By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adrienne Powers,
USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs
SOUTH CHINA SEA – Thirteen years ago, a giant was born. Weighing in with a displacement of 101,400 long tons, its length of 1,092 feet topped even the Eiffel Tower. Nancy Reagan attended the commissioning ceremony for number nine of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier series July 12, 2003. In honor of her husband, Reagan gave the ship’s crew its first traditional order: “Man the ship and bring her to life.”
Thirteen years later, Sailors aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) celebrate the birthday of the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier and carry on the legacy of her continued mission of peace through strength.
“For some of us here, we remember when Ronald Reagan was commissioned,” said Capt. Buzz Donnelly, Ronald Reagan’s commanding officer. “Others were just starting our careers and some of us had not even thought about joining our great Navy. Regardless of our backgrounds, today we are one team united by the common bond as shipmates on this great warship.”
Some Sailors aboard Ronald Reagan today were part of her original crew and present at the commissioning ceremony.
“I am as proud to serve on America’s flagship today as the first lieutenant as I was 13 years ago as a boatswain’s mate first class,” said Lt. Cmdr. Todd Kamins, Deck Department’s first lieutenant, from Los Angeles. “Nancy Reagan was an incredible, authentic woman who I had the privilege of showing around the foc’sle.”
Sailors who belong to a U.S. Navy ship during its commissioning are known as plank owners.
“Being a plank owner of USS Ronald Reagan and being a part of the crew that brought her to life is a gratifying feeling,” said Chief Hull Maintenance Technician Chance Mays, Engineering Department’s repair division chief, from Fayetteville, North Carolina. “There are a lot of memories that come up when walking about the ship. I can walk around and spot parts of the ship that I welded together as a fireman and petty officer third class. I remember the mural on the aft hangar bay divisional door being painted.”
Along with original crewmembers, Ronald Reagan has carried with it the name of the U.S.’s 40th president across five deployments. She was the first ship of her kind to carry the namesake of a living former president.
“There is a lot of history around these deck plates and to be back for a second tour is nostalgic,” said Mays. “Things are obviously a lot different now than they were then. A lot of the spaces around the ship are no longer owned by the original divisions, but it was a seamless transition upon reporting since I already knew my way around the deck plates.”
Since then, America’s flagship has patrolled the world from the Arabian Gulf to her current assignment based out of Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan.
“As Sailors on America’s only forward-deployed Naval forces aircraft carrier, we stand ready for our next mission, ready to quickly execute operations, and we are well prepared for our future roles to answer the bell when our nation calls upon us,” said Donnelly.