Embark USS Carl Vinson, June 11-12, 2004

This was a life time experience and the excitement was beyond expression.  Sixteen of us, from education commuity, business sector, television production, research team, and ESGR, gathered in NAS North Island, the Brith Place of Naval Aviation, San Diego, CA,  were ready for the embarkment on USS Carl Vinson.   USS Carl Vinson is one of the six aircarft carriers that consist of the United States Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet.  USS Carl Vinson is named after former Congressman Carl Vinson, who served as the chairman of the Naval Affairs Committee having great influence on the development and construction of the pre- and post- World War II United States Navy.  Carl Vinson was the first US citizen to see the launching of a ship named in his honor. 

Commissioned in March 1982 and the third Nimitz nuclear powered aricraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson is 1,092 feet long and displaces 91,000 tons.  With a crew of over 5,000, including her embarked air wings, the aircraft carrier is capable of launching any of its 70+ aircrafts from four steam catapults.  Naval Station Bremerton in the state of Washington was the homeport for the USS Carl Vinson since Jan. 1997.   In Jan. 2005, the "Gold Eagle" USS Carl Vinson bid farewel to her home port Bremerton, Washington,  and the Pacific Northwest to participate in a Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX), followed by her around-the-world deployment. While at sea, the ship will honor our nation’s cooperative security commitments to our friends and allies overseas, promote peace and stability.  Upon completion of her deployment, the "Gold Eagle" will arrive in Norfolk, VA, to begin a refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH), the three-year maintenance period which will virtually turn the ship into a new carrier with some of the most modern equipment in the Navy and allow it to serve at least another 25 years.


The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group includes Carrier Air Wing 9, Destroyer Squadron 31, the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), the guided-missile destroyers USS O’Kane (DDG 77) and USS Mustin (DDG 89), the fast combat support ship USS Camden (AOE 2) and the submarine USS Olympia (SSN 717).

We are getting ready to get on the C-2A Greyhound to fly to USS Carl Vinson.  Referred to as the COD, the C-2 is capable of carrying five tons of cargo, 26 passengers, and thousands of pounds of mail.  C-2 serves as a vital link between shore stations and at-sea aircraft carrier battle groups.  We were seated facing backward in the cabin.  Restraining harnesses held us firmly in our seats during the arrested landing and catapult launching.  When the landing aboard the carrier, the C-2 aircraft came down from flying speed of 130 mph to zero in a space of about 200 feet.  At launching, the plane went from zero to 130 mph in less than two seconds.  Anyone who has experienced such a thrill of lifetime would be awarded a certificate of Honorary Tailhooker by the captain of the carrier.   Our flight was about 30 minutes from North Island, CA, to the landing on USS Carl Vinson.

Upon landing on USS Carl Vinson, we are greeted by Rear Admiral Evan M. Chanik, Commander of Carrier Group Three which includes a carrier and her air wings, a destroyer, a few cruisers, submarines, and logistic ships. The Admiral has an office on board the carrier and he has a busy flying schedule that day.  Constantly, we are forgetting that we were not on the gound as the carrier is indeed like a city on the high sea. 

  With Captain Kevin M. Donegan,                                       With Rear Adminral Evan M. Chanik, Commander,
 Commanding Officer, USS Carl Vinson.                             Carrier Group Three.
  We were given a chance to sit on his
chair in his command room.                           

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    Before boarding the carrier, we are informed that crew members working on the deck wear jacket of different color, each indicates their duty and responsibility.  Brown: plane captains, Green: maintenance, Red: Ordnance (loading or unloading bombs), Yellow: Directors, Purple: fuels, Blue: handlers, and White: safety/medical/visitors.  All the visitors are wearing white jackets.  I am with a few crews: two are maintenance and one is in safety.  You can tell the crew to my right hand side is a female.  About 12% of the crew on board the carrier is a woman. 

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Left: The fighter is ready to take off.  Crews in different collored jacket are in the background.  No one can perform such a choreography in precision better than they can.  Right: Crews between the landing and taking off.

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    More pictures showing crews in different jackets at work.

Often, all the crew members including those who work underneath in different war rooms will come up to the deck to "walk" trying to find any suspicous pieces on the floor that might jepardize fighter planes' normal flight.

                With some of the crews on the deck.


 The Bomb crew at work (red jacket).                    The fuel crew at work (purple jacket).


    With one of the female crew members.                    JO3 Chris Fahey is one of the staff in the
                                                                                             Carrier's Public Affairs Office. 




With Lt. Commander Daniel Hohman who is also a flight surgent.    He runs the carrier hospital with
half dozens of doctors, 35 personnel, 50 beds, and other medical professionals.  His clinic is capable
of operating necessary surgery, providing routine checkup, and responding emergency calls
for the crews.  


    Fitting room.  It is the only place on board               Dinning Room.  The food actually is quite good,    
  that the sailors do not have to wear uniform.             but there is always a long line.

Second class Pason, who works in the reactor room.                With two Marine pilots on board.
Currently all the US carriers are nuclear powered.  
Working in the nuclear powered reactors can be
dangerous.  But Parson said she is not so worried. 
"If something should happen and I have to die,
God will take care of the rest.   We were all given
opportunity in traing school if we chose not to work
 with nuclear power equippment."


    In my room on board.  It is quite spacious                 In the conference room.
    and comfortable.  It is a guest room after all.                                       


The average age of the crews on board is 20 years old.   Many of them are fresh from high school. 
They are operating million-dollor worth of machinery, flying the best equipped fighters, defending not
only our nation but also a world so far away yet so close to home.  Each of them has the smallest space
as "home" but lives with probably the largest family of several thousand members.  The carrier is a city
that never sleeps and an island that floats.  The commanding officers of Carl Vinson call these sailors
"young adults" with great compliment and pride.  


As we were flying away from USS Carl Vinson, the carrier stood elegantly against the bueatiful Californian sunset.  I said good bye to this giant city and a great family.  Driving away from the North Island where we initially boarded the flight, it was time for me to retire in a hotel, but for many of the young adults aboard USS Carl Vinson, their day had just begun.