January 04, 2006
Reagan begins first operational deployment
By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer
CORONADO, Calif. — As scores of relatives and friends looked on, huddled in the morning chill, the nuclear carrier Ronald Reagan pulled from the pier Wednesday and began its first operational deployment.
The carrier, named for the 39th president, actor and former California governor, carried 5,000 Navy officers and sailors as it left San Diego Bay to begin its first operational cruise and lead an 6,500-member strike group to the Western Pacific and certain combat duty in the Persian Gulf.
The 1,092-foot-long carrier — whose innovations include one fewer arresting cables and one less deck but more sophisticated communications systems than other Nimitz-class carriers — will take on the more than 80 aircraft with Carrier Air Wing 14 before heading to Hawaii and on west.
“It’s still got that new car smell,” Reagan’s skipper, Capt. Terry B. Kraft, quipped before boarding the ship. As they head out, “we’ve got to wring the bugs out.”
Reagan’s crew will remain busy with training during the transoceanic journey on the ship, which became surge-ready in October and spent part of December at sea for the culminating Joint Task Force exercise, completing its pre-deployment training. “We’ve had a challenging time in the last month,” said Kraft, who took command in mid-November. “It was a challenging exercise.”
The ship left on what’s slated to be a six-month deployment, but which sailors and commanders acknowledged could be shorter or longer, depending on world events. “Even when we get back from this deployment, we remain surge-ready,” said Kraft, who had surged with the carrier Theodore Roosevelt during its five-month, short-notice wartime deployment in 2003.
Reagan’s departure marks the culmination of nearly 18 months of preparation and training since it arrived in San Diego in July 2004, and many aboard were eager to get the deployment started.
Yeoman 3rd Class (AW/SW) Mario Tapawan’s wife and 9-year-old daughter saw him off before he boarded the ship. “I’m just ready to get it over with,” said Tapawan, the flag administration leading petty officer with Commander Strike Group 7.
In his 10 years in uniform, Tapawan has served aboard the carrier John C. Stennis, hospital ship Mercy and 7th Fleet command ship Blue Ridge, but this deployment will be the first time he’ll sail into the Persian Gulf. “Being the first time going there for me, it’s going to be an interesting experience,” he said.
Lea Martinez clutched her jacket as she looked across the North Island Naval Air Station pier. The carrier is taking her husband, Aviation Ordnanceman Airman David G. Martinez, 29, away on his first deployment, an emotional rollercoaster for the couple, who are new parents.
Lea Martinez, who lives in Huntington Beach, a 90-minute drive from San Diego, gave birth to their daughter just one month ago. They took advantage of the ship’s deployment schedule, which followed a holiday leave period. “We were together for an entire week,” she said. “So we got to do all the ‘first’ things together, [like] changing the diapers.”
The sight of the behemoth gray vessel leaving its berth brought tears to Olivia Palencia, who strained her eyes to see her youngest daughter as she helped “man” the rails. “God bless everyone. See them back home,” she whispered.
The deployment is the first for her daughter, Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Stacy Palencia, who is stationed at Whidbey Island, Wash. “She’s very happy to stay in the Navy,” her mother said, noting Stacy’s goals of expanding her education and making the Navy a career. “She loves the Navy, and she has a whole lot of ideas.”
Still, Reagan’s likely deployment to the Persian Gulf stirs some fears and worries of her family. “She’s afraid,” conceded her mother, “since this is the first time.”
Joining Ronald Reagan on the deployment are guided-missile destroyers Decatur and McCampbell and guided-missile cruiser Lake Champlain, which also left their home piers at 32nd Street Naval Station in San Diego, along with fast combat support ship Rainier, based in Bremerton, Wash., and fast-attack submarine Tucson, based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Reagan’s air wing includes Strike Fighter Squadrons 22, 25, 113 and 115 from Lemoore NAS, Calif.; Airborne Early Warning Squadron 113 of Point Mugu NAS, Calif.; Tactical Electronics Warfare Squadron 139 from Whidbey Island, Wash.; and Carrier Logistics Support Squadron 30 and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 4, both based at North Island.
I have a friend who just got out of the navy, that was on that ship. He even has a plank owners plaque from it. i forgot what that means, but it is important.
God bless 'em.
Also, NO PICS?
Means he's a member of the ship's very first crew.
I've got a buddy who's a Commander aboard her. He brought me a flag that flew on her and a nice plaque and picture signed by the Captain. I think it's only right that the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan replaces the U.S.S. Constellation CV-64 as America's Flagship
Good Hunting USS Reagan
USS Constellation CV-64 '85-'87
Son of a co-worker is a bb stacker (Aviation Ordnance) on her.
What are the requirements for being "surge-ready"?
Is it just a matter of being able to deploy within "x" amount of days/hours?
Gidget Fuentes can't get it right. This story should have been written by a ex-mil reporter!
My avitar says it all.