Life at Sea: Meet Lt. Cmdr. John Stockdill

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They are the people at sea keeping the country safe right now. Out of the thousands on board the Navy's aircraft carriers, a number of sailors are from our area.

Newswatch 16's Ryan Leckey recently landed on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower to give us a look at ship life for one sailor from Sullivan County.

They're known for speed and known for their firepower, and those sailors responsible for giving the thumbs up so the supersonic jets can basically be sling-shotted off the flight deck are the people known as "shooters."

"The shooter is responsible for safely getting the aircraft from the flight deck, hooked up to the catapult, and launched safely into the air," said Lieutenant Commander John Stockdill.

Lt. Cmdr. Stockdill is from Sullivan County. He added, "I grew up in Laporte, Pennsylvania. I went to the Naval Academy right from high school. It was something I wanted to do."

Newswatch 16 caught up with the 33-year-old sailor and other military heroes just off the coast of Virginia on board the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, AKA "The Mighty Ike." The ship's mission right now is to be prepared for anything, whether it's war or peace, which means daily training for his crew of 5,000.

As a "shooter," John says there are loads of calculations that have to be done before sending multi-million dollar machines airborne, calculations that include wind speed, the type and weight of the aircraft, as well as current temperature.

When needed, the team can shoot off one aircraft a minute or faster.

The flight deck on "The Mighty Ike" is about the size of three football fields and it's quite colorful. Each colored shirt worn by the crew represents a different job. Hand signals are used for the majority of communication, almost creating a colorfully choreographed dance at sea.

During his 11 years in the military, this former childhood wrestling star and Sullivan County High School graduate held various jobs in the Navy. At one point, he was working as a helicopter pilot.

It's a military career at sea that's inspired by his family's values back home.

"My dad and grandfather were both in the Navy during Vietnam and World War II, so that was a big part what I thought was important for values in life," added Lt. Cmdr Stockdill.

"We're very proud of John and all of the military people who serve our country," said John's mother Lea Stockdill.  "They give a tremendous sacrifice being away from home for months and years sometimes."

"Even in seventh grade, John knew he wanted to be in the Navy," said Hal Stockdill, John's father.

"I think the biggest thing I brought with me was hard work and determination and not let hard times bring you down," said Lt. Cmdr. Stockdill.

Lessons learned as a northeastern Pennsylvania native who went from being a little boy dressed in a sailor's suit to an accomplished naval officer who wasn't afraid to spread his wings.

"Branch out. You can always come back," he said.