Downey High grad serving aboard USS Truman

DOWNEY – A 2002 Downey High School graduate and Downey native is serving on one of the world’s largest warships, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Petty Officer 1st Class Erika Tello is a damage controlman aboard the Norfolk-based ship, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and one of only ten operational aircraft carriers in the Navy today. Named in honor of former President Harry Truman, the carrier is longer than 3 football fields, at nearly 1,100 feet long.  The ship is 252 feet wide and weighs more than 100,000 tons.  Two nuclear reactors can push the ship through the water at more than 30 mph.

As a 31 year-old with numerous responsibilities, Tello said she joined the Navy because she wasn’t ready for school and wanted to see the world. She added, “I wanted to be a firefighter and the Navy provided that opportunity. Someday I want to be a fire marshal of a ship.”

She also said she is proud of the work she is doing as part of the Truman’s 5,500-member crew, protecting America on the world’s oceans.  “The Truman is my third carrier,” Tello explained.  “Life on a carrier can be hectic.  It’s big, but my division is tight. We spend time with each other on and off the ship.  On a carrier we get to go everywhere.”

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard USS Harry S. Truman. Approximately 3,000 men and women make up the ship’s company, which keeps all parts of the aircraft carrier running smoothly — this includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the nuclear reactors. Another 2,500 or so form the air wing, the people who actually fly and maintain the aircraft.

“I never cease to be impressed with the type and quality of work that goes on aboard Truman each day,” said Capt. S. Robert Roth, the carrier’s commanding officer.  “Our team is filled with highly qualified young adults – in many cases, 19 and 20 years old – and they’re out here running a complex propulsion system safely, serving as air traffic controllers, operating sophisticated electronics, launching and recovering aircraft when we’re underway, and keeping this floating city alive and functioning. I can’t express how proud I am to be a part of this team. They performed at the highest level, day in and day out during our recent 9-month combat deployment and are continuing to do so here at home. Their professionalism, dedication and commitment to excellence are second to none.”

USS Harry S. Truman, like each of the Navy’s aircraft carriers, is designed for a 50-year service life.  When the air wing is embarked, the ship carries more than 60 attack jets, helicopters and other aircraft, all of which take off from and land aboard the carrier at sea.  Powerful catapults slingshot the aircraft off the bow of the ship.  The planes land aboard the carrier by snagging a steel cable with an arresting hook that protrudes from the rear of the aircraft.  All of this makes the Harry S. Truman a self-contained mobile airport and strike platform, and often the first response to a global crisis because of a carrier’s ability to operate freely in international waters anywhere on the world’s oceans.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Tello and other USS Harry S. Truman sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

“I have been able to see places I never dreamed of going,” said Tello. “I want to go back to Los Angeles where I lived before moving to Downey and be a recruiter. I want people in my community to know there is a future without gangs or getting pregnant young.  You can do four years, get tuition for education and see the world.”

Lt. Ana Maring is from the Navy Office of Community Outreach.



Published: July 3, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 12