Navy officials have identified a sailor who died this weekend aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower as Command Master Chief Jeffrey Garber.

Garber, 43, died of natural causes, according to preliminary reports. As command master chief of Carrier Air Wing 7, he was the wing’s highest-ranking enlisted sailor. Garber was found unresponsive in his stateroom about 8:15 a.m. on Saturday, according to a Navy news release.

“Master Chief Garber was one of the finest individuals I have ever had the pleasure of knowing,” the carrier’s commander, Capt. Calvin Craig, said in a Navy statement. “He was the epitome of what a command master chief should be — at every turn selflessly taking care of the men and women of the air wing and the entire IKE Strike Group team.

“To say that he will be sorely missed is an understatement,” Craig said.

The Eisenhower is sailing in the Arabian Sea supporting missions in Afghanistan. An underway memorial service is planned for Saturday, officials said.

Garber, from Hemingford, Neb., enlisted in the Navy in 1983. His at-sea assignments included USS Worden, USS Nimitz, USS Portland and Strike Fighter Squadron 34, where he served as command master chief.

Garber reported to the Eisenhower, based in Virginia, in June 2008.

“His passing leaves a hole in our family. We out here at sea were Jeff’s ‘other’ family; the family he spent so many hours and days and years with over the course of his Navy career,” Rear Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, commander of Carrier Strike Group Eight, said in a statement released by the Navy.

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