Rare Behind The Scenes Look At The Jobs Of Oklahomans Serving In The Navy

Thursday, October 10th 2019, 9:17 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

On a ship where sailors are working at all hours of the day, the rising sun still marks the beginning of a new day.

"Sunrise and sunset, it's beautiful. We're out in the open water," says Lieutenant Christopher Howard. "Most of the time you can't see anything else around you except the water. Just watching that sunrise and sunset is just absolutely beautiful."

Oklahomans are among the thousands who are living and working on the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush.

"When I think of Oklahoma, I think of my daughter. That's where my daughter was born," Howard says.

He spent more than seven years at Tinker Air Force Base before making his way here. Howard climbs inside what's known as the "bubble" for his workday and sometimes spends time on the flight deck.

"It's a great job," Howard says.

He's responsible for the safe launch and recovery of every aircraft that comes on board. Everyone on the flight deck wears a different color, making it obvious what their job is. Green is a maintainer, brown is a plane captain and yellow means you're in charge.

Howard has been working as a shooter for about a year and a half.

"When I joined the Navy I didn't know this was a thing, but once the opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance," remembers Howard.

Below the flight deck, there's a job to be done down every hallway on the ship, which functions like its own city. Adriane Watson is from Inola. She works in the Combat Systems Department, dealing with confidential information and things we can't show on TV. But she can tell us why she decided to join the Navy - to provide a better life for her children.

"I have a 6-year-old and a 7-year-old, Addy and Chloe. They're the best kids in the world," says FC1 Adriane Watson.

She works with the Combat Systems Department and hopes her job on the aircraft carrier inspires her young girls. About a quarter of the sailors on the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush are women. That's more than any other ship in the history of the world.

"That means a lot to me especially since I do have two daughters," Watson says. "I'm excited that I can be a part of a ship that really is empowering to women in the military."

While it's tough being away from family, Watson is able to connect with her Oklahoma roots on the ship. Her boss, Lieutenant Commander Billy Young is also from the Sooner State.

"When I came in the Navy, I'd never seen a computer. Never used a computer. We didn't have them in Vian, Oklahoma. I don't even think dial up internet was a thing yet," Young says.

Hundreds of miles from Oklahoma, he keeps up with OU football in his office. Young's department oversees all the electronic equipment on board, including phones, TVs, Internet, along with classified and unclassified networks.

"Everything we do is required to get this ship in and out of port safely and conduct flight operations," says Young.

He's been in the Navy for 26 years and says joining the service is the best decision he's ever made.

"It's a big world out there and it's eye-opening," Young says. "I think sometimes the young kids in Oklahoma can't see past the county they live in."

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