“The First , the Finest”, that is what the brochure, handed out by staff on the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, says. Last week a lot of Marmaris residents had the chance to see that for themselves when the Enterprise made a four day visit to the popular Turkish resort.
On Monday evening Rear Admiral Terry B Kraft, hosted a reception on board for Turkish navy Personnel and their partners from the Atkas base, the Governor and local Officials, and a number of foreign yachtsmen and women.
Rear Admiral Kraft has himself over 1,000 carrier landings, and is the commander of Carrier strike group 12 that comprises, in addition to the Enterprise, four guided missile cruisers, a support ship and an attack submarine.
He told his guests that the Enterprise, was the eighth ship to bear that name, and she was the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier in the world.
Commissioned in 1961 she is currently in her 21st deployment. In 1964 the ‘Big E’ as she is affectionately known, undertook an historic 30,565 mile voyage around the world accomplished without a single refuelling or replenishment.
Currently under the command of Captain Dee L Mewbourne, The Enterprise is some 1,123 ft long, and 257 feet wide, has 8 nuclear reactors, and can travel at over 30kts. Including the air crews she has a complement of over 5,000 men and women, on board.
Journeying around her, from the cavernous hanger where planes are maintained and stored, across the enormous 4.5 acre flight deck, to below decks through what seem to be miles of corridors, you quickly realise that she is rather like a small town. There are gym areas, mess halls, kitchens, sleeping and recreational quarters, places for worship, cinemas, medical centres, as well as the working areas.
Petty officer Tom, in charge of a flight deck team, told me that, like him, there were many crewmen and women, and commissioned and non-commissioned officers, who had completed long service with the Enterprise. He was in his 19th year, and would be retiring at the same time as The Enterprise itself , when it is decommissioned in 2012.
The majority of the crew however seem quite young. They all are regarded as Ambassadors for both the ship and their country, and their politeness and friendliness is refreshing. Having been ‘maam’ed’ so often I have started to use a royal wave !
Two young lieutenants, Andres and John, both in their late twenties, told me that they are in charge of the teams running the reactors, the engines of the ship. Both engineering graduates, in Johns case also with a post graduate masters from Cambridge in the the UK, they have an awesome responsibility for such young men. Both are married but accept that the job can require them to be away from their partners for long periods of time. Andres also mentioned that, working as he does in the bowels of the ship, he doesn’t get much chance to see the sun. A day sailing around the bay on a local yacht, was for him and fellow lieutenants Jared and Michael, a general officer who bore a startling resemblance to the young Tom Hanks, a welcome chance to enjoy the outdoors and see their ship from a different perspective.
Lt Jared, a keen recreational sailor himself, had taken the opportunity to also visit Ephesus, which he described as magnificent. He has a very different role as the ships dental officer. Like the others however he has the chance to play a part in the running of the ship, including taking watches and navigational duties.
The crew includes in excess of 500 women, with a variety of functions from Public relations to piloting aircraft. The flight wing, Carrier air wing 1, comprising 8 squadrons , has both navy pilots flying FA18 Super Hornets, helicopters and early warning planes, and marine pilots flying FA18 Hornets. Marine Captain Brad, looking different from his navy colleagues in a Green uniform, told me his team had seen duty in many places, including Afghanistan and the gulf. With the technology now available they can take off and land on the carrier in all weather conditions to perform their role of establishing and maintaining local air supremacy.
The ship was a magnificent sight as it steamed out of Marmaris, squeezing through the Icmeler gap between the islands, on Thursday for a voyage that will see them at sea for 6 weeks.
Tourist Marmaris, that had woken up from their winter slumber for their visit. Bar street in particular did well (US Navy ships are ‘dry’) but now it has gone back to sleep until the new season starts. It enjoyed the ship’s stay and the American visitors have left many friends behind them.
Penny Blackmore, Marmaris