Monday, February 6, 2012

The Big "E"

Enterprise…  Probably the most recognized warship in the world, and certainly the largest ever constructed at 1,123 feet long and 94,781 tons displacement fully loaded.  With a maximum complement of nearly 6,000 men and women, she is the second oldest ship in the Fleet and the oldest active one, commissioned in late 1961 just a few months before my birth in July of 1962, and all my days she has been there, cruising out of Hampton Roads past Buckroe Beach where I played as a boy, as the first model kit I ever built in my teens, and, once I donned the uniform of my chosen service, often on the horizon.  I’ve stood lookout whilst my destroyer operated as “plane guard” during flight operations from her decks, tracked her on on radars and “mo-boards” in Combat Information Centers in three of my commands, and walked her decks during visits aboard.  I never served in an aircraft carrier, but if the opportunity had arisen she would have had the pennant number “CVN-65”.

Our current deployment is a milestone for USS Enterprise…after this cruise she will begin deactivation procedures, and in 2013 she is scheduled to decommission.  I wish I could be there for that final ceremony, along with the hundreds of thousands of men and women who built her, crewed her, escorted her, supplied her, flown fighters, attack aircraft, radar planes, COD logistics flights and helicopters from her flight deck.  It’s going to be the end of half-a-century of service to our Navy and our Nation; ought to be quite a gathering.

After her decommissioning, what will become of CVN-65?  By the time her nuclear reactors and engineering spaces are removed and all the thousands of miles of piping, cabling and shielding are removed from her hull she will bear little resemblance to the mighty vessel I can see from our bridge wing today in the distance; when all environmental and safety concerns have been met she won’t be a ship at all.  I’ve heard suggestions that her box-like Island structure—the most distinctive visual element in her appearance—might be preserved at a museum (it will have have to have a very high ceiling), but my own thinking is that, as with so many great ships before her, the best way to carry on her traditions and history is to give her name to a new aircraft carrier. 

Hmmm…USS Enterprise, CVN-80.   I like it.

Tom Epps
Able Seaman
USNS Arctic
Eastern Mediterranean Sea

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