American Forces Press Service
CENTRAL PERSIAN GULF, April 28, 2006 - Civilian opinion
leaders who visited the USS Ronald Reagan today got a taste
of what it's like to be the biggest, toughest guy on the
block - one whose presence brings comfort to his friends but
fear in his enemies.
The business, civic, organizational and academic leaders,
all participants in the Joint Civilian Orientation
Conference, visited the world's largest aircraft carrier on its
maiden deployment to the Persian Gulf.
....................USS Ronald Reagan
They met the crew, toured the flight and navigation
bridges, flight-control deck and flight deck and watched F-18
Hornet and Super Hornet aircraft take off for some of the 30
sorties they fly over Iraq every day.
"We believe this is a very worthwhile effort," Rear Adm.
Mike Miller, commander of the Ronald Reagan Strike Group,
told the group after it flew in from Bahrain. "We believe we
are helping preserve the peace and stability of the Arabian
Speaking to group members in the "in-port cabin" that's
fashioned to look like the Reagan Administration's White House
"Red Room," thanks to donations by the Hampton Roads Navy
League, Miller said he's convinced the Reagan is making an
impact in the region.
"We are firmly convinced that we are making life better for
the people here," he said. "People here don't say, 'When
are you going away?' They say, 'Please don't leave.'"
The Reagan, the ninth Nimitz-class carrier, is the Navy's
Mighty Hulk, the largest weapon in the entire U.S. arsenal.
It's as long as the Empire State Building is tall and
boasts 47,000 tons of steel, a 4.5-acre flight deck and the two
nuclear reactors that propel it in excess of 30 knots,
That size, speed and capability make a powerful statement,
said Command Master Chief Yoshimi Core of the carrier's air
wing. "It's a wonderful feeling to (look) at that a mass of
steel and mass of power and be able to influence people by
our mere presence," he said. "We're able to reassure people
that we're out here having a presence," or in other cases,
to send a warning.
Capt. Terry Kraft, the Reagan's commander, described
himself as the mayor of a city of 5,000 people with a nuclear
power plant beneath it and an airfield above. But with all its
size and power and state-of-the art technology, the $5
billion dollar vessel's greatest attribute, he said, is its
"This is a modern marvel," Kraft said of the carrier, which
began its first-ever deployment since its 2003
commissioning. "But the most impressive thing on board are the 5,000
great Americans. We give these sailors incredible
responsibility, and I couldn't be more proud of them."
About 80 percent of the Reagan's sorties are in direct
support of troops "over the beach" - serving in Iraq, Kraft
told the group. Sorties launched from the carrier's flight
deck monitor convoy routes to detect IED sites and gather
valuable intelligence they pass on to ground troops, he
explained. In addition, two shore-based EA-6B Prowlers jam radio
frequencies to prevent insurgents from using cell phones and
similar devices to activate improvised explosive devices.
At the same time, the Reagan crew conducts broader maritime
security operations in the Gulf, both with its ships and
aircrews. "Our goal is for terrorists not to be able to
operate anywhere in the Persian Gulf or off the coast of the
Horn of Africa," Kraft said.
By making it more difficult for terrorists to operate, the
Reagan crew is "changing the battlefield," he said, "and
creating a sanctuary for our forces."
"Our number one mission is the service we provide for the
guys on the ground," said Lt. Cmdr. John Clary, an F-18C
pilot aboard Reagan. "We're their eyes and ears, circling
overhead and burning holes in the sky."
The gratification of the job comes from knowing that he's
"one more 18- or 19-year-old kid got there safely," thanks
to support from the sky, he said.
Earlier in the war, success was measured in bombs drops and
targets taken out, Kraft told the group. Now, it's measured
more in terms seconds of disrupted road identified as
potential IED sites and actionable intelligence forwarded to the
ground. "The bottom line is that we save lives over the
beach, not that we drop bombs," he said.
While helping save U.S. lives, members of the Reagan crew
said they believe they're making a contribution to Iraq and
the entire region. "We're supporting the Iraqi people and
helping to keep the world safe," said Lt. Cmdr. Paul
Crawford, assistant navigator on the carrier's bridge, which he
called "the nerve center of the ship."
"What we're doing is providing a presence to make sure that
things are fair for everyone," he said.
With less than a year in the Navy under her belt, Seaman
Ashley Kolbinskie said she's proud of her role supporting
U.S. ground troops in harm's way. "We're giving air protection
for troops on the ground. Anything they can't handle, we're
here for them," she said.
But like her fellow crewmates, Kolbinskie said she
recognizes the regional implications of her efforts. "It makes me
feel happy that we have freedom, and to be able to help
other people get it, too," she said.
As the JCOC participants watched the F-18 Hornets and Super
Hornets roar off the flight deck, even Operations
Specialist Marion Cox took pause. "When you see this every day, you
sometimes lose sight of how cool it is," she said.
But no one within the JCOC group failed to notice just "how
cool it is."
Ted Sarandis, a freelance sportscaster based in Boston,
described watching the planes shoot of the deck as "a complete
Sarandis turned almost poetic when he described how the
Reagan's crews operate on the flight deck. "It's a thing of
synchronized beauty, a bit like watching a mechanized
ballet," he said.
"Awesome!" was how Robert McDonald, senior vice president
for 3M Marketing and Sales, described the experience. An
engineer, McDonald resisted the urge to peek into every nook
and cranny to check out the electronics as he passed through
the carrier's departments.
"I'm fascinated by all this," he said. "It's absolutely
Larry Oney, chief executive officer for Hammerman & Gainer
International, relished the chance to see an aircraft
carrier at sea conducting real-life missions.
"Not many people get to see it up close like this," he
said. "This has got to be the highlight of the trip."
For James Schenck, executive vice president and chief
operating officer for the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, gave
his first exposure to real-life Navy operations two thumbs
Schenck called the Reagan "a testament to America" that
"really gets your attention" for its power-projection
capabilities. "I have to say, this makes me a proud American
taxpayer," he said.
Participants in the JCOC program are business, civic,
community and academic leaders from around the country who are
spending the week observing U.S. Central Command at work.
This JCOC trip is the first to the Middle East since the
Defense Department started the program in 1948 to help
educate civilian "movers and shakers" about the military.
NavySite: USS Ronald Reagan
Keep talking crap Iran. THIS is setting in YOUR backyard!!