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Atlantic Ocean.(September 21, 2023): Working on a busy flight deck is one of the most dangerous jobs on earth, and these guys wouldn’t have it any other way. In this photo by MC1 Seaman August Clawson, Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Launching and Recovery) Airman Apprentice Ryan Bowden, assigned to Air Department V2 Division, stands by to recover aircraft during flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

Imagine the scene on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier at sea. This 300-foot runway is packed with incoming and outgoing aircraft taking off and landing in all climates, day, and night. The noise created by jet engines and helicopter rotors is so deafening. Sailors must communicate through hand signals. Danger is everywhere on the flight deck as bombs and missiles are transported to waiting fighters while other planes are taxiing to the launch catapults or to their parking locations. The slightest mistake and a Sailor can be blown off the deck or sucked into one of the planes jet engines.

To work in this “controlled chaos,” Seamen must be in excellent physical and mental condition and be cool in extremely stressful situations. Despite the dangers, Aviation Boatswain's Mates seem to enjoy the adrenalin rush of this chaotic work environment.

To become a Navy Launching and Recovery Boatswain’s Mate, candidates attend Class A Technical School in Pensacola, Florida after passing basic training. This five-week course trains Sailors to operate, maintain, and perform maintenance on steam catapults, barricades, arresting gear, and associated equipment. Students learn how to  operate catapult hydraulic systems, retraction engines, water brakes, jet blast deflectors, and arresting gear engines. They are also taught the necessary aircraft handling duties related to the operation of aircraft launching and recovery equipment.

Later in their careers, Navy Launching and Recovery Boatswain’s Mates may attend the Advanced “C” school for further enlisted advancement or, for those with leadership aspirations, a path to becoming an officer is also available.

America is fortunate to have such brave Sailors willing to do the dangerous work on the controlled chaos of the carrier flight deck.