By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Christopher Frost

BREMERTON, Wash. – Everything was going as planned for the seemingly routine recovery of 20 aircraft when suddenly the unimaginable happened.

Alarms blared out and the air traffic controllers aboard the Nimitz-class
aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) helplessly watched as both of the ship’s primary precision approach navigation systems dropped off line, resulting in an incorrect reading of every navigation aid and ship’s reference position.

They were witnessing a catastrophic navigation system failure that even the most seasoned air traffic controller aboard the ship had never experienced.

The pilots, flying at night in the Persian Gulf during inclement weather, were unable to visually navigate their way back to Stennis. Someone needed to act, and luckily someone did.

Air Traffic Controller First Class Brian Eisenberg, from Green Bay, Wis., had thoroughly studied his equipment manuals inside and out and remembered a rarely-used setting on the air traffic control console that would allow him to plot Stennis’ location manually into the navigation system.

Eisenberg quickly went into action and began updating the ship’s position by entering heading and speed corrections with information from the bridge. While he was manually plotting Stennis’ position he remained in radio contact with a pilot, safely directing the aircraft back to the ship and preventing a possible disaster.

“When chaos comes, a good air traffic controller will remain calm and collected,” said Eisenberg. “If you panic you’re not going to get the aircraft safely on the flight deck.”

He and his fellow air traffic controllers stayed calm and safely recovered all 20 aircraft.

Due to his actions that night in the Persian Gulf, Eisenberg was selected as runner-up for Commander, Naval Air Forces 2013 Air Traffic Controller of the Year on May 20th, 2014.

“He’s very motivated and he’ll do whatever he can to accomplish what needs to be done,” said Air Traffic Controller Second Class Abigail Schoonover, from Meadville, Pa. “He’s passionate about the job and enjoys overcoming challenges.”

With his success as an enlisted Sailor, Eisenberg is setting his sights on even bigger accomplishments. His next goal for his career is to become an officer through the Limited Duty Officer program.

By knowing his equipment manuals and staying calm in the midst of chaos, Eisenberg said he believes he displayed the character and leadership needed to be an officer. If asked, the 20 pilots who returned safely that night might agree.

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