As diplomats talk, Navy ship's crew hones skills
February 12, 1998
An F/A-18 pilot salutes before soaring from the USS
Web posted at: 2:12 p.m. EST (1912 GMT)
ABOARD THE USS INDEPENDENCE (CNN) -- Aboard the oldest ship
in the U.S. Navy's active fleet, poised in the Persian Gulf,
the crew readies for battle while waiting for diplomacy to
run its course.
"Everyone is very pumped up. They're concentrating. They're
focused," Cmdr. Stu Bailey, executive officer of the F-14
squadron, told CNN. "Also we know that this is a diplomacy
tact thing and we're ready to stay the course, so we're in it
for the long haul. But we're ready every day."
Up to 100 sorties daily are flown off the deck of the USS
Independence. Commissioned in January 1959, the aircraft
carrier has been part of virtually every U.S. military action
since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.
"Whether it was Vietnam, Grenada ... Lebanon, Libya ... it's
always participated and it's been the same mission there --
to preserve the peace," said the ship's commander, Capt. Mark
Milliken. "Sometimes it takes a fire power to preserve the
The combat information center aboard the Independence
"Our real task is to maintain our combat readiness to be
ready to go," said Rear Adm. Charles Moore, the battle group
The Persian Gulf territory is familiar to the carrier, which
is approaching the end of its career. In August 1990, the
Independence sailed into the region to deter Iraqi aggression
during Operation Desert Shield, becoming the first carrier to
enter the Arabian Gulf since 1974.
Just a month ago, the "Indy" was stationed at its home port
in Yokosuka, Japan, when U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen
spoke to the crew aboard the flight deck to announce the
ship's return to the gulf.
The ship's presence in the region is more than a weapons
platform, it's also an intimidating reminder of what's at
stake as diplomatic efforts continue.
"We hope that our great combat capability here will help
reinforce the diplomatic effort, and cause actions to be
taken on the diplomatic front that will result in peace and
stability, not war," Moore told CNN. "We're not interested
in fighting; we're interested in deterring conflict."
The aircraft carrier's distinction as the Navy's oldest
active ship entitles her to fly the Revolutionary-era First
Navy Jack, commonly called "Don't Tread On Me."
The Independence, which is the fifth U.S. Navy ship to bear
the name, is to be decommissioned this fall.
Correspondent Mike Hanna contributed to this report.