Aboard the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush as Airstrikes Hit

ABC News' Martha Raddatz takes an inside look at life aboard the key American aircraft carrier i nteh Persian Gulf as it executes its mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
7:23 | 09/28/14

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Transcript for Aboard the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush as Airstrikes Hit
Now an inside look at one of the aircraft carriers at the heart of the U.S. Mission against Isis. The "Uss George H.W. Bush" where fighter jets are launched, precision bombs are assembled, American service members running an incredible operation at sea that never stops. Towering some 20 stories above the waters of the persian gulf, the "Uss George H.W. Bush" is at the center of this air war. Its flight deck nearly as long as the empire state building is tall and bristling with the most ferocious warplanes in the Navy, each loaded with thousands of pounds of bombs and missiles, the f-18 fighters launched on missions to Syria and Iraq any time night or day. This ship left Norfolk, Virginia, in the middle of February for a nine-month deployment to the persian gulf. Never did they imagine that six months into the deployment they'd be dropping bombs on a group called Isis. We watch your news. We watch what's going on and we quickly started putting together, hey, this is getting worse. This is getting bad. The ship had been conducting missions over Afghanistan. But with Isis forces quickly taking over territory in Iraq, the aircraft carrier was ordered to change course. 30 hours after they told us to go, literally we're departing the Afghanistan theater, and 30 hours later we're flying combat sorties over Iraq. Many of the fighter pilots had done multiple tours here in the past. It is not just the pilots, it takes 4500 sailors to keep this air campaign going. They do everything from maintaining the aircraft to moving the paperwork. Shifts are long. Days off don't exist. Temperatures hovering over more than 100 degrees. The little spare time one gets maybe means time for a quick workout, a rare chance to send an e-mail home or get a haircut. Meals are one of the only times to relax and catch up. 18,000 meals are prepared here each day. Work out here every day runs into the next one, so you're kind of just going over and over again. But these sailors understand their jobs are critical. We watched these men and women assemble bombs, putting together a 500-pound precision-guided weapon capable of leveling a building, and above them, the bombs were loaded onto aircraft bound for the war zone. The deck of an aircraft carrier is an incredibly dynamic place. Once they get all these fighter jets back on deck, they maintain them, go over them, make sure they don't need any repairs. When they're all set to go, they're right back on another mission. The air bosses in the ship's tower oversee it all. Best seat in the house. And one of the most important, the tower landing jets every 55 seconds and launching them every 3 minutes. To take off from this short runway, 1/30 the size of a regular runway, the plane's front wheels are connected to a catapult. The pilot keeps the engines at full power, and then when the catapult is fired, the jet goes from a dead stop to speeds up to 184 miles per hour in just 2 seconds. But throughout this deployment there has not been a single serious mishap, and well over 250 missiles and bombs have been dropped on Iraq and Syria. The strike group commander who is also an f-18 pilot who's been flying missions told us the Isis targets could become harder to find. They are a learning organization, so we know that they will adapt, and that may make our job more difficult, but this is a long-term effort. So the strength of the coalition and our presence here will be here for quite some time. And what is next? With our warplanes now attacking in Syria? I don't want to talk about what we're doing right now or would do in the future, once it's past and behind us then we can talk about that. There goes one now. And there goes one right now. And we are now back on land and joining us is vice admiral John miller, who is the commander of U.S. Naval forces for central command and the commander of fifth fleet here in Bahrain. Admiral miller, let's start with what you really have accomplished with those air strikes. Well, good morning. Let's look at it in the framework of the president's strategy and what he's asked us to do, degrade and destroy isil, advise and assist the Iraqi security forces, reduce isil's funding and provide humanitarian assistance. So what have we done? We have a u.s.-led coalition air force. We have Iraqi security forces on the ground and peshmerga security forces. What's been accomplished so far? They've retaken mosul dam. They've reinforced the area around haditha dam. They've reinforced their position around Baghdad. They've provided relief at sinjar mountain, which was a potential humanitarian disaster. They provided relief around the city of amerli, another potential humanitarian disaster. So they've really slowed down Isis but haven't halted them. No, they haven't halted them but there's been progress being made. But they've moved forward south. Well, they were -- there was some risk in the southern part of Baghdad and the Iraqi security forces have been able to reinforce their position there, so they're more secure now than they were previously. And the targeting now, we talked to rear admiral miller on the ship, and he said it may get a little more difficult. I saw lots of fighter jets returning to the ship with their bombs still attached. I know that's Normal sometimes but is there a chance you kind of run out of targets because Isis starts spreading out? Well, they're an adaptive force and we've seen them adapt to the air strikes that we're doing. But really bad news for them. We're the most adaptive force in the world and so as they adapt, we'll adapt. But air power has limits. I'm sure you would be the first to admit that. So what do you do? You don't have military ground controllers to help pick targets, and you don't have a U.S. Ground force there. No, we don't, but we have a ground force on the ground. The Iraqi security forces, the peshmerga forces, as well. And we know they didn't perform so well and that's why we're there. And that's why we have the advise and assist mission to help them get better at what they do, and there's lots of work going on in that regard. Paint a picture for the American public of what you think this campaign will look like in the next six months, in the next year. Will we see bombing all the time? Just give us a sense of what that would be like. Well, I'm not sure that we know what it's going to be like because it is an adaptive campaign that will develop over time. We have a broad strategic framework from which to work from and that's helpful to us. And we'll have to see how it's going to develop over time. Okay, thanks very much, vice admiral, for joining us

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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