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This and other interesting stories are available at StatehouseReport.com.  I especially liked this one today.

Carrier is a “shining city upon the sea”

By Andy Brack, Publisher
Statehouse Report

FEB. 3, 2012 — You can feel America’s promise and power aboard a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. It’s where foreign policy meets reality.

A carrier is “100,000 tons of diplomacy that doesn’t need a permission slip,” one officer explained over a weekend tour in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast. “We’ll go where we want and stay as long as we need.”

With about 5,000 sailors and Marines on the USS Enterprise ramping up for a March deployment to the Persian Gulf, the integrated dance of the ship and its complement of destroyers, frigates and other vessels is a testament to the outstanding training, retraining and more training offered in the most powerful Navy in the world.

What makes the 1,123-foot carrier hum is its young trusted crew that shoulders and thrives on enormous responsibilities and 12-hour to 16-hour days every day that the ship is at sea.

“What makes it go are the 18-year-old kids,” said Capt. Doug Cochrane, a Navy helicopter pilot who now commands Naval Station Mayport near Jacksonville, Fla. “Our competitive advantage is these kids who can do anything and choose to serve their country.”

For Cpl. Terry Wilson, a Queens, N.Y., native who now is an avionics technician at Marine Corps Station Beaufort, the military offered a new beginning. Three years ago when he was 22, Wilson quit his job delivering packages and made what he called a “radical change” by joining the Marines.

“I’ve been nothing but content in the Marines,” he said Sunday over breakfast on the Enterprise. In his three years in the Corps, he said he has gotten a special kind of confidence that replaced a cockiness he had in New York. “You feel you can do anything.

Life on board a carrier isn’t easy. Wilson, attached to the ship as part of a Beaufort jet squadron, and his peers sleep in crowded rooms with bunks stacked three high. They work long hours and multi-task with various duties. But they’re committed to get the job done, day in and day out. It’s an inspiring show of will that more Americans would do well to emulate.

Just about everything that happens on a carrier focuses on supporting her 190 pilots and 60+ jets, including four F-18 squadrons and planes that do electronic jamming and offer in-the-sky radar. About 3,000 people make the ship run — from a 20-year-old enlisted man in Air Traffic Control who guides jets in for night landings to cooks who prepare and serve thousands of meals daily. Another 1,500 people, including Wilson, focus on keeping the airplanes ready for flight.

During a Ready Room briefing for guests, Marine Lt. Col. Nate “Corky” Miller explained how every flight of F/A-18 Hornets took pilots about 14 hours from preparation and flying to debriefing. Miller, part of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 (the “Thunderbolts,” based in Beaufort), said jets also took about 12 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight to be able to “deploy its diplomacy.”

Visiting a carrier is an awesome experience. When jets take off from the black, rubber-coated flight deck, you can feel the blasts of heat from engines that rumble your body’s core. When they drop a tailhook to grab one of four two-inch cables across the deck, the scream of the landing is loud enough to make you wince, despite two layers of ear protection.

It is this raw power, as well as the dedication of a new generation of Americans to the fundamentals of service to the country, that sticks with visitors to the ship.

Before the United States was a country, Puritan leader John Winthrop described the promise of the new Massachusetts Bay colony as a “shining city upon a hill.” The image has been used for generations as a way to describe American exceptionalism — the notion that the United States is different from other countries because it was the first new nation and a democracy “of the people.”

No better example of that exceptionalism is the strength and dedication exhibited by sailors and Marines like Wilson and Miller on the USS Enterprise, truly a shining city upon the sea.

Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse Report.  You can read about what it feels like to land and take-off from a carrier here in our sister publication, CharlestonCurrents.com.  Brack can be reached at: brack@statehousereport.com


The following information about the USS Enterprise is quoted from CharlestonCurrents.com.

Enterprising fun facts

Here are some tidbits of neat information about the USS Enterprise, the Navy’s oldest active aircraft carrier taking part this week in war games off the Florida coast. For more, read Andy Brack’s column about a visit to the ship.

Real estate: The 1,123-foot ship has a flight deck of 4.5 acres that can launch jets from four steam-powered catapults, each of which is 286 feet. The ship’s landing area is 344 feet. Planes drop a tailhook to catch one of four “arresting” cables spaced about 25 feet apart. The hanger bay area is 3.5 acres.

Crew: The crew is about 5,000 sailors and Marines, including some 3,000 who make the ship run and about 1,500 who fly jets and support the squadron. There are more than 400 officers.

Food: The crew’s daily consumption includes 350 gallons of milk, 30,000 soft drinks, 1,000 pounds of lettuce and 500 pounds of tomatoes.

Lodging: Enlisted crew generally sleep in bunks stacked three high in rooms of about 100 bunks each. Petty officers have similar quarters, but only about 30 bunks per room. Officers share rooms with bunks stacked two high. Junior officers may have three roommates, while more senior ones may have one roommate. The ship’s top dozen officers have single staterooms that include en suite bathrooms.

Services: The ship publishes a daily newspaper and offers a store, two gyms, two barber shops, self-service and full-service laundry, and lounges where sailors can keep up with email. Bandwidth is limited. There’s also a television station. Sailors can watch current shows on several channels — including ESPN — that come in via satellite.