ABOARD THE USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH — When flight operations aboard an aircraft carrier end, the work on the flight deck goes on.
After hours, U.S. Navy aviation boatswain’s mate aircraft handlers, commonly known as yellow shirts, are responsible for re-positioning aircraft in preparation for the next day’s flight operations.
It’s dark, it’s loud, it’s hazardous; There are more than 60 aircraft tightly parked on the flight deck and in the hanger bay of the USS George H.W. Bush, currently underway in the Persian Gulf. One slip up can result in thousands of dollars in damage to an aircraft.
The Bush is in the midst of a nine-month deployment to the 6th and 5th Fleet areas of responsibility that started in February.
In June, the ship was re-tasked from supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and ordered to the Persian Gulf. As the militant Islamic State group swept across parts of northern Iraq, aircraft from the Bush began flying armed patrol missions over the country.
F/A-18s launched from the Bush are among aircraft conducting airstrikes in Iraq since President Barack Obama authorized them on Aug. 7 to protect U.S. personnel and support aid efforts for members of an Iraqi minority trapped by the militants.