News coverage of the U.S.S. Abraham
Lincoln assisting the tsunami relief effort evoked memories
of my November visit to this city at sea. The Lincoln is not
a cruise ship. It is a warship that can launch four aircraft
a minute from a 4.5-acre flight deck. This Nimitz-class aircraft
carrier carries seven different types of aircraft and has fought
in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. When deployed,
the Lincoln is the nucleus of a battle group that includes
guided missile cruisers, destroyers, frigates, replenishment
ships, and submarines. The Lincoln battle group and air wing
fired the opening salvos and launched the opening air strikes
in Operation Iraqi Freedom. During 10 months of Operation Iraqi
Freedom, the Lincoln group expended more than 1.6 million pounds
of ordnance and flew 16,500 sorties. It was to the Lincoln
that Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush came to announce “mission
accomplished” and to demonstrate the appreciation of
a grateful nation.
I was one of a group of 16 local community leaders from Kane‘ohe
and Kailua offered an opportunity to visit the Lincoln Nov.
29-30. With my husband, Dr. Foy Varner, I embarked with this
group at 7 a.m. from Pearl Harbor, spent the night aboard the
ship, and was catapulted off the deck the next day, on a flight
back to Hawai‘i. Crammed into that day and a half were
tours of most of the ship and visits with crew members. It
was an amazing adventure!
he carrier is a floating city with more than 5,600 people on
board. It has a post office with its own zip code, stores, hospital,
libraries, and television and radio stations. Training is constant,
and about 300 crew members are working on a college degree at
any one time. (I met with the education officers, of course!)
The ship can generate enough power to supply electricity to
100,000 homes, and it can distill more than 400,000 gallons
water from the sea each day. Since fresh drinking water is
such a critical need in disaster relief, I expect that during
south Asia mission, the crew is restricted to three-minute
showers so that more water is available for those whose lives
This is not the first time the carrier has responded to a natural
disaster. On its way to Operation Desert Storm in 1991, it
was diverted to help in the evacuation following the eruption
Mt. Pinatubo in the Republic of the Philippines. The carrier
spearheaded a 23-ship fleet that rescued more than 20,000
active duty military personnel and family members and relocated
45,000 people from Subic Bay Naval Station in the largest
peacetime evacuation in history. Then the Lincoln headed
for the Arabian
Gulf and Operation Desert Storm to provide combat air patrol,
reconnaissance and support air operations over Kuwait and
Although the carrier has food and supplies to operate for
90 days, it is accompanied by refueling ships. We watched
carrier and a fuel ship cruised together for hours with
umbilical cords pumping fuel across the gap. Later, on the
we saw a steam catapult slam a 37-ton jet into the air,
pushing it from zero to 180 miles per hour in less than three
To me, the takeoffs were exciting but landings were terrifying.
Incoming planes hook onto one of four arresting wires that
drag the aircraft from 150 miles per hour to zero in less
feet. Despite the protection of headphones to muffle sound,
the catapults and arresting wires are loud enough to create
waves that literally pummel the body.
I expected to be impressed with the might of this warship.
I was surprised by the admiration I felt for the crew,
whom are similar in age to HPU’s student population. Women
now fly in combat, and I saw them in leadership posts all over
the ship. As an example, there are two people on the aircraft
carrier who can authorize combat—the ship’s captain
and the head of combat operations, a 26-year-old woman.
Although crew members were young in years, they were
focused, thoroughly trained, dedicated, professional,
and very proud
to be serving their country. I know that our nation’s defense
is in good hands, and I am sure that those hands are equally
capable in the disaster relief they are providing today.
The Lincoln has an excellent Web site at http://www.cvn72.navy.mil/
for those who would like to learn more.