Well, I am certainly pleased to report that it is day three and “all systems are go” — and what an amazing place I am lucky enough to be stationed from today. The crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt, the only U.S. aircraft carrier involved in NATO’s Operation Allied Force, served as my hosts, and what a day it has been. Words really cannot justly express what an incredible ship the “T.R.” is —from the thunder of the planes taking off, to the many decks that house the more than 5,000 people on board, the countless men and women who represent our country here on the carrier and on foreign seas and the beauty of the skies and seas around us — an experience of a lifetime for me.
SO HOW DID we get here? Well, after our long wait on the tarmac in Kathmandu, we finally headed out early Tuesday morning (New York time) for the long trip to Antalya, Turkey. After resting for a couple of hours in a hotel, we headed for the airport at about 4:00 a.m. (Wednesday morning in Turkey). A military chopper then took us out to the Theodore Roosevelt. As we headed for the ship, the sight from the sky was a beautiful shot — and we were thrilled to know that we had finally made it. I should mention that this was not my first trip to the T.R. I was in Norfolk, Virginia about a month ago when the ship left port, headed for what would become the crew’s participation in Allied Force — a diversion from their initial itinerary.
I can’t say enough about how helpful, enthusiastic and friendly all the men and women on the ship were to us. My special thanks to Captain David Bryant for all his help in securing such incredible access for us in every way. I should also point out that the ship began flight operations today — which resulted in a tremendous amount of activity on the flight deck where I spent much of my time this morning. In fact, by tomorrow the T.R. will be flying sorties over Yugoslavia. Those F-18’s landing behind me were not for effect — they were in preparation for the work that the pilots will be doing in the weeks and months ahead at sea.
I should also point out — although some of it goes without saying — what an amazing job, technically speaking, everyone involved with this leg of my trip has done. The ship is a busy place on its own, and adding the equipment, cables, communications devices, cameras, and our own crew is no easy task. This was, perhaps, the most difficult technical location that we included in the trip — and I think that we pulled it off very well. But we had a lot of help, and my hat is off to everyone who made it possible.
What an experience for me, today, on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. I will never forget the exhilarating feeling of standing on the deck as a fighter plane lands just feet away from me, or the rush of the wind as one of those enormous planes is (literally) catapulted off the end. I will never forget it. But for now, I’ve got to sign off — headed for day four and my next adventure. See you then!