NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) — With technology rapidly growing and evolving and thousands of Sailors assigned to each ship, an aircraft carrier needs a team of network professionals to handle the complex computer networks.
Every department on a carrier is mission essential; without one piece of the puzzle, the rest of the picture would be incomplete.
Aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and within the Combat Systems Department, there exists the Automated Data Processing (ADP) division — a team of experts working on the ship's computer systems. Without them, other Sailors would not be able to communicate as effectively, file paperwork electronically, or use countless other software systems that are necessary to complete their daily tasks.
"If you can't log on, can't open your email or get access to the command's share drive, then you can't do your work," said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Makeisha Ervin. "Without the IT [Information Systems Technician] community, the ship's communications couldn't function. We have to get information out."
Every Sailor aboard an aircraft carrier is given an account within the ship's network. The account gives them access to email and other computer systems needed to complete necessary tasks.
"When we have a new member of the command they need an account," said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Jermain Manning. "In ADP, one of our missions is to create user accounts so our crew can officially work, send emails and update programs and other systems. We ensure every critical system works. There are a lot of systems that the Navy uses in order to stay operationally intact."
During the Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH), everyday tasks can prove more challenging than they would be while the ship is fully operational.
"Everything we do right now has to go through the Newport News Shipbuilding's network," Ervin said. "We're temporarily using their network due to the fact that we're revamping ours. Once everything is complete we should be back in charge of our own network."
In order to stay current with the rapidly growing state of technology, the IT community is constantly training and re-certifying.
"I went to a six-month networking course," Manning said. "During it I got a Security+ certificate, Network+ certificate and a slew of others. It gives you a well-rounded view of every side of the computer network."
In some cases, IT training that may only be a few years old can become outdated. While technology is always growing and spreading, it is also changing over time.
"Our training has to constantly change and we have to re-certify in certain things within the IT community," Manning said. "The reason is that technology and information changes dramatically. It works just like nature. A computer virus that's active now may mutate within two weeks. Our training is basically a vaccine in order to stay current in our ongoing battle with cyber warfare."
According to Ervin, Sailors from ADP have recently been receiving their Security+ certifications, which is another major piece toward meeting the command mission.
"Recently the IT rating has mandated that every IT has to have the Security+ certificate," Manning said. "Basically it trains ITs to be able to securely and efficiently work on their network."
Manning expresses how vital this training is to helping the ITs contribute to the ship's mission.
"The rest of the ship can't do its job without us," Manning said. "We're living in a time where technology has really taken over. It's a more efficient way to file paperwork and contact one another, and our job is basically to make sure everyone else on the ship can do theirs. We're just as important as every other Sailor onboard."
Lincoln is currently undergoing RCOH at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.
Lincoln is the fifth ship of the Nimitz class to undergo a RCOH, a major life-cycle milestone. Once RCOH is complete, Lincoln will be one of the most modern and technologically advanced Nimitz-class aircraft carriers in the fleet and will continue to be a vital part of the nation's defense.
For more news from USS Abraham Lincoln, visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn72/.