Monday, August 22, 2011

US Navy News: First All-Female Arresting Gear Crew Supports OEF

Okay, they're not pilots, but they are in the aviation field...

From Military.com: First All-Female Arresting Gear Crew Supports OEF
ARABIAN SEA -- Seven female Sailors assigned to USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) Air Department formed the first all-female arresting gear crew in Navy history, Aug. 15.

Five Aviation Boatswain's Mates (Equipment) from George H.W. Bush and two temporarily assigned duty Sailors from USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) worked in the seven positions necessary to operate and maintain the arresting gear wires on the flight deck.

"This is a deployment of many firsts," said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) (AW/SW) Antonio A. Blanco, leading chief petty officer for George H.W. Bush Air Department V-2 Division's Arresting Gear workcenter. "We have the personnel to do it and we might as well be the first to have an all-female arresting gear crew."



Topside Petty Officer Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class (AW/SW) Beatrice A. Williamson was a leading force in making the all-female crew a reality after nearly four years aboard the ship.

The positions of the crew include the deck edge operator who retracts the arresting wire remotely; the hook runner who signals the operator; two push bar personnel who physically move the arresting wire away from starboard side of the flight deck; two deck checkers, one who inspects the wire and the other who acts as a spotter; and the topside petty officer who oversees the operation.

"I kept saying to myself that when I get topside, I am going to have an all-female crew before the end of deployment," Williamson said. "Chief Blanco made it happen by helping everyone to get qualified."

For Williamson, making history was just as important as showing the abilities of the female Sailors who wear the Aviation Boatwain's Mate (Equipment) green shirt. Air Department's V-2 Division has 161 male and 43 female Sailors. Only 10 female Sailors are assigned to the arresting gear workcenter.

"Nobody has ever done it and we wanted to be the first," she said. "It means a lot."

Shortly after 9 a.m. (local time), the seven Sailors helped recover their first aircraft of the day - an F/A-18E Super Hornet from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31. Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Airman Kapri D. Ragin, a temporarily assigned duty Sailor from USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), discovered broken strands in the one of the three arresting wires during her post-landing inspection and rushed to fix it until a replacement could be installed.

Following the first round of successful landings, the arresting gear crew quickly replaced the affected wire in an operation that required all seven Sailors to work in unison to switch out the 125-pound arresting wire.

After a long 14-hour day, the all-female crew helped successfully recover 70 aircraft.

"They are a great group of young woman and I have all the confidence in the world in them," said Blanco. "This is something memorable for them and they deserve it."

Additional members of the first all-female arresting gear crew were Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Alison R. Pint, Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Airman (AW) Aquia A. Lunsford, Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Airman Carissa M. Smith, and Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Airman Megan E. Walker, who is temporarily assigned duty from USS Nimitz (CVN 68).

George H.W. Bush is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility on its first operational deployment conducting maritime security operations and support missions as part of Operations Enduring Freedom and New Dawn.

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