By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jenna Kaliszewski, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs
NORFOLK (NNS) -- Out to sea, after 8 p.m., the rapid clicking of keystrokes resounds through the ship's spaces as Sailors log into social media sites and personal email accounts to send messages to friends and family.
Electronic Technicians (ET) from Combat Systems' CS-9 division aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) help TR's Sailors stay connected with family and loved-ones ashore by keeping the ship connected to the internet.
"We supply the internet," said Electronic Technician 2nd Class Roy Harris. "We prepare, maintain, troubleshoot, and fix the electronic equipment that connects the ship to the outside world. We work on everything from the UHF (ultra high frequency) and VHF (very high frequency) radios to the Global Broadcasting System that receives CNN on the ship."
Sailors rely on this equipment because it provides an instant link to loved ones back home through phone conversations, email and social media.
"It makes me feel like I'm not as far away from home," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate Equipment Airman Ashanti Conner. "It makes me feel good to actually be able to talk to them."
"It's a great escape from work," said Culinary Specialist Seaman Gregory White. "I get to talk to family and friends. It's as close to home as I can get."
Internet connectivity out to sea is a bit more complex than the simple high-speed internet access people are used to at home. The stable services people are accustomed to at home are much more difficult to maintain at sea.
The satellites WSC-6(Whiskey 6) and WSC-8(Whiskey 8) provide the ship's internet protocol(IP) address and the telephone connection Sailors use to call home, said Harris.
"There are a lot of things that can happen to affect the ship's connectivity," said Harris. "Weather can prevent the signal from transmitting or the satellite from receiving it. We have to deal with mechanical issues and electronic problems on the antennas and systems."
For Harris, his job is about more than just keeping his equipment up and running. It is about improving the morale of his shipmates.
"Our job has a lot to do with morale," said Harris. "If we don't have internet, people won't be able to e-mail their families. And if Whiskey 6 and 8 go down, we won't be able to make any phone calls home."
Being far from home can be difficult for Sailors and their families, but TR's ETs help bridge the gap by keeping TR's phone lines open and the ship connected to the internet.