USS Ronald Reagan Friends & Family Cruise, July 23, 2015.
I've always heard the hangar deck on a Nimitz class aircraft carrier is huge, but add 4,000 guests to the carrier's normal crew contingent, and even this giant space can seem downright crowded. Thanks to some friends associated with the Santa Barbara Navy League, I was afforded the opportunity to play "friend" on what will likely be the last Friends & Family day for quite some time. The Reagan is off to Japan in a swap with the USS George Washington. Our host, CWO Ricardo Garcia, and his able assistant, E-2 Tubianosa, shepherded us throughout the ship. They showed off all we could hope to see aboard (no visiting the reactor cores), and cheerfully answered every question. "Can I shoot the Phalanx?" "No, but have a free soda."
Open wide. Looking from the #3 elevator across to the USS John C. Stennis, CVN 74, docked nearby. Behind her was the USS Carl Vinson. Throw in the Midway Museum across the bay and you've got no fewer than four US aircraft carriers in sight on the day.
Amid the chaos, operations proceed on a "normal" basis.
USS John C. Stennis, CVN 74, early morning light, as seen from the flight deck of the Reagan.
The reason to be there: Flight ops! Jets are amazing, but I wish they were flying Ensign Eliminators.