Meet AT1 Rob Mathiesen, Aviation Electronics Technician aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower
See AT1 Rob Mathiesen and two more sailors from the Quad Cities at work on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on Monday, May 22 on WQAD News 8 at 5 p.m.
NORFOLK, Virginia — Aviation Electronics Technician Petty Officer 1st Class, Rob Mathiesen calls Clinton, Iowa home. He went to Clinton High School and graduated from Fulton High School. In 2004, he decided he wanted to see the world, do something different and have a challenge, so he enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
Now he’s in the air wing of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) also known as the Ike.
“It was something new,” said AT1 Mathiesen, from the hanger bay on Tuesday, April 4, “Go see something else, see what else was out there in the world, kind of, better myself if you will,” he said, regarding his decision to enlist.
In June, he will have been in the Navy for 14 years and he just reupped to continue his career.
“The Navy, I mean the opportunities they give you, besides just working they give you everything – school, help you out even at home with your families,” said AT1 Mathiesen.
As he talks, he stands in front of the E2C Hawkeye aircraft, it stands out for its large saucer on top. AT1 Mathiesen is part of the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron, they call themselves the “World Famous” Screwtops and celebrated their 50th anniversary in April, 2017.
“It’s basically, same thing as your weather radar – it will track aircraft and ships find out where they are and see what they’re actually doing. [The radar can] find out if its an enemy or if it’s a friendly aircraft, ship whatever it may be,” said AT1 Mathiesen.
It’s the Clinton-native’s job to check out the electronics of the E2C Hawkeye before the pilots get in and fly.
“Before they take off, we go in and run all the systems, make sure they’re all working properly, fix them if need be,” explained AT1 Mathiesen, “So when they go to fly everything is working fine, then whatever breaks when they get back, we get to fix it,” he said.
The Ike got back from deployment in December, 2016.
The carrier started its tour in the Mediterranean Sea and continued onto a longer stay in the Persian Gulf. Since then, the carrier has been in a sustainment phase off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia.
On deployment, AT1 Mathiesen worked on the flight deck as the safety petty officer for the command.
“Basically, ensuring everyone does stay safe, does their job properly, doesn’t put themselves in a position to get hurt,” said AT1 Mathiesen, “It’s a good feeling. Knowing that [the aircraft] is safe and [the pilots] come home every day – that’s the main thing,” he said, adding that no matter what happens, having the aircrew land is the most important.
As he explains his mission on board the Ike, sailors bustle around the hanger bay – it’s a busy ship as pilots land and launch aircraft on the 3-acre flight deck at all hours of the day.
“[The aircrew] is just like everyone else, they have families. If somebody does something to mess up then it could be catastrophic for everybody,” said AT1 Mathiesen.
In the Persian Gulf, the weather reached extreme heat.
“It was good, it was fairly – it was hot, but other than that it wasn’t that tough,” said AT1 Mathiesen.
He’s being humble.
According to Rear Admiral James Malloy, it was the worst conditions he had ever seen.
“We got a lot accomplished, everybody worked together there wasn’t that many things that happened wrong. It was fun. We got four port visits – those are always a good time,” said AT1 Mathiesen.
His favorite part about working on the E2C Hawkeye is the radar, which has a spiral design on top.
“It’s extremely difficult to work on. It’s not the easiest system; it’s very complex. It’s a challenge. Sometimes you fail, sometimes you don’t. Overall you always fix it – it just takes longer than normal sometimes. I like challenge, having it be that hard to figure out makes it fun,” said AT1 Mathiesen.
As he talks, AT1 Mathiesen finds it easy to smile – though he, and every other sailor work 12 hour days seven days a week.
“You gotta keep a good attitude, if you don’t keep a good attitude you’re just going to be miserable and it’s not going to be any fun for you or anybody around you so, I mean you’re here, you’re doing your job, you might as well enjoy it what you can,” he said.
AT1 Mathiesen comes back to the midwest as much as he can – he still calls Iowa home.
“I still pay Iowa taxes,” he laughs.
He’ll be home in June and it’s the people he misses the most.
“I’ve been both coasts and in the south. There’s no better, no friendlier people than in the Midwest,” said AT1 Mathiesen, “It’s the only place you can go where you wave at somebody going down the road and they wave back. And the river,” he added, “I spent most of my summer on the Mississippi, it’s just what we did.”