Day Three Aboard the USS Lake Erie: Preparing to Test Missile Defense System

Day One
Day Two

E-mail Adam Housley

8:34 a.m.: How many guys does it take to wash a helicopter?

In today's case that would include about 12, or in other words, a whole heck of a lot. It seems on any normal day, finding washers can be a bit ... let's say scarce. But on this morning, the pilots had all the help in the USS Lake Erie world.

We had Petty Office Second Class Getz for example. Apparently he spends a significant amount of time under the flight deck — his expertise is in an important flight deck cable that drags the Seahawk helicopter inside and out of the hanger. However, on this day and yesterday, Getz has found the flight deck to be a new home, he has also informed us he is finally prepared for his interview and his parents back home will be watching.

We are also joined again by First Class Petty Officer Cedric Thomas. We first met Thomas a few months back while covering the first attempt at this dual missile launch. Thomas, an African American man with short chop side burns, remains insistent ... Bill O'Reilly wont beat him in a debate. Thomas' southern accident comes through every time he says both first and last names of my FOX colleague.

11:25 a.m. I've agreed to the Sailors' creed (I really had little choice). I also have to agree with another rule inside the master chief's mess — what happens in the chief's mess, stays in the chiefs mess. So, I will gain a bit of confidence before I divulge any of the top secret info and intel that goes on inside on a daily basis.

11:26 a.m. Back to the master chief's mess. I guess I'll take my chances. We got the invite and even the captain and his officers need one before stepping inside the door, so off we went; Nora (producer), Eric (photographer) and Pat (technician). Command Master Chief Ellis walked us in and, right away, I took some heat for my earlier descriptions of his disciplinary ways. It seems the blog has even been printed and distributed around the ship. I get a few jokes thrown my way as well, but the chief seems to be taking it in stride — I actually think he likes the sparring.

11:49 a.m. After a meal of burgers and fries (the food on the ship and the baker are fantastic by the way), the conversation opens to questions from the chiefs themselves. The best way to describe these various forms of drill sergeants is that they all are amiable, inquisitive and at the same time noticeably proud of their positions, ship and sailors. They also have the largest selection of personal cooking devices outside of Sears, which includes a hot dog cooker like those you see at the fair. You know, the one that spins the hot dogs on the little silver spools. These guys have their own fraternity and I am told it extends far beyond time in the service.

I'll keep our conversations and questions in the room, since I have already promised to “follow orders,” but I can understand a bit how the two factions of ship leaders work together. For baseball fans out there, their interaction on the ship is like pitchers and hitters on a baseball team. They are on the same team, they want to win, they support each other, but there's a tad bit of friendly rivalry ... and I sense that is a great thing. The two groups being the officers, including the Captain and the XO. Then there's the enlisted, for example the chiefs and the petty officer.

On a baseball team for example, the pitchers hit (usually) and the hitters all claim they can pitch. In actuality, each will do their own job better when all parts are doing theirs — then, the team rolls. Sure they fill in for each other, but on a long term basis, they are their own parts. Right now it seems like the USS Lake Erie is rolling and there's no better time since the Aegis missile test is only a day away. I can sense the excitement since the crew knows they are prepared. I can also sense the nervousness since this test is truly pushing the envelope.

1:45 p.m. Our last live shot of the day has been completed. Our lunch with the chiefs is done and up next is a meeting with Captain Hendrickson. For the next hour or so he explains in detail what the plan of Aegis involves without divulging any classified information. Ideally, it protects our shores and our allies around the globe. This ship plays a part in hopefully shooting down short and midrange missiles, while tracking Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and long range missiles for other parts of the defense. It's tough to explain the depth of this project and the magnitude without taking a good amount of time. We will continue to highlight the important points in our reports, but for us and the crew, really only one thing matters tomorrow ... two direct hits.

9:56 p.m: The day has been long, but again we are feeling more at home. I have become accustomed to ducking while walking inside the ship and if the roof doesn't get me, the thresholds which seemingly number in the thousands, will take out your shins. The best way to describe a taller persons way down the hallways and stairwells is a hunched march. Keep those feet up and the head down and no blood will be spilled.

9:58 p.m: My day ends with the prayer that echoes down the dimly lit hallways and through the helicopter hanger, where chains still drag. The prayer itself said for all to hear ends with a sailor saying, "Tomorrow is an important day not only for this ship, but for this great nation ... good night and God bless.”

E-mail Adam Housley


Adam Housley joined FOX News Channel in 2001 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent. Most recently, Housley reported from President Ford's funeral. He also reported from Nicaragua and El Salvador on the war against drugs and scored an exclusive interview with Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega. You can read his full bio here.

Adam Housley joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based senior correspondent.