Hometown hero serves on finest aircraft carrier in the Navy, paves way for other female sailors

Hometown hero serves on finest aircraft carrier in the Navy, paves way for other female sailors

(WTOL) - Out in the deep, blue sea sails the mighty USS Harry Truman.

The U.S. Navy's finest aircraft carrier, commissioned in 1998, has traveled the globe carrying out life-saving missions.

The ship is almost 20 stories tall with a flight deck spanning the length of four acres.

The mission of the 5,000 sailors in training on board is to get the 70 aircraft on and off the ship in dangerous combat zones within seconds.

"We work every single day to make sure we are ready, we work every single day to ensure we can answer the call," said commanding officer Nick Dienna.

Each sailor has an important job to do to keep the 100,000-ton ship afloat. From engineers and mechanics to medics and baristas, it's like a city at sea.

"We have the best-of-the-best sailors onboard," said command master chief Antonio Perryman.

Nearly half of the crew is 21 years old or younger, entrusted with multi-million dollar aircraft and the safety of our country.

"These young men and women on this ship show up every day in an unforgiving environment when they're called. They work all day to make sure they help the teammates we have from other services, to maintain our way of life and preserve the freedoms every American holds dear," said Commanding Officer Dienna.

One of these sailors is a hometown hero. Lieutenant Elana Phipps is the officer of the deck, and is in charge of the Truman when the captain is not on the bridge.

Her primary responsibility is to safely navigate the ship. The goal is to prevent deadly collisions involving other Navy ships.

Earlier this year, 17 sailors were killed when the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain collided with commercial ships.This proves how unforgiving and demanding being at sea really is.

"I can tell you on this vessel, we work hard every day to make sure we are trained and ready to execute, that we operate professionally. It's young women like Elana that make that happen every day," said Commanding Officer Dienna.

Lieutenant Phipps grew up in the small town of Sand Creek, Michigan, about 30 miles outside of Toledo. The 2003 Sand Creek High School valedictorian went to Michigan State, thinking she wanted to become a veterinarian.

But life had a different plan.

"I didn't think I would stay in past my enlistment time, but I have just continued and continued, and I love it," Lieutenant Phipps said.

She's traveled the world and is part of a growing number of women enlisting in the Navy.

"It's a little bit different being one of the few females, but it definitely makes me feel good to know that I can do it, and people respect me," said Lieutenant Phipps.

Being one of the only females currently in the Navy, Phipps is paving the way for those who come after her.

"I like the fact that I have junior female sailors under me that I'm able to be a role model for," Lieutenant Phipps said.

Phipps is not just a role model, but a local hero.

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