NORFOLK -- When fully loaded, the USS Eisenhower can carry 90 combat aircraft. To put that in perspective, more than half of the countries in world don’t fly that many planes and helicopters. Which means, all by itself, the Ike is home to one of the biggest air forces on the planet.
Greg Rennekamp is a proud Hoosier who serves as a pilot on the Eisenhower. He flies one of the Ike’s MH-60s Seahawk helicopters. He’s assigned to the Dusty Dog Squadron.
"To fly is human, but to hover is divine. It was an awesome experience the first time I hovered in a helicopter, there's a sense of pride as well,” said Rennecamp.
When the Ike is in port, its helicopter squadron is based at Navy Station Norfolk. On the day CBS4 visited, the squadron was flying training missions in the countryside hundreds of miles away. It’s a sight familiar to Greg Rennekamp. He grew up in Rushville and remembers hearing the military aircraft flying overhead. He dreamed of becoming a pilot someday.
"Growing up in Indiana, I saw A-10's going over our house. I could hear them coming, no matter where I was in the house, I would run out and look at them,” said Rennekamp.
Now, Rennecamp flies what the military calls, “plane guard missions.” He takes off just before the Ike’s fighter squadron. If anything goes wrong, his crew will swoop in to rescue the downed pilot.
"You're thinking of all the possibilities that could go on, whether that's to check out another boat in the area or to rescue someone who has ejected out of a plane,” said the pilot.
His deployment on the mighty Ike has taken Rennekamp half way around the world from his native Indiana to fight ISIS in the Middle East. But Indiana is never far from his thoughts, no matter where his ship sails.
"In miles speak, it feels like a long way, but I always feel closest to home," said Rennekamp. "I couldn’t be happier where I am."