4:00 a.m.: We are up several hours before dawn. One floor above our bunks sits Lake Erie's flight deck. Here, sailors and pilots performed night operations until late in the evening and then literally fold the cruisers and Seahawk helicopter and slide it into the hanger — this is the only way a “Hilo” can get inside a ship this size and out of the elements.
The hanger lights are lit and we set up our videophone live location just outside the hanger door, which has been slid open to reveal the metal cave and helicopter inside. In the far distance, we can see flickers of light on the black horizon. Kuai may be only a few miles away, but it seems longer. The skies explode with stars and sailors are starting to wake and begin their day’s work.
4:30 a.m.: We use a satellite phone to connect with FOX radio affiliates in Denver and San Diego. Our reports have begun as the ship continues to rock and roll with the rough seas. The overnight hanger crew tells us that this isn't a normal ride on the Pacific for this time of year and in this proximity to Hawaii. As expected, I notice everything inside the hanger has a tight strap around it. Our photographer Eric Barnes and I agree that every inch of space is used and the crew has a resourcefulness that is admirable.
5:28 a.m.: Our first videophone live shot captured the parked Seahawk helicopter as our backdrop. The antenna was nearly flat on the flight deck and our crew weighed it down with an empty gear case and a bag of water. Our camera isn't a big large Beta cam that you might see with a news crew in the field stateside; here on the water, we have brought a PD150, a smaller more compact camera that connects directly to the videophone. It allows us to go live from the flight deck of the USS Lake Erie as it cruises in the Pacific.
6:10 a.m.: We head down the steep flight of stairs to “Officers Country.” Here is the so-called wardroom and the place where the officers meet for briefings. Importantly, it also serves as the breakfast/lunch/dinner room, where the captain holds the spot at the middle of the largest table facing the door. Each time an officer enters the room to eat, or leaves the room when finished, they are required to ask or excuse themselves to the highest rank in the room. It is the small details like this that separates the military, and in this case the Navy, from so may other parts of life. A direct line of command is clear and the parts all have to work together in order for this ship to operate successfully. There are roughly 350 men and women on this cruiser, but I can see how it can get small fast if things don't have a place and if life on board didn't have an order.
9:15 a.m.: The captain has invited us to the CIC (Combat Informations Center), the place where the Aegis system is run. Aegis, of course, being the system used in this test to identify and neutralize potential threats, in the case of our coming missile test, that would be two.
As I walk into the room, I can't help but think I have stepped smack dab into the middle of a Tom Clancy novel/movie. The place looks like an inside of a submarine, in the depths of the Pacific; darkness covers every inch. Small lights illuminate; it's just enough to write and conduct the business of missile defense and, potentially, if ever needed, missile offense. In some areas there's a green glow off of the monitors.
On one side of the room where Captain Hendrickson sits with a headset, I count 24 monitors or screens. They vary in size; some are so large that a local tavern would envy them for the big game; some are small 10-inch green screens; and, in the corner, new flat screens tilt so all you can see them from most vantage points in the room. Radars are everywhere and without giving away any classified info, the team of men and women run through a simulated launch and intercept. The system and those who run it are impressive — they are seasoned Naval leaders, civilian contractors who helped devise such an amazing system, and monitors who serve as an evaluator watching every move.
What strikes me and what's reminded to me by the captain, is the number of young men and women sitting at small dark desks, or stuffed in between monitors in a corner. They come from all colors, of all backgrounds, but they do have one thing in common ... age. Many of the sailors responsible for this imperative test look like they are 25-years-old or younger — but it is they who sit in the front row of the military's latest technology.
10:30 a.m.: I catch a glimpse of Command Master Chief Ellis on the flight deck. His uniform is perfect as usual and, as was the case yesterday, when he walks into the area the men jump; there seems to be an extra spring in their step and a few have caught his eye. Apparently their uniforms aren't up to snuff, and before you can even say snuff, I see one of the men using a towel to clean the back of the others jumpsuit. As a precaution, I tuck in my shirt a bit tighter.
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.