Naval Life: “A Sailor’s Intuition”

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NORFOLK, Va. - All this week, we've shown you the ins and outs of the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier. 

The ship, despite its age, has been outfitted with the latest and greatest technology.

But as WHNT News 19's Chris Davis and Photojournalist Gregg Stone show us, sometimes you can't replace computers with a sailor's intuition.

Up on the Captain's Bridge, it's a funny sight.

You are plotting up to an hour ahead, you’re giving recommendations to the D.O.D. based of what you see on the chart," says David Forbes, a Quartermaster Third Class.

In a room full of radars, computers and technology, stands David Forbes charting the course of the "Mighty Ike," with a pen, paper, compass and protractor.

“It’s kind of a tradition but it’s also a backup," says Forbes.

He jokes, a chart can't freeze or malfunction.

“The Navy is trying to go away from paper charts but it’s a good method, it would be nice to keep it around for a while,” says Forbes.

You can find examples of this kind of mentality, all over the Captain's Bridge - embracing the new but being practical about the past. Just ask Keith Smith.

“Just the fact I can go home and tell people I drive a naval warship,” says Smith.

Sure, he's just following orders, but his hands get to actually be on the wheel.

“Right now I’m steering the ship, and I take orders from accounting officers who tells me what course to steady on and gives me orders where to shift my rudders either to the right or to the left," says Smith.

The Navy relies on sailor's intuition, all over the ship.

Down on the flight deck, the crew relies on hand signals when the constant noise makes conversation impossible.

Some of these sailors are just months removed from high school.

“If you ever wonder about the future of our country and stuff like that, if you look outside at that flight deck, and you see the 18-22 year olds, I think that kind of answers your question about that. They are an amazing group of sailors," says the ship's Navigator.

Others have put in years of service, but continue to work, day in and day out, towards protecting and defending the land of the free.

The military is like a family and we take care of one another," says Chief Petty Officer Owen Key from New Market.

Behind every successful landing, each engineering feat is a sailor well trained, working hard.

The navy’s not going to throw anything at you that they don’t believe you can handle, it’s just sometimes they throw a lot of things you can handle at the same time," says Austin Frittelle, a Huntsville native working as an electrical engineer.

Each have a different reason for joining, but they all work towards the same goal, giving their all for their country, hundreds of miles from home.

"I lost my grandfather in 2007 and he was basically my idol so it was just like, I wanted to be like my grandad so bad," says Darrien Fletcher, a lifelong Huntsville native. 

"Just about everything I do, trying to make my family and him proud," says Johnathan Uhl of Ardmore.

That's something, no amount of technology could ever replace.