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On The Scene

Aboard an aircraft carrier in wartime

CNN correspondent Jamie McIntyre
CNN correspondent Jamie McIntyre

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(CNN) -- Even as discussions in Washington focus on the possible use of U.S. military force against Iraq, American troops are continuing operations in the region as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre reported on Monday from the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier in the North Arabian Sea, and spoke with CNN Anchor Bill Hemmer.

MCINTYRE: This is the first news broadcast from a U.S. aircraft carrier while it's conducting combat operations in a theater of war. These planes on the USS Abraham Lincoln are conducting operations over Afghanistan, part of Operation Enduring Freedom. But in the back of these pilots' minds, it's all about Iraq. There has been no instruction to the crew here other than to tell them that they are on a routine six month deployment, which would normally end at the end of January. But all of them know that if there's a possibility of war with Iraq, the carrier would likely stay.

Now, as you said, we're in the North Arabian Sea, not actually in the Persian Gulf. But the aircraft carrier is scheduled to go into the Gulf before it returns home to its home port in Everett, Washington.

This carrier is among the best equipped for war operations. It has a new squadron of F-18E Super Hornets. These beefed up versions of the venerable F-18 Hornet can carry more bombs, can fly farther, can fly faster and they're very psyched here on this ship that if there is a war, they're hoping that they'll be leading the way.

But, again, no decision by the president, no orders to the crew here. They're trying to stay focused on the next 24 hours, which means combat sorties over Afghanistan -- Bill.

HEMMER: Jamie, before we let you go, exercises are almost a routine matter on board an aircraft carrier. How often have you witnessed those military exercises being carried out, Jamie?

MCINTYRE: I'm sorry, Bill, it's so hard to hear on the flight line with planes and the strip landing here. It was hard for me to make that out. I think if you're asking how routine are these operations, well, these operations here are over Afghanistan...It's still a dangerous area. They had a mission called off yesterday because they tried to drop supplies and the weather actually turned bad on them.

So these are dangerous combat operations under way. What they are doing, though, you know, is a rather routine matter. And a lot of the buildup of U.S. troops here is done simply under the auspices of the regular exercises that would be going on -- Bill.

HEMMER: Jamie, thanks.



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