Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How Time Flies

I was reminded, yesterday, that it was fifty years ago that President Kennedy announced to the public that our nation was blockading Cuba. Aerial reconnaissance had revealed that missile bases were being established on Cuban soil - facilities so close to America that our nation was endangered. And I was there.

Not because I wanted to be. I had just returned from a Navy deployment in the Mediterranean. I was informed of our new departure right after lunch one day - told that we needed to be aboard the USS Enterprise in four hours. I called home and told Joyce to pack my bags. She responded that they hadn't really been unpacked and where was I going. We had been told that the ship was pulling out of Norfolk on a hurricane evacuation. That included my squadron's aircraft as well. I never stopped to ask myself, "Why do field engineers (civilians) have to go on a hurricane evacuation?

I did what I was told - skidded cruise boxes of support material down the stairs at NAS Oceana, rushed home and on to Pier 12 at NOB (naval operating base) Norfolk and shortly after we were under way out of Chesapeake Bay and into some rough weather. I began to think it was a hurricane evacuation. Until the next day.

Then came aircraft changes - A3J Vigilantes from Florida were flown off the ship - A-4 Skyhawks came aboard. The announcement came to us - "We're going to blockade Cuba and we have no idea how long it will take."  Communication from the ship to home was not allowed and so, knowing what we knew, we were unable to let our families know. That is, until they heard the Presidents announcement and all they knew then was that we were in harms way. That was hard on loved ones but that is service life and though we were civilians we were no different in our responsibility from any active duty Navy personnel in the same situation.

We remained on combat readiness for some time. The ship was assigned south of Cuba where we went back and forth between Cuba and Jamaica. Finally the Russians backed off. The tension of combat readiness eased and then boredom set in. We still maintained flight operations but it was obvious that the worst of the deployment was over. Now it became a waiting game. It finally ended not long before Christmas.

Now, fifty years later Enterprise is still sailing. It served in the Vietnam conflict. It served in the Middle East conflicts. But ships get old. Many ships do not maintain effective operations longer than 20 or so years of service, For Enterprise it's been over fifty. Newer ships have been deactivated but Enterprise sails on. I've heard she will be retired in 2013. If true, she will have amassed a significant record. And I'm proud to have been part of her history.

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