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Air Force officer integrates with carrier operations

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Savannah Stephens
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Sean Duval, 33rd maintenance squadron maintenance operations officer, participated in a maintenance officer exchange program March 16-22, 2018 aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).


During the exchange, Duval filled a dual-hatted role. He split his time between shadowing the ship’s aircraft intermediate maintenance department and Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101’s maintenance sailors, who were learning flight operations on the flight deck.


Duval saw this as an opportunity to reconnect with his family’s history of naval service.


“I come from a family of Navy folks, so during my sit down with my new commander, I asked him if I could get on an aircraft carrier,” said Duval. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and he immediately told me yes.”


Experiencing flight operations on the flight deck was very different than what Duval is used to on the flight line at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.


“Getting out on the flight deck, watching jets launch and land was pretty awesome,” said Duval. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”


Duval spent his time learning about how the Navy executes aircraft maintenance while at sea and understanding the difference in shop dynamics.    


“Back home, the maintenance officers are really involved in the day-to-day missions of maintenance, it’s very structured,” said Duval. “Here on the ship, it seems to be more of the enlisted briefing and keeping the mission running. It’s really neat seeing how things work differently.”


This is the first time a maintenance officer from 33rd MXS has come aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.


Duval toured numerous parts of the ship, participated in operational exercises and volunteered to be a medical casualty during a general quarters drill.


GQ is a ship-wide simulation of actual emergency situations. It helps prepare the sailors for real world scenarios that a ship can encounter at sea. They practice everything from first-aid, to damage control, to defensive maneuvers.


“I was watching the sailors work a first-aid station, and they needed a volunteer,” said Duval. “Little did I know that within just a few minutes, I would be strapped to a stretcher and taken down to the ship hospital for the rest of GQ. It was pretty unique to be right in the middle of what the sailors do every day.”


Duval is thankful for the opportunity he was given to experience life as a sailor, and is excited to take what he learned back home.


“I’m an airplane guy; I love airplanes,” said Duval. “I had the opportunity to shoot off a jet, and that was pretty awesome. I was able to follow around someone clearing the jet for takeoff, being just aft of the jet. It shakes you, which is an indescribable feeling.”


During the seven days aboard, VFA-101 finished carrier qualifications for six of their pilots. Maintenance was an integral part in making sure the pilots were able to accomplish their mission.


Duval played a small part in carrier operations, but it’s something he’ll remember for the rest of his life.

“A new perspective is always good,” said Duval. “This exchange has helped me see things that could be added or removed from how we do things at home. Getting perspectives from other services gives you a new way of thinking instead of being ‘business as usual’ all the time. This has been a once in a lifetime experience.”