Conroe Native Returns from Seven-Month Deployment aboard Record-Breaking Aircraft Carrier

By: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jesse Hawthorne, Navy Office of Community Outreach
| Published 08/10/2020


NORFOLK, Va.- A 2015 Conroe High School graduate and Conroe, Texas, native returned home Aug. 9th, marking the end of a seven-month deployment aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Since departing its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia in January 2020 for the ship’s Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), the aircraft carrier remained underway and deployed to the Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Krystal Lance is an aviation boatswain's mate (handling) aboard the carrier. As an aviation boatswain's mate (handling), Lance is responsible for fighting fires, rescuing pilots and salvaging aircraft.

“My favorite part is working with the crew," said Lance. "We have made so many memories being out here.We love it when the naval aviators come up to us and thank us for being there for them.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, USS Eisenhower continued to conduct operations underway, minimizing the potential spread of the virus aboard in order to maintain maritime stability and security and ensure access, deter aggression and defend U.S., allied and partner interests.

USS Eisenhower, along with the USS San Jacinto (CG 56), one of the other ships within Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10, remained continuously at sea with no port visits, setting a new record for the U.S. Navy, breaking the previous record of 160 days set in 2002 by USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).

"I'm so proud of the young men and women I see on the deck plates each and every day," said Capt. Kyle Higgins, Ike's commanding officer. “Their dedication to the mission is what makes our Navy the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen."

Sailors assigned to Eisenhower and San Jacinto transited to the equator and participated in a unique crossing the line ceremony, becoming the Navy’s first ‘Iron Shellbacks,’ with more than 100 days at sea May 14. Ike petitioned Naval History and Heritage Command to commemorate this feat in conjunction with crossing the equator as a new title: ‘Iron Shellback.’

“My proudest accomplishment on this deployment is getting fully qualified as a crash crewman and doing 206 days out to sea straight with no ports," said Lance. “We got stronger from this; when we first left it was really hard but it's not the deployment that got easier, we just got stronger.”

USS Eisenhower participated in multiple exercises with allies and partners and dual-carrier operations. The ships within CSG-10 also completed multiple strait and choke point transits, to include the Strait of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal and the Bab-el Mandeb Strait, while operating under two Combatant Commanders – U.S. European Command (EUCOM), and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

“How we support the crew in crash and salvage is by manning up a fire truck and walking the line,” said Lance. “If anything happens to any aircraft or anything on the flight deck, everyone looks for crash and we are there to give comfort to the naval aviators and the entire crew.”

Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Lance, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Lance is honored to carry on the family tradition.

“I am a fifth generation Navy,” said Lance. “My dad, my superhero, my best friend, is a retired Navy chief and I am so proud to be able to say that about my dad.”

As a member of the U.S. Navy, Lance, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance. Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who will follow.

“I joined the Navy because I love my country,” added Lance. “I was always told I can't save the world but being out here and being in the Navy, it really does feel like I can.”