This month I had the incredible opportunity to join a group of extraordinary individuals – our men and women in uniform – on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The aircraft carrier is the flagship of the “Carrier Strike Group 9” whose home port is in San Diego, California.
Over the past decade, this strike group has been deployed to the Middle East to provide air support over Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as conducted Maritime Security Operations aimed at preventing hijacking, piracy, and human trafficking. The strike group also provided disaster relief efforts in Indonesia in 2004 following the tragic tsunami that devastated Thailand and killed thousands.
My tour started with pre-flight training by Capt J.J. “Yank” Cummings followed by flying on a C-2 Greyhound a few hundred miles to land via a tail hook on the USS Roosevelt at sea. Going from flying full speed to zero in one second is a very shocking experience, to say the least. They say your soul leaves your body for a moment when you land that quickly – I would have to agree.
After landing we spent the day touring the flight deck, pilot ready room, navigation deck, air operations deck and night operations. After spending the night we toured public affairs, maintenance hanger, eating hall, hospital, and event that chapel!
With all of the tension in the world, this battle group consisting of the USS Roosevelt, USS Bunker Hill (Guided-missile cruiser), USS Halsey, and USS Higgins (Guided-missile destroyers), USS Pleble (DDG 88) and USS Sampson (DDG 102) and all of the brave men and women who crew these ships are preparing for anything.
During the 2 days I was there, I was shocked by the power and might of the US Navy but what I was most impressed with was the men and women who have dedicated their lives to defending our freedom. They have a sparkle in their eye and their love of country and teamwork mentality was infectious.
The all-volunteer crew consisted of 18-25-year-olds who operated with such perfection – they look like a well-orchestrated ballet but with deadly force. Although it is hard to capture the sheer power of this battle group, our enemies will see what preparation and determination can and will do to defend our freedoms.
I want to thank CJ Mitchell, Admiral Stephan Koehler, head of the strike group, and Commanding Officer Carlos Sardiello for their hospitality as well as the LCDR Beth Teach and her outstanding public affairs team for an experience I will never forget.