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Gambill and Woodall entertain Navy sailors aboard USS Eisenhower

Johnson County’s Billy Gambill, a familiar voice on local radio station, WMCT, was among those who recently boarded the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower CVN-69 as part of an endeavor to support members of the United States military in 2012. Although he was back on land and left his sea legs aboard the massive ship, Gambill’s excitement over his journey was still palpable. John Woodall, a member of the musical group, Brother Gravity, invited Gambill to play along with the rest of the band members, Brett Sigmon and Kevin Brawlee, on the ship as part of the Adopt-A-Solider program. Although plans were in the works by the end of January, the group did not know when or where their flight would embark and where they would land. Gambill, who has been playing drums for over 20 years, is the owner of Gambill Entertainment. He is a busy man and has his own band, Dodgion and Gambill, as well as being the co-choir director and song leader for First Christian Church. On Saturday morning, March 30th, Gambill packed up and drove down to Charlotte, North Carolina to meet up with the rest of the band. From there they headed to Norfolk Naval Base in Norfolk, Virginia and prepared to fly 400 miles out over the cold waters of the Atlantic. The group, along with the Washington Redskin Cheerleaders and members of the United States Tennis Association, boarded a C2 Carrier On Delivery, otherwise known as a COD plane, for a two and a half hour flight. The group landed on the massive USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, commissioned in October of 1977and was named after the 34th president of the United States. According to Gambill, the super carrier, the equivalent of four city blocks long, is considered the most powerful and technologically advanced warship in the world. She is as long as the Chrysler Building if it was placed on its side and weighs 86,000 metric tons. Despite her size, she is the fastest ship of her kind in the fleet and can go anywhere in the world. As they approached the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the plane suddenly decreased from 200 miles an hour to zero in just three seconds. “It felt kind of like a roller coaster suddenly coming to a stop,” Gambill said. “You are booking!” He explained the plane hits the flight deck at full power in what is referred to as an arrested landing. As the hatch opens, the drone of the noisy jets was a constant noise. Gambill was thankful for the earplugs and ear sets giving them protection on the flight deck. Once the group left the plane, they had to exert caution as there was a risk of getting too close to an engine and being pulled in with the powerful force, blown off the deck or clipped and maimed by the propeller plane. The ship has approximately 5,000 officers and crew onboard. According to Gambill, life aboard a ship can be mundane as they often spend six to nine months out to sea. “Everyday is Monday,” he said. In addition to the music of Brother Gravity, the crew of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower was able to enjoy a TRX competition and Xbox Madden tournament. The United States Tennis Association delivered and set up a 36-foot modular tennis court through the generosity of Sport Court. They donated the racquets and nets to the crew for future use.
For the rest of the story, see this week's Tomahawk.