& Her Escort Come To Town....
Nigel R. Sadler pays a welcome visit to the carrier and her escort during the recent visit to Portsmouth UK on 5th July 2004.
Dropping anchor in Stokes bay Portsmouth on 2nd July at 08:30am was the Navy's first nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise CVN-65, at the same time the escort ship USS Gettysburg CG-64 sailed into Portsmouth Harbour for both ships to enjoy a port visit for 5 days the crews looking forward to some R&R and celebrating Independence Day. The two ships had taken part in the new US Navy deployment exercise "Summer pulse 2004" designed to have as many carrier groups at sea at the same time, this was a change to the traditional six month deployment schedule. Summer pulse '04 is the simultaneous deployment of seven aircraft carrier strike groups, demonstrating the ability of the Navy to provide credible combat power across the globe in 5 theatres.
Joining the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) were George Washington (CVN-73), John F. Kennedy (CV-67), USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).
The USS Enterprise had only recently returned from her 6 month deployment taking her to sea from 2nd October 2003 to 29th February 04, this meant that the families had little time to be with their loved ones prior to departure again for the Summer Pulse Exercise. Prior to her arrival at Portsmouth the ship and her reduced escort and airwing had already taken part in some joint exercises, after departing her homeport she took part in Exercise "Neo Tapon" which was described by Intelligence Officer Cmdr. Daniel Driscoll as a warm up exercise, during this phase the ship had a further embarked airwing squadron of VF-211 F-14's these aircraft were disembarked prior to the ships participation in the next exercise JMC "Joint Maritime Course" off the north coast of Scotland, which commenced 21st June. This exercise was divided into two phases: work up and operational enabling the carrier group to operate in concert with other NATO countries enabling valuable lessons to be learned in the different Naval protocols. The carriers aircraft could even be seen operating out to sea from the Scottish coast a rare sight indeed in the UK. The ship operated with two other vessels joining the group CG-64 USS Gettysburg and AOE-4 USS Detroit, Detroit visited Rota during the port visit to Portsmouth.
The reduced air wing that was aboard the ship consisted of VFA-82 "Marauders" (AB-3**) F/A-18C, VFA-86 "Sidewinders" (AB-4**) F/A-18C, VAQ-137 "Rooks" (AB-5**) EA-6B, VS-32 "Maulers" (AB-7**) S-3B, VAW-123 "Screwtops" (AB-60*) E-2C, HS-11 "Dragonslayers" (AB-61*) S/HH-60F/H the two C-2 COD aircraft of VRC-40 were deployed to Prestwick during the UK theatre presence. Not sailing were the Marine unit of VMFA-312 "Checkerboards" (AB-2**) F/A-18?, and VF-211 "Fighting Checkmates" (AB-1**) F-14A. This resulted in only 38 aircraft being aboard the carrier during her port visit.
Our party met at fleet landing at 09:00 for our check in and embarkation transit to the Enterprise, it was a calm and sunny day unlike the previous days of wind rain and low cloud, we were joined by a separate party of engineers who were involved in the design of the new UK carriers and were here to gain tips and observe, on how to design and build an aircraft carrier. We caught first sight of the carrier some 10 minutes later as this awesome ship got bigger and bigger as we drew closer. Entering the ship via the pontoon at the rear and the steep stairs to the hanger deck. In here we were briefed on the day events which would include a visit to the ships store to buy merchandise, a visit to the Enterprise room and other key locations around the ship.
During our extensive visit to the carrier we were shown other areas one containing the "weegie" board a cut out of the carriers deck showing the location and status of each aircraft, marked with different coloured pins or washers each one indicating such things as wings folded/extended, requiring wash, tech, fuelled or not fuelled etc. There was a penalty to pay for any crewman who accidentally knocked the symbols off the board!, imagine the whole picture of the deck status being lost. In the picture opposite the captain of the USS Enterprise Captain Eric C. Neidlinger is seen sharing a joke with actor Ben Afflick, during his visit to the ship in December 2003 to raise morale and offer support to the crews and vessels deployed from the US to combat the terrorists and to promote the backing of the country behind the operations of it's military in avenging such atrocities as September 11.
After the visit to the UK the carrier and her escort departed on 6th July to participate in exercise "Majestic Eagle" this was to be the final exercise the group would participate in before heading for home. Hosted by Morocco MS/ME04 was a multinational exercise in which the group would work with naval ships at sea and perform strike warfare at a weapons range in Morocco Providing real opposition to the Enterprise will be the USS Harry S. Truman by attempting to disrupt the Enterprise operations. Other ships in the exercise were ITS Garibaldi & SPS Principe De Asturias.
The author wishes to thank RADM P D Smith and Zip Rausa of the ANA for their assistance in arranging the visit and our US Navy guides for the day, also LCDR Terrence Dudley, US Navy London.