By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Byron C. Linder, USS Carl Vinson Public Affairs
USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) celebrated the carrier's 30th year of service March 13.
Navy veterans who commissioned the ship joined them from afar as they recalled their service aboard Vinson.
Commissioned March 13, 1982 in Newport News, Va. with Capt. Richard L. Martin as her first commanding officer, the Navy's third Nimitz-class carrier has completed 11 deployments spanning the world's oceans.
"We were named after an American patriot who knew the value of a strong Navy," said Vinson's Commanding Officer Capt. Kent D. Whalen. "Vinson's vision was a Navy that would protect our nation, keep the sea lanes safe for commerce, and sustain the capability to take the fight to any enemy, anywhere in the world."
"When you look at the amount of time Carl Vinson has spent at sea over the last thirty years, it's a tribute to the dedication of every Sailor who's served aboard her. Prolonged success for a ship always equals one thing - and that's exceptional maintenance practices," said Vinson's Command Master Chief (AW/SW) Jeffrey Pickering. "It's something we focus on in 2012 and it's obvious that it was just as important to the Sailors who sailed Vinson for three decades before us."
Vinson Plankowner Boiler Technician 3rd Class Michael Dorgan reported to Carl Vinson in 1981 as part of the pre-commissioning unit (PCU). He said via email that there are multiple moments throughout his tour aboard CVN 70 that stay with him to this day.
"It's a collection of memories of the people I served with as well as the ports of call," he said. "My years of service aboard the Vinson are very special to me, and I will always cherish them."
Mess Specialist 3rd Class Pierre Wheaton, also part of the PCU and a plankowner, shared his fondest memories.
"Watching the ship being brought to life on commissioning day, seeing the ship for the first time at Newport News, and knowing I would be forever affiliated with the greatest carrier in the fleet," are moments he still holds dear, he said in an e-mail exchange.
Carl Vinson was the first modern aircraft carrier to conduct operations in the Bering Sea in 1986. In 1990, the ship earned the first of what would be six Battle Efficiency (Battle "E") awards.
The Discovery Channel boarded Carl Vinson in 1995 to film a documentary titled "Carrier: Fortress at Sea", chronicling the carrier's six-month deployment to and from the Persian Gulf. In 1996 and 1998, Vinson Sailors earned the ship its second and third Battle "E" awards.
Aviation Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Casey Hall, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22 from 1997 to 2000, recalled an instance where he relied on his Shipmates after falling overboard during Vinson's 1999 operations in the Arabian Sea.
What sticks with him more than a decade later is "the way the medical staff worked on me after I was brought back on board," he wrote in an e-mail.
Coming together for one purpose and mission is something Vinson has become well known for. On Oct. 7, 2001, Vinson launched America's first air strikes in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, launching more than 4,000 combat sorties. Vinson was recognized with a fourth Battle "E" award for her work that year.
Plankowner Aerographer's Mate 2nd Class (AW) James O'Brien said he felt nothing but pride when he heard of Vinson's involvement in the war on terror.
In 2004, Carl Vinson earned a fifth Battle "E" for her successes in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The ship was the third carrier to undergo a refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) in 2005. When the ship returned to the fleet in 2010, her Sailors remembered what her first commanding officer said to them during their RCOH. "It's the crew's job," Martin said during Vinson's stepping-the-mast ceremony in 2007, "to bring the ship out of the yards with the same kind of spirit that has been with it forever."
Immediately following her RCOH the ship changed homeports from Bremerton, Wash. to San Diego. When she began her transit from Virginia to California intending to go around the Horn of South America, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti. Vinson changed course just hours after getting underway to provide humanitarian assistance to the island nation as part of Operation Unified Response.
From the flight deck, Vinson provided medical supplies, food, and fresh water to the victims.
Vinson Sailors departed on her first combat deployment since RCOH November 2010 to the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR, returning June 2011. On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2011, Carl Vinson hosted the inaugural Quicken Loans Carrier Classic NCAA basketball game on the ship's flight deck between the Michigan State Spartans and the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Carl Vinson Sailors departed San Diego for her current deployment 19 days later. Vinson was awarded her sixth Battle "E" in February 2012 for her performance the previous deployment.
"You have done us plankowners proud. You've picked up the torch we passed back in the '80s and ran with it in ways I would have never believed," Wheaton said. "Remember to stay modest and humble, and keep working hard to maintain the Vinson's good name. You're part of the best carrier in the best Navy in the world."
Vinson Sailors acknowledged the importance of maintaining the legacy they carry on.
"It is a testament to our naval superiority that with teamwork and a lot of maintenance, this ship is ready for anything," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class (AW) Logan Judd, assigned to Air Department's V-1 Division.
"I'm proud of everything this ship has been through and achieved. It has definitely had a name in the past and has carried that name with honor throughout the years," added Seaman Jessica Hamilton of Deck Department's 3rd Division, temporarily assigned to Supply Department's S-2 Division.
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