The flight deck of the USS Eisenhower is no different than any other aircraft carrier. The synchronized chaos of its operations form a kind of dangerous ballet of jets, propellers and a small army of humanity. It’s smooth and efficient, until it isn’t.
In July of 2016, the Eisenhower barely avoided catastrophe. Navy video shows an EC2 Hawkeye radar plane coming in for a routine landing. The plane didn’t stop. The wire snapped back and the plane actually disappeared for a moment off the flight deck before the pilots gunned the engines to save it from plunging into the sea.
The wire snapped back when it broke, whipping eight sailors on the Ike. That’s when a native Hoosier had to do his duty.
“When we had the flight deck incident, we had people who had to have splints, casts- the whole nine yards. We brought them here, we checked them out and went from there,” said Corpsman Christopher Williams.
Williams serves as a corpsman on the Eisenhower. The South Bend native works in the ship’s medical ward. It’s like a highly condensed hospital with patient beds, emergency rooms and diagnostic machines all crammed into an area called the second deck.
“Here, it’s all on the second deck down here, you can come to one spot and knock out lab work, x-rays, physical therapy,” he said.
Williams is often at sea for months at a time. Part of his job is not only to treat his crewmates’ physical ailments, but their emotional ones as well. He provides counseling services for sailors who may struggle with being separated from their families.
“You have mothers and daughters on board, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. You’re leaving your family whenever you’re out here,” he said.
For his part, this Hoosier sailor says thinking about the days he spent visiting his grandparents in Indianapolis helps him get though the long hours of deployment at sea.
“You always think about that stuff with my grandmas and grandpa, who lived down in southern Indianapolis. I always remember going down when I was a little kid, playing with the horses, picking berries, being outside. You can’t do that here. When I’m bummed out I think of those special moments.”
Like the rest of the Hoosiers on board the “Mighty Ike,” Williams said he feels lucky to serve his country no matter how far it takes him from the Hoosier state.
“When you look at where we were in the Persian Gulf and back home and you look at the map, and you think wow, that’s a lot of space in between good old Indiana and here,” said Williams. “It’s kind of awesome.”