NORFOLK, Va.- A 2005 Plainview High School graduate and Rainsville, Alabama, native returned home August 9, marking the end of a seven-month deployment aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Since departing its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia in January 2020 for the ship’s Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), the aircraft carrier remained underway and deployed to the Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Wilder is an aviation structural mechanic aboard the carrier. As an aviation structural mechanic, Wilder is responsible for the inspection, upkeep and repair of aircraft and support equipment.
“I enjoy inspecting aircraft to ensure safe flights for both the pilots and aircrew,” said Wilder.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, Ike continued to conduct operations underway, minimizing the potential spread of the virus aboard in order to maintain maritime stability and security and ensure access, deter aggression and defend U.S., allied and partner interests.
Ike, along with the USS San Jacinto (CG 56), one of the other ships within Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10, remained continuously at sea with no port visits, setting a new record for the U.S. Navy, breaking the previous record of 160 days set in 2002 by USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).
"I'm so proud of the young men and women I see on the deck plates each and every day," said Capt. Kyle Higgins, Ike's commanding officer. “Their dedication to the mission is what makes our Navy the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen."
Sailors assigned to the Eisenhower and San Jacinto transited to the equator and participated in a unique crossing the line ceremony, becoming the Navy’s first ‘Iron Shellbacks,’ with more than 100 days at sea May 14. Ike petitioned Naval History and Heritage Command to commemorate this feat in conjunction with crossing the equator as a new title: ‘Iron Shellback.’
“My greatest accomplishment on deployment was finding two cracks on two different aircraft, and I used non-destructive, inspection techniques that could have been detrimental to the squadron's mission success if not found,” Wilder said.
Ike participated in multiple exercises with allies and partners and dual-carrier operations. The ships within CSG-10 also completed multiple strait and choke point transits, to include the Strait of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal and the Bab-el Mandeb Strait, while operating under two Combatant Commanders – U.S. European Command (EUCOM), and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).
“I enjoy using five non-destructive inspection techniques to find defects that could cause aircraft, aircraft parts and support equipment to fail during use,” said Wilder.
As a member of the U.S. Navy, Wilder, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance. Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who will follow.
“I joined the Navy for new adventures and a better future,” added Wilder.
Note: This article was written by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jesse Hawthorne, Navy Office of Community Outreach