"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding watercolor, metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Tiger cruise, part one

Note: This is the first part of a story I wrote for Edmond Life and Leisure edmondlifeandleisure.com about my cruise aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Aberaham Lincoln. It will be continued next week, so you'll have to wait. I'll include photos of this trip of a lifetime. Moral--be a good teacher and take care of students, and they always manage to say thank you, in ways you never expect.

“We’ve got a really big gas tank,” said the Navy officer, a former UCO journalism student.
He was talking about one of 11 of the world’s largest and most powerful warships, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, CVN 72. Commissioned in 1989, it’s still running on the original uranium in its two nuclear reactors.
Lt. Cmdr. Steve Curry, UCO 1993, is the new public affairs officer aboard the ship, which just returned to its homeport in Everett, Wash., after a six-month deployment.
The size of the “gas tank” aboard the Nimitz-class carrier only hints at the enormity of the pride of the U.S. Navy, a virtual city—or castle--at sea.
Me and Lt. Cmdr. Steve Curry, aboard "The Abe" in San Diego.
Lt. Cmdr. Curry had invited me as his former professor, and a cousin from Fort Worth, aboard for a four-day “Tiger Cruise” from San Diego to Everett. We were among about 300 other “Tigers”—family members, relatives and friends--on what I refer to as my “Pirate-proof cruise,” the last days of its trip home across the Pacific.
You can’t adequately describe an experience, a warship like this that costs $1million a day to operate. But four words stand out to me: size, science, people, pride.
The stunning size of the ship is the first thing that hits you—20-foot-tall rudders, 4.5 acre flight deck, 20 stories tall, 1,092 feet long, 257 feed wide. The more you learn and see, you’re equally awed by the science and engineering that makes it work. But the crew is the real story, 5,500 counting the airwing and its 70 aircraft.
Since the airwing departed for on shore deployment between Hawaii and San Diego, I didn’t see any of the cool catapult launchings that can take a jet fighter from 0 to 180 mph in 2.4 seconds.  Or can stop one in less than that, from 180 to 0—in all ddkinds of weather, day or night.
But there were still about 3,500 men and women aboard (15 percent of the crew is female). Average age is about 20-22. And everywhere I went, I was impressed by the dedication and professionalism and pride of the sailors…they’re proud of their ship and the job they do, every day, 365 days a year.  The Lincoln just earned the coveted ‘Battle E’ award. The crew refers to “The Abe” as the best ship in the Navy.
“Good morning, Abe,” comes the announcement over the ship’s intercom. It’s either the XO or the Captain talking to the Tigers and crew about the coming day. But old salts would feel at home, because the Bosun’s whistle precedes it and all announcements. But if you’ve waited until this announcement to be stirring, you’ve missed breakfast.
Serving stops at 0700. So you’ve missed omelets and eggs cooked to order, fresh biscuits and gravy, and more. But you can still stop by the officer’s wardroom or the enlisted mess areas for fresh fruit, cereal, milk, juice, toast, energy bars, and of course coffee, any time of the day. You won’t go hungry.  The crew consumers 180 dozen eggs a day. The 15,000-20,000 meals cooked daily include 600 gallons of milk and 900 pounds of fresh fruit. And of course, 80 pounds of coffee. “Coffee keeps the Navy afloat.”

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