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USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76)

"USS Ronald Reagan Celebrates 10 Years"

Story by MC2 Kimberly Romanowski

The crew of the USS Ronald Reagan celebrated the ship’s 10th birthday, July 12th, with a ceremony while the ship was out to sea conducting carrier qualifications.

Many crew members were in attendance, including Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Keith Hayes, ship plank owner and current crew member.

“I will never forget July 12, 2003,” said Hayes. “I was a little airman at the time on the pier with all the rest of the Sailors during Vice President Dick Cheney’s commissioning speech. His last words were ‘Bring this ship to life’ and at that point we all rushed the ship and manned the rails. We literally brought the ship to life and you’ll never forget it.” Hayes has spent nine of ten years of service aboard Reagan, watching both the ship and her crew grown through the years.

The ship was christened on March 4th, 2001 by President Ronald Reagan’s wife, Nancy, at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia and was commissioned July 12, 2003 in Norfolk.

Reagan’s first port call was Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in November 2003, when she began her transit from the mid-Atlantic around South America. After making Port calls in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Valparaiso, Chile; and Lima, Peru; she arrived in San Diego on July 23, 2004.

Ronald Reagan departed for her maiden deployment January of 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and to conduct maritime security operations in the U.S. Fifth Fleet area of responsibility.

“We had a sense of pride when we did this deployment because we knew we were the ones setting the trend,” said Hayes. “We knew we were making the history books.” Reagan left for deployment again in Janurary of 2007, but this time on an unscheduled surge deployment to the Western Pacific to fill in for USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) while she underwent maintenance in Japan.

Almost a year later, in December of 2007, Ronald Reagan answered a distress call from a cruise ship off the coast of Baja Calif. when a teenager’s appendix had ruptured. The teenager was airlifted by an SH-60 Seahawk helicopter from the cruise ship to Ronald Reagan where shipboard surgeons performed an emergency appendectomy.

In May of 2008, Ronald Reagan left for her third deployment where the ship provided humanitarian assistance and conducted disaster relief operations in the Philippines after being devastated by Typhoon Fengshen. The ship then headed to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where Carrier Air Wing 14 pilots flew 1,150 combat sorties in support of coalition troops in Afghanistan.

By May of 2010, Reagan completed a six-month planned incremental availability maintenance cycle before successfully completing a Rim of the Pacific exercise later that summer. Reagan later departed San Diego for an Western Pacific deployment in February 2011, but was diverted towards Japan after the massive Tohoku earthquake and tsunami which would later be called Operation Tomadachi. Reagan was the first ship on station and provided a combination of humanitarian and logistic support before continuing to the Arabian Gulf.

In January 2012 the ship changed homeports from San Diego, Calif. to Bremerton, Wash. for a docking planned incremental availability that lasted a little over a year. Ronald Reagan made its third homeport change and returned back to San Diego in March 2013.

Senior Chief Electrician’s Mate Mel Atherley is another Reagan plank-owner and current crew member. She said that no matter the demand, the ship and her crew have always stepped up to meet the mission at hand and embody the ship’s motto “Peace Through Strength.” “The crew always comes together to answer the call,” said Atherley. “It is an honor to serve aboard and be a plank owner to see her 10th birthday.”

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