Civic, Business Leaders Visit USS Eisenhower on Ship's Last Day in Gulf
By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, April 25, 2007 Following a six-month deployment to the Arabian Gulf, sailors of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower can return to Norfolk, Va., proudly, knowing that they made a difference in the global war on terror, the ship’s commander said.
Members of Joint Civilian Orientation Conference 73 pose for a group photo on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. While on board the nuclear aircraft carrier the group met with sailors and witnessed several aircraft launches and recoveries while standing on deck. U.S Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“I believe this crew understood its mission and has been more fulfilled than any previous deployment,” Navy Capt. Dan Cloyd told 45 civic and business leaders visiting the carrier today. “They know that what they did made a difference and saved lives every day.”
On its last day in the Arabian Gulf, the aircraft carrier hosted educators, entrepreneurs and civic leaders who were participating in the Defense Department’s Joint Civilian Orientation Conference. The group is traveling in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility for a crash course in the capabilities of the U.S. military.
The nuclear-powered Nimitz-class “Ike” is part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, which has been providing support to American and coalition ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since the end of October.
The carrier also has taken part in maritime operations in the region by maintaining open channels for commerce, allowing freedom of the seas, and dealing with issues like piracy and human trafficking, Cloyd said.
Strike group commander Navy Rear Adm. Allen Myers told participants that the ship’s 5,000 sailors have provided support from the air and sea to CENTCOM, in addition to having boots on the ground in places like the Horn of Africa.
The 61 aircraft on the carrier have flown more than 2,000 combat sorties, dropped more than 150,000 pounds of ordnance, and continuously provided close-air support to troops and shows of force during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
“As impressive as the ship is and as impressive as the aircraft are, it’s the sailors -- the young men and women, America’s sons and daughters -- who are the most impressive part of what we do here,” Myers said.
He was talking about sailors like Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Anthony, a nuclear electrician who spent two years in training before taking his first assignment on the Eisenhower.
Anthony works on the carrier’s two nuclear reactors that not only keep the ship moving in excess of 30 knots, they provide enough energy to keep the carrier in operation for 18 years without refueling. The reactors also provide the steam that catapults aircraft from its deck at nearly 170 miles per hour.
“Our job operating the reactors is critical,” Anthony said. And while the separation from his family is difficult, he said it’s a small sacrifice to make for the nation.
For Seaman Zack Schutze, who serves as an aviation boatswain’s mate, being in such a remote area makes it easy to lose sight of the true impact the crew has in the war.
Schutze’s job is to help man the circular booth high over the ship’s deck to closely monitor and track each aircraft that the carrier launches and recovers. “With an average of 75 flight missions per day,” he said, “our work has to have a big impact on operations.”
The carrier is a national asset that has the capability to strategically and operationally effect what’s going on in the region, said operations officer Navy Cmdr. Mike Baker. “We are 4.5 acres of sovereign U.S. territory,” he said. “And with 70 percent of the world covered in water, we can play a role in operations nearly everywhere.”
Members of the crew repeatedly told their guests how much they enjoy their jobs and the positive impact they are having on the world.
One “Ike” catapult officer, who was temporarily reassigned from his duties as a pilot, told Joint Civilian Orientation Conference participants that he enjoys his job just as much today as when he joined the Navy eight years ago. “This job is awesome,” the “shooter” said. “I love it, and that will never change.”