous but rewarding job.

“As much as it gets difficult and stressful it is honestly one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to do,” he added.

Commander Erik Stinson leans heavily on Kyle. The pilot said no one individual can claim glory.

“Without the ordnance on the aircraft we are nothing,” said Stinson. “The whole team. The whole strike group team. It is a team effort to accomplish a mission.”

sailor for a day

It’s clear Petty Officer Kyle McCarthy and the crew of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower take pride in their jobs and their country.

“At the end of the day you come back and say I can’t believe I just did that,” said Kyle. “There is not a better feeling I can experience. It is a unique experience being in the Navy. I thoroughly enjoy every minute of it.”

If you know of someone who I should feature in my "I Have a Story" segment email me at ihaveastory@wtvr.com