It’s a floating fortress that projects America’s power all across the globe. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is out there, somewhere, protecting our country and fighting the War on Terror. They call her the “Mighty Ike” and Hoosiers are on board doing their duty.
“People don’t appreciate all the freedom that we have until you’re the one fighting for them,” said sailor Maquenzie Schultz.
At first glance, Schultz is an unlikely warrior. The 21-year-old is a Bosun's Mate Third Class on the Ike. It’s a long way from her hometown of Lafayette. She went to college for two years, but always dreamed of serving in the Navy. She enlisted three years ago and the Ike is the third ship she’s served on. The $5 billion carrier just returned from its latest deployment in the Atlantic.
In its long history, the Mighty Ike has served in the Gulf War, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and most recently in Middle East operations against ISIS.
"We'd have small Iranian boats come out at us all the time and they'd point their 50 cals at us all the time and you'd think. 'what do I do now?'" said Schultz.
As a Bosson Mate 3rd Class, Schultz supervises a team of sailors who do everything from clean equipment to fix the gigantic moorings of the ship. They even operate the Ike’s rescue boat when a fellow crew member goes overboard.
"When you hear that 'man overboard,' there's a sense of urgency. Someone's life is in our hands, we have to get there as soon as possible,” said Schultz
But this Hoosier sailor spends most of her duty shifts in the center of the action on the Ike. She serves on the bridge, just a few feet from the captain’s chair. She actually often drives the ship itself..operating the surprisingly small helm of the Ike.
"It's kinda weird, when people back home ask me what I do...it’s one of those things where you have to see it, oh, this is what she does...it's different."
Seeing is believing when you are on board the USS Eisenhower. Whether it’s the massive flight deck or the acres of hangar deck below. It’s home to more than five thousand sailors, some of them proud Hoosiers who have dedicated their lives to serving on the front line.
CBS4's Bob Donaldson will be reporting stories from the USS Eisenhower each Monday during the month of May for Military Appreciation Month.