COMPTUEX (Composite Training Unit Exercise) CompTuEx and CQ’s Nuclear Power Mobile Training Team (NPMTT) Drills, assessments and the pre-deployment ORSE off SOCAL OPAREA conducted by the NPMTT Team; conducting the Exercise Northern Edge, with CVW-14 CQ’s, en route to Alaska to conduct Exercise Northern Edge 2002, a multi-threat scenario acted out in Alaskan waters in the Gulf of Alaska and JTFEX off the coast of California during FEP-2 and Sixth “WestPac” deployment operating with the Pacific Fleet and 7th Fleet, her fifth Indian Ocean deployment, on her 1st North Arabian Sea deployment in support of her 1st Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), the "military response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, commencing on 7 October 2001, on her fifth Arabian/Persian Gulf deployment (two cruises to the area during deployment) in support of her 5th Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the no-fly zone south of the 32nd parallel in Iraq (24 July 2002 to 6 May 2003).
1 January 2002 to 6 May 2003
Part I of III - 1 January to 31 December 2002
Part II of III - 1 January to 5 May 2003
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) 2002 YEAR END REPORT
Abe’s Sixth “WestPac” deployment articles not included in the Narrative, Summary and Time Line presented in Chapter XV, relating to Crew Personnel Stories and Awards, Department and Division, in port crew activities other then arrival or departure articles to ports of call, Chapter XV, Appendix II
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) JANUARY, 1 2003 REPORT
“Mission. To support and operate naval aircraft at sea, maintain open sea-lanes for maritime traffic, project naval power at sea and ashore, and provide a formidable strike option in response to national tasking. Abraham Lincoln also serves as a flagship command and control platform, able to direct and support full battle group and joint operations. Wherever it goes, the ship serves as a symbol of U.S. resolve, acting both as an ambassador and as a sea-based deterrent to threats to our national interest” (Ref. 378B-2003).
The Navy announced that it would extend Abraham Lincoln’s deployment on 1 January 2003. The strike group commander passed the word over the 1MC during the evening of New Year’s Day, a heavy blow to crewmembers as they looked forward to reunions with loved ones at home. Officials added that at least two carrier battle groups and two amphibious ready groups would need to be ready to sail for the Arabian Gulf with only 96 hour’s notice, a clear indication of failing negotiations with the Iraqis. Abraham Lincoln steamed from Fremantle, Australia to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii from 28 to 31 December 2002, when the determination was made to return to the northern stretches of the Arabian/Persian Gulf in C5F AOR after five arduous months at sea and on New Years Day, when notification of a call to duty was announced to the crew; we would be making preparations for war. Abraham Lincoln’s course was altered to set sail back to Perth, Australia” (Ref. 378A & 378B-2002).
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) was underway in the Western Pacific on 3 January 2003, en route to Freemantle, Australia” (Ref. 76, 378A & 378B-2002).
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) pulled in for a port of call at Perth, Australia to conduct routine maintenance, primarily preservation of flight on 6 January 2003, steaming from the Western Pacific from near Pearl Harbor, Hawaii from 1 to 6 January 2003, preceeded by Western Pacific operations steaming from Fremantle, Australia from 28 to 31 December 2002, when the determination was made to return to the northern stretches of the Arabian/Persian Gulf in C5F AOR after five arduous months at sea and on New Years Day, when notification of a call to duty was announced to the crew; we would be making preparations for war” (Ref. 76, 378A & 378B-2002).
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) departed Perth, Australia on 20 January 2003, conducting routine maintenance, primarily preservation of flight, visiting from 6 to 20 2003, during which VFA-115 sent some Super Hornets to the Royal Australian Air Force station at Pearce to train with their Australian counterparts (14-19 January). Although crewmembers labored replacing non-skid on the flight deck, many sailors commented on the extraordinary Australian hospitality that they received, and how much they enjoyed their visits to Perth and Fremantle. The Boat and Airplane Crane rotational cable-connecting pin broke (at a connection point inside the cableway sheath), however, technicians worked on the crane and repaired it on all but one of the days of the stay in port. The Navy also flew in a depot repair team from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to help crewmembers rebuild and replace components of No. 4 Maine Engine Attached Lube Oil Pump. While anchored in Perth, work was done to the flight deck during a 20-day working in port. Even so, the crew was able to enjoy some much-earned fun, not knowing what was in store for us ahead. Abraham Lincoln steamed from the Western Pacific from near Pearl Harbor, Hawaii from 1 to 6 January 2003, preceded by Western Pacific operations steaming from Fremantle, Australia from 28 to 31 December 2002, when the determination was made to return to the northern stretches of the Arabian/Persian Gulf in C5F AOR after five arduous months at sea and on New Years Day, when notification of a call to duty was announced to the crew; we would be making preparations for war” (Ref. 76, 378A & 378B-2002).
“After completing the work at the end of January, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) steamed back to the Arabian Gulf to join USS Constellation (CV-64) which was already on station in the Gulf. Two carriers were then conducting operations in CVOA-4 in support of what would soon be the end of Operation Southern Watch Shortly thereafter, USS Kitty Hawk (CV-67) and CVW-5, forward deployed in Japan, joined in. Not since Operation Desert Storm had such a meeting taken place: three carriers not just operating in the Arabian Gulf, but in CVOA-4. Even with such limited space, the bridge teams, quartermasters, and signalmen performed superbly” (Ref. 378B-2003).
“Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition John Young, followed him the next day on 20 February 2003 ” (Ref. 378A).
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) was underway in the Seventh Fleet Area of Responsibility (Western Pacific and Indian Ocean) from 21 to 31 January 2003 and in the Fifth Fleet AOR on the on 1 February 2003, re-entering the Northern Arabian Sea, steaming through the Gulf of Oman and Strait of Hormuz en route to the Persian Gulf, her second voyage of her deployment in support of Operation Southern Watch, on her second cruise during her deployment” (Ref. 76, 378A & 378B-2002).
030221-N-6817C-010 At sea aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Feb. 21, 2003 -- The Honorable Hansford T. Johnson, Acting Secretary of the Navy, meets with Sailors during a recent visit to USS Abraham Lincoln. Secretary Johnson made the trip to the Arabian Gulf to discuss current operations with the crew and express his appreciation for their hard work and dedication. The Abraham Lincoln and Carrier Air Wing Fourteen (CVW 14) are conducting operations in the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Tyler Clements. (RELEASED) http://www.navy.mil/list_single.asp?id=4666
As reported on 24 February 2003, “USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) hosted two of the Navy’s top leaders recently, as it began its eighth month of deployment. The Honorable Hansford T. (H.T.) Johnson, Acting Secretary of the Navy, and the Honorable John Young, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, both took a few hours to tour and visit with the crew of the carrier homeported in Everett, Wash. Beginning its eighth month of deployment, and currently deployed to the Arabian Gulf, Lincoln is at its peak of operational performance. On 20 February 2003, Young observed firsthand just how capable the carrier’s crew and air wing are while the carrier performed nighttime flight operations.
The following day, Johnson picked up where Young left off, observing the carrier’s Sailors and materiel condition. Johnson said the purpose of his visit was to collect important information for a report due to Congress next week, where he will discuss the Navy’s financial budget, as well as what Sailors are doing on the front lines.
“There will be a larger opposition of forces, as well as a much broader engagement,” Johnson said. “We also are more mindful of getting the right people with the right equipment to the right places, and then sustaining that effort. Our forces have practiced very, very hard, and continue to sustain their efforts,” he added. Before departing Abraham Lincoln, Johnson observed with pride, “This is the first ship I visited as (acting) Secretary of the Navy, and I am very proud!” After his carrier visit, Johnson flew by helicopter to visit USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) and USS Tarawa (LHA-1) before heading back to shore” (Ref. Story Number: NNS030224-09 - Release Date: 2/24/2003 2:12:00 PM - By Lt. Suzanna G. Cigna, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs, At Sea (NNS)).
As reported on 28 February 2003, “USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) recently invited several news organizations to participate in a cooperative “tech assist visit,” which saw media bringing aboard their state-of-the-art communications equipment for an initial installation and trial run, before official embedding begins in the event the United States goes to war with Iraq. Media representatives from Cable News Network (CNN), Reuters and Associated Press TV participated in the innovative visit. The highly successful tech assist was a landmark of cooperation between the Navy and the media. In a recent message to combatant commanders regarding support of public affairs activities in potential future military operations, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld outlined his expectations for media coverage and information flow:
“I like playing with cool media toys the Navy doesn’t have.” O’Kelley, a master in electronics communication aboard Lincoln, is a veteran in helping the media install their equipment aboard. This is his third time assisting CNN alone, after they made visits requiring equipment installs in both October and November 2002, and he says each time, it gets easier and easier to get the gear up and running. CNN field engineer Paul Unger was thrilled with the assistance he received during the most recent visit. “We’ve had a lot of great help from the public affairs staff and the engineering staff (Electronics Technicians and Interior Communications Electricians) on both USS Constellation (CV-64) and Lincoln. Without their help, we wouldn’t have been able to get this equipment set-up done.”
Unger went on to describe the differences between USS Constellation (CV-64), “Connie,” and Lincoln’s equipment installs. The fixed, satellite-signaling raydome, or Fleet 77, also known as R2-D2, was installed aft of the signal bridge on Lincoln’s O-10 level. On Connie, because of its older conventional ship design with lower radar placement, the raydome was installed on a platform located on the starboard side of the fantail. This imposes potential limitations aboard Connie, creating an added need for extensive cables.
Fortunately, there is a quick fix to this problem with the use of easy to maneuver flat panels. Besides CNN, this tech assist marked the fourth visit for Reuters producer Pilar Wolfsteller. In addition to producing, Wolfsteller also assumes roles as reporter and engineer, and received only a few weeks’ technical training before coming to Lincoln for the assist visit. “As you can imagine, I am very happy to have the opportunity to test the equipment out, and I’m also very appreciative of all the help I’ve received aboard Lincoln,” said Wolfsteller. “Using the installed equipment will allow us to get the pictures out with a lot more immediacy. We’ll be sending pictures out to the world as soon as they happen, and that’s precisely what we’re here for.”
Wall Street Journal writer Harold Evans wrote in his article “War Stories,” published Feb. 21, “The relationship of journalism to government is complex, one of dependence and antagonism. Without the cooperation of the armed services, the press cannot hope to cover a war. The trade-off is a measure of access for a measure of official control.” In contrast, the tech assist visit aboard Lincoln painted a very different picture of the relationship between the armed services and press. Perhaps O’Kelley described the relationship best when he observed, “We saw in Vietnam, when the media’s opinion of our forces turn, the nation’s also turns. Our military mission hasn’t changed, but our media relations have. In the long run, we must work together in order to accomplish both our missions”” (Ref. Story Number: NNS030228-04 - Release Date: 2/28/2003 7:24:00 AM - By Lt. Suzanna G. Cigna, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs, At Sea (NNS)). http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=6001
“Sailors alternated stressful situations with boredom during the weary hours at sea, and 18-year-old SN Tamekia Dixon of Columbia, S.C., described her long watches as she manned an M60 aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72): “I’m just trying to keep my eye out for stuff – helicopters, planes and boats. Lately, we’ve been seeing a lot of jellyfish.” Some sailors joked about routines that became so unbearable and repetitive that they dubbed them Groundhog Day, after the Bill Murray film where he finds himself experiencing the same day over and over again. As war approached and the crew began experiencing frayed nerves, the skipper authorized some “down time” on 11 March 2003. Cool rain fell lightly as some fighter pilots watched a marathon of the popular television situation comedy Seinfeld and played backgammon, while other sailors drove golf balls off the flight deck; some tossed a football around and others wrote e-mails to loved ones at home” (Ref. 378A).
“In February and March 2004, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) cancelled proposed port calls, and conducted several OPEX’s to prepare for OIF, yet surprisingly the Medical Department saw only minor increases in sick call visits. CBR pharmaceuticals were distributed in bulk to department or division representatives, and in most cases not issued individually.
Our only major operational impact was the loss of one IDC to backfill USS Reuben James (FFG-57), while their IDC was impaired for a week. The Medical Department also had a turnover of the physician assistants on last COD before major combat operations” (Ref. & 378B-2002).
030314-N-6817C-004 - Arabian Gulf (Mar. 14, 2003) - Lt. Shannon Callahan assigned to the “Cougars” of Electronic Attack Squadron One Three Nine (VAQ-139) inspects the exterior of an EA-6B Prowler prior to its takeoff from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). Lincoln and her embarked Carrier Air Wing Fourteen (CVW-14) are operating in support of Operation Southern Watch and Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Tyler Clements. (RELEASED)
“On 17 March 2003, in his Address to the Nation, U.S. President George W. Bush demanded that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his two sons Uday and Qusay leave Iraq, giving them a 48-hour deadline” (Ref.  & 446).
“The coalition prepared to launch the initial strikes of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which resulted in the largest deployment of combatant naval aviation forces since Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm/Desert Sabre (17 March). The Iraqis failed to comply with UN resolutions, which led the Congress in October 2002, to authorize President George W. Bush to use the military to enforce Iraqi compliance with these decisions. Saddam Hussein’s regime continued to disregard warnings to eliminate offensive weapons, and the President issued an ultimatum demanding that Hussein and his sons leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so precipitated Iraqi Freedom two days later. The British supported their allies with Operation Telic. Meanwhile, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) assisted guided missile frigate Reuben James (FFG-57) to repair and align her AN-SPS-49 air search radar, which reestablished full air defense support for the group as they entered the war. Sailors from the carrier also helped shipmates from USS Constellation (CV-64) and USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63)” (Ref. 378A).
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) conducted Operation Southern Watch (OSW) from 1 February to 18 March 2003. Abraham Lincoln sailed initially with USS Constellation (CV-64) until USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) later joined them, and the three carriers and their screens maneuvering in the constricted waters of the Gulf provided challenging navigational dilemmas to their sailors” (Ref. 378A).
“The CNO Adm. Vernon E. Clark sent sailors and marines about to thrust into Iraq a personal message on 18 March 2003: “The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat. But we will do everything to defeat it. Instead of drifting along toward tragedy, we will set a course toward safety.” The admiral also noted that seven of the Navy’s 12 aircraft carriers, nine of the 12 “big deck” amphibious assault ships, together with hundreds of aircraft, deployed for the massive confrontation, a total of more than 200 allied ships and submarines from five carrier strike groups three amphibious ready groups, and two amphibious task forces. More than 130 sealift ships also sailed to support the armada, all of which Adm. Clark observed would not have been possible without sailors and marines and their “energy, expertise and dedication. You are proving everyday the unique and lasting value of decisive, sovereign, lethal forces projecting offensive and defensive power from the vast maneuver area that is the sea” (Ref. 378A).
“The coalition began Operation Iraqi Freedom with selective strikes aimed at Saddam Hussein and his key leaders from 19 to 20 March 2003. Guided missile cruisers Bunker Hill (CG-52) and Cowpens, guided missile destroyers Donald Cook (DDG-75) and Milius (DDG-69) and attack submarines Cheyenne (SSN-773) and Montpelier (SSN-765) fired TLAMs while sailing in the Red Sea and Arabian/Persian Gulf, and aircraft flew from ashore and aircraft carriers as part of what the Pentagon announced as a “decapitation strategy” aimed at killing key Iraqi leaders and thereby shortening the war and saving lives. Cowpens alone fired a devastating salvo of 11 missiles just before dawn.
“On my orders,” President Bush explained from the Oval Office, “coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war.” The President addressed a personal appeal to the men and women of the armed forces as they set out upon the conflict: “The peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people now depend on you. That trust is well placed. The enemies you confront will soon know your skill and bravery. The people you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American military.” Aircraft No. 202, Lt. Comdr. David Little and Lt. Robert Kihm of VFA-115, accomplished the first Super Hornet quantity four drop of GBU-31 (V) 2, J84 JDAMs during a mission, and squadron Super Hornets normally launched carrying the destructive firepower of up to four 2,000 pound JDAMs each. Newly installed radar warning receivers, together with extra chaff and flares, towed missile decoys, radar jammers and additional fuel, gave these Super Hornets unparalleled flexibility, reach and effectiveness. AT3 Jose Maldonado, a sailor from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) temporary serving on board USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) in her aircraft intermediate maintenance department, observed that crewmembers briefly overcame homesickness and uncertainties to concentrate on the task at hand: “The morale in my shop went up. Everyone is motivated today.” Maldonado stressed that his shipmates did not celebrate the waste of war, but rather their opportunity to help the oppressed Iraqi people. “I hope they will be free like we are,” the young man reflected. “Hopefully, they will see the Americans that we are, and not the ones we’re portrayed to be in the Middle East.” Crewmembers ran the gamut of experience, and one sailor, SA Curtis Blunck, had only reported on board five days earlier as the ship went to war. The men and women of the allied forces also had to contend with a shamal, a strong sandstorm that swept across portions of southern Iraq, only dissipating by the end of the day (19 March).
In some instances wind and sand reduced visibility to mere yards, grounded many aircraft and choked people caught in its path, and people struggled to breathe in the oppressing tempest. As the shamal blew itself out, however, the clearing skies presented additional problems to pilots flying into the teeth of Iraqi air defenses, because the moon and starlight made them better targets to the optical guidance of Iraqi gunners” (Ref. 378A).
“In the early morning hours of the 20th of March 2003, the dispersal of U.S. Air Force F-117 bombers and missile launches from submarine and surface warships marked the opening scene of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” With the attack, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Sailors, along with 250,000 other American troops, went to work on an operation that had changed talk and speculation to a definite reality. “Operations to disarm Iraq have begun,” said President George W. Bush in an address to the nation. “On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war.” The president added another message for the quarter-of-a-million Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines deployed to the Arabian Gulf region.
“I hope they will be free like we are,” he said. “Hopefully, they will see the Americans that we are, and not the ones we’re portrayed to be in the Middle East.” Only his fifth day on board, Seaman Apprentice Curtis Blunck said he is up for the challenge that lies ahead. In reference to the Gulf War of 1991, he stressed that action should be taken so we do not have to do it again 12 years from now. “It gives me a good feeling,” said Blunck. “It should give everyone here a good feeling.”
“United States military operations were conducted under the name Operation Iraqi Freedom. United Kingdom military operations were conducted as Operation Telic, and Australian operations as Operation Falconer.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq, also called the Iraq War or "Operation Iraqi Freedom", began March 20, 2003, initiated by the United States, the United Kingdom and a loosely-defined coalition, the multi-national coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and end the regime of Saddam Hussein, began with the firing of Tomahawk missiles from U.S. ships in the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea” (Ref. 1- Constellation & 72).
The invasion began without the explicit authorization of the United Nations Security Council, and some legal authorities take the view that the action violated the U.N. Charter. The Bush Administration has cited Security Council resolutions from early 1990s as legal justification, though there is no clear position in any of them with regard to the use of military action against Iraq” (Ref. 446).
“Beginning around 2100, 20 March 2003, the allies hit the Iraqis with their principal assault, known as A [Air]-Day, though journalists seized upon the phrase “shock and awe” to describe the devastating firepower that the alliance unleashed. Some 780 Navy and marine aircraft flew 13,893 sorties on A-Day from 20 to 21 March 2003. Task Force 50, which comprised the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), USS Constellation (CV-64) until USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) Carrier Strike Groups, steamed in the Arabian Gulf, while the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) Carrier Strike Groups operated in the Mediterranean. Guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56), and attack submarines USS Columbia and USS Providence (SSN-719) and British HMS Spendid (S-106) and HMS Turbulent (S-87), fired about 50 TLAMs against targets in and around Baghdad. Strike planners deconflicted the routes of aircraft and TLAMs to avoid fratricide (hitting ‘friendlies’) as the missiles arced over the horizon toward the recalcitrant Iraqis.
The air corridors crossing the country that naval aviators nicknamed “driveways” became so crowded at times that aircraft flew carefully to avoid colliding with each other. Although Iraqi pilots wisely avoided opposing their allied counterparts in the air, the Iraqis fired hundreds of SAMs and countless rounds from over 6,000 anti-aircraft guns. Coalition planners divided Iraqi air defense zones into missile engagement zones (MEZs), and pilots nicknamed the heavily defended area around the capital the “Baghdad Super MEZ.” EA-6B Prowlers destroyed or negated enemy electronic warfare and radar capabilities so thoroughly that not a single Iraqi missile successfully locked on and guided to its target.
The intensity of the fighting led to inevitable confusion and at one point Lt. Comdr. Ken O’Donnell, who flew a Prowler, recalled that 13 or 14 aircraft stacked up as they awaited their turns at an aerial refueling tanker. “Everyone was getting low [on fuel],” O’Donnell explained, “It was getting kind of tense up there.” Lt. Shannon Callahan, an electronic countermeasures officer with VAQ-139, also described their suppression of enemy air defenses missions:
“That was a big task, to protect the strikers when they went into Baghdad, because it was so heavily protected. To send a strike into Baghdad was a very dangerous thing, and that’s why you had to have a Prowler there.” Air power ripped apart Iraqi defenses and drove their troops out of positions and into the open. Once they exposed them, aircraft prevented the Iraqis from retreating fast enough to escape advancing coalition troops, who often overwhelmed them in savage firefights.
A pair of F/A-18C Hornets from VFA-113, embarked on board Abraham Lincoln, knocked-out Iraqi SAMs at Al-Taqquedam airfield in the heart of the Baghdad Super MEZ with a salvo of HARMs, at 2135, which enabled other strike aircraft to pulverize their targets. The combination of jamming and HARMs from allied aircraft meant that the Iraqis could not lock onto or guide any of their missiles into aircraft.
And special operators achieved one of the unsung victories of the war during the first few days of the fighting as they seized most of the Iraqi oil fields and refineries intact before Hussein could sabotage them as he had during Gulf War I. The Iraqis retaliated for the invasion, however, and fired a tactical ballistic missile into Kuwait, but Army PAC-3 Phased Array Tracking Intercept of Target (Patriot) missiles shot down the intruding weapon at about 0100 in what Central Command described as two “bright orange flashes.” Alert ordnance sailors on board Abraham Lincoln discovered that the stresses of dropping 2,000 pound JDAMs broke the linkages of seven BRU-32 bomb racks. The sailors quickly launched an investigation and notified other Navy commands, which minimized the impact of the problem on other aircraft carriers and possibly saved lives and aircraft. Commanders tasked Abraham Lincoln to provide communication support to the British Royal Navy, which required sailors to interface with the British “Brent” telephone system to launch coordinated TLAM attacks.
Meanwhile, coalition aircraft not only bombed enemy airfields, but in an unusual departure also struck a variety of other targets, including: targets in and around Baghdad, Kirkuk, Mosul and Tikrit; an air defense center equipped with mobile early-warning radar in western Iraq; an air traffic control center in al-Basrah; communications sites near Ash Shuaybah, Mudaysis and Ruwayshid; long-range artillery deployed near Az Zubayr and emplaced on the al-Fāw Peninsula (also known as al-Fāo); and surface-to-surface missiles near al-Basrah. In between the strikes an eerie stillness descended upon the capital, broken by the roar of frequent explosions or the wail of air-raid sirens as allied bombs and missiles pounded targets. People largely deserted Baghdad’s streets, with the exception of isolated knots of soldiers and Republican Guardsmen who manned security checkpoints or huddled together to wait out the carnage. Many fires burned out of control, and lit the sky with an infernal glow” (Ref. 378A).
“Iraqi antiaircraft gunners fired wildly at aircraft from the ship as a strike roared in on targets on 21 March 2003. “It looked like a string of 50 firecrackers that all went off at the same time,” Lt. Eric Doyle, a 29-year-old Super Hornet pilot from Houston, Tex., described the heavy fire. “Like mini-space shuttles going up. And the plumes – the plumes of flame trailing them!” Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, USA, Vice Director for Operations on the Joint Staff, revealed that allied forces had launched the largest use of precision guided munitions ever deployed to date. USAF Boeing B-52H Stratofortresses had dropped about 100 AGM-86C conventional air-launched cruise missiles, and altogether, Air Force aircraft, including Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirits, Lockheed Martin F-117A Nighthawks, McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles, and Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons, flew approximately 2,000 missions, about half of them strike tasks that hit nearly 1,500 ‘aimpoints’ during the first 24 hours of the war (individual targets could comprise multiple aimpoints). British Tornado GR4s, Sepecat GR3 Jaguars and Harrier GR7s were among allied strike aircraft that also flew dangerous missions over Iraq.
Allied aircraft dropped large numbers of JDAMs, both those fitted with penetrating and those with non-penetrating warheads. In addition, 30 U.S. and British ships and subs let loose a staggering barrage of about 400 TLAMs against Iraqi military targets: guided missile cruisers Bunker Hill, Cowpens, Mobile Bay, San Jacinto (CG-56) and Shiloh; guided missile destroyers Arleigh Burke, Donald Cook, Higgins, John S. McCain, Milius, O’Kane (DDG-77), Oscar Austin (DDG-79), Paul Hamilton and Porter (DDG-78), destroyers Briscoe (DD-977), Deyo (DD-989) and Fletcher, and attack submarines Augusta (SSN-710), Cheyenne, Columbia, Key West (SSN-722), Louisville (SSN-724), Montpelier, Newport News (SSN-750), Pittsburgh (SSN-720), Providence, San Juan (SSN-751) and Toledo (SSN-769), together with British boats HMS Spendid and HMS Turbulent” (Ref. 378A).
“Despite intense fire from numerous Iraqi gunners and SAMs, VFA-113 led a strike that destroyed the Ba’ath Party headquarters, which comprised 12 critical targets in four different cities, using JDAMs. Meanwhile, during a briefing at Central Command at Doha, Qatar, Gen on 22 March 2003. Franks outlined allied military objectives for Iraqi Freedom:
“First, end the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Second, to identify, isolate and eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Third, to search for, to capture and to drive out terrorists from that country. Fourth, to collect such intelligence as we can related to terrorist networks. Fifth, to collect such intelligence as we can related to the global network of illicit weapons of mass destruction.
Sixth, to end sanctions and to immediately deliver humanitarian support to the displaced and to many needy Iraqi citizens.
Seventh, to secure Iraq’s oil fields and resources, which belong to the Iraqi people.
And last, to help the Iraqi people create conditions for a transition to a representative government.”
The general added that the fighting would be “unlike any other in history, a campaign characterized by shock, by surprise, by flexibility, by the employment of precise munitions on a scale never before seen, and by the application of overwhelming force”” (Ref. 378A).
030324-N-9228K-012 - The Arabian Gulf (Mar. 24, 2003) - An Aviation Ordnanceman checks over racks of precision guided ordnance before moving them to the 'bomb farm', on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). Linconln and Carrier Air Wing Fourteen (CVW-14) are conducting combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Operation Iraqi Freedom is the multi-national coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and end the regime of Saddam Hussein. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate Third Class Michael S. Kelly. (RELEASED)
“Rear Adm. John M. Kelly, commanding Task Force 50, announced that aircraft had flown about 550 sorties from the decks of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), USS Constellation (CV-64) until USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) on 24 March 2003. The long ranges that they flew consumed fuel at such rates that officers discovered that they required additional aerial tankers, which forced them to temporarily configure four Super Hornets as tankers. During typical aerial refueling missions, these Super Hornets could bypass the need to delay in tanker tracks and transfer up to 12,000 pounds of fuel to thirsty strike aircraft, which allowed these aircraft to hit targets and receive what VFA-115 referred to as “back side fuel” from supporting Vikings on their return flights. In addition, a USAF MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) destroyed an Iraqi radar-guided ZSU-23-4 antiaircraft artillery piece outside Al Amarah in southern Iraq with an AGM-114K Hellfire II missile, the first UAV strike of Iraqi Freedom. Without facing Iraqi opposition in the air, aircraft could concentrate on flying close air support missions for soldiers and marines on the ground locked in grueling battles with Iraqi troops, jihādis (foreign Muslim volunteers) and Fedayeen Saddam (Iraqi fanatics headed by Hussein’s eldest son Uday). These hold-outs used women and children as human shields, drove suicide vehicles against allied troops, and organized ‘death squads’ that roamed across the country brutally murdering dissenters to the Ba’aths” (Ref. 378A).
“Iraqi troops of the Medina Republican Guard Tank Division took advantage of fierce weather to launch a determined attack against soldiers of the Army’s V Corps on 25 March 2003. Although they faced 0/0 visibility that grounded many coalition aircraft, VFA-113 attached to CVW-14 persevered through heavy overcast and hit the Iraqis repeatedly, halting the thrust” (Ref. 378A).
“U.S. and Turkish negotiators resolved most over-flight issues, which greatly facilitated the problems which allied aircraft encountered to date flying over the northern battles from 25 to 26 March 2003. The routes over the southern half of the country continued as a tangle of conflicting channels, with an average of as many as 70 aircraft flying from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), USS Constellation (CV-64) until USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) simultaneously crossing over the limited air space during heavy strikes. Air traffic controllers on board the carriers had to ‘sequence’ aircraft; separate them specified distances to avoid mid-air collisions, a demanding task that the rigors of war made more difficult” (Ref. 378A).
“Coalition aircraft struck nine Iraqi surface-to-surface missiles and launchers in Baghdad with precision guided munitions on 26 March 2003. The Iraqis attempted to hide the weapons within a residential area, and callously positioned them barely 300 feet from homes in the hope that the allies would not target the missiles in an attempt to protect civilians from collateral damage” (Ref. 378A).
“An enormous low-pressure cyclonic storm front roared across Egypt and Saudi Arabia and hit the southern half of the region with a fierce turab (similar to a shamal, though originating from the south rather then from the north), which blew fine dust and sand at high winds into everything in its path from 23 to 27 March 2003. At one point, a polar-orbiting satellite captured an image of the turab covering almost the entire southern half of Iraq and most of Kuwait. Thick dust covered people and equipment with an ochre haze and permeated into exposed skin and gear, which caused numerous maintenance problems, and at times, visibility dropped to 0/0. During the afternoon watch (26 March), the turab twirled and spun from sea level all the way up to 8,000 feet, and completely blanketed the ship as aircraft recovered on board with mere seconds to spare. Capt. Card shifted USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) almost 30 miles as he vainly attempted to outrun the storm, but the turab caught up with the ship and her commanding officer grimly resolved to continue flight operations despite the appalling conditions. The storm affected 12 aircraft returning to the carrier and 11 more launching during these critical hours.
The captain manned the bridge and closely eyed the cauldron, shifting his gaze between the windows and a closed-circuit television monitor that recorded the tense scenes on the flight deck. Lookouts could barely see beyond the ship as the fighting ashore continued unabated. “This is a commanding officer and pilot’s nightmare,” Lt. Comdr. Mark Eckardt, Abraham Lincoln’s senior meteorologist, reflected, as he stood next to the skipper to keep him up to date on the turbulent weather.
These will be the hardest flights of your life,” Capt. Albright told the sailors of his wing, “But the guys on the ground are getting killed and they need us.” Occasionally, flight controllers had no recourse but to direct aircraft to orbit, in the hope that they could experience a momentary break in the weather that would enable them to land. “That was the most disconcerting thing,” Comdr. Dale E. Horan, a 39-year-old Super Hornet pilot from VFA-115, recalled, “You’re doing a lot of math at that point in the sky [to determine remaining fuel status].” Aircraft No. 202, Lt. John Turner, circled over his target with Lt. Steven Dean, a 29-year-old fellow Super Hornet pilot, until they received strike orders and dropped a pair of GBU-31 (V) 2, J84 JDAMs on Iraqi troops south of Karbala, about 60 miles south of Baghdad.
As they returned to Abraham Lincoln, they flew into the maelstrom surrounding the carrier and Turner trapped, climbed out of his aircraft, and noted that his knees shook from the stress. “These are the most adverse conditions I’ve ever faced” he admitted. The tempest wreaked havoc with operations and seriously curtailed air missions at a time when troops on the ground desperately needed every aircraft in support. Even further north the weather deteriorated so badly that pilots described the rigors of trying to rendezvous with tankers while flying through thunderstorms and swirling dust.
So here are the tankers up at 40,000 feet with these baskets flailing about out there on the wingtips in bad weather” Rear Adm. Stufflebeem explained. “And the guys having a long run to get there and then trying to safely get tanked and then into the fight and then back to tanking. That was a huge challenge for them...” Nonetheless, Gen. Franks learned that the turab immobilized many of the Iraqi troops including crack Republican Guardsmen preparing to counterattack, as winds from the south blew dust into their faces, and he attempted to make the weather work for the coalition.
“That night [25 March] B-52s, B-1s and a whole range of fighter-bombers flew above the dense ochre dome of the sandstorm,” the general recalled, “delivering precision-guided bombs through the zero-visibility, zero-ceiling weather. … The bombardment, which lasted from the night of the 25th of March to the morning of the 27th of March 2003, was one of the fiercest and most effective in the history of warfare.” Strikes broke-up enemy troop concentrations so decisively that the Iraqis failed to mount coordinated, large-scale counterattacks” (Ref. 378A).
“Coalition aircraft blasted nine meeting places that intelligence analysts had identified Ba’ath party officials and paramilitary chiefs favoring, killing an estimated 200 Iraqi leaders and bodyguards on 28 March 2003. Special operations troops on the ground provided coordinates to the targets, all of which were located to the northeast of al-Basrah an important port and crossroads of commerce in the south of the country. Naval aircraft helped marines defeat a ferocious attack by Iraqi irregulars supported by armored personnel carriers, rockets and AAA, at An Nasiriyah.
At about 1500, a pair of Hornets knocked out three Iraqi Al Samoud surface-to-surface missile launchers, approximately 25 miles northwest of Al Basrah. Additional strikes supported allied troops locked in firefights with Iraqi troops and Fedayeen Saddam in the Rutbah and Samawah areas, and air assaults dropped 1,000 pound bombs on Republican Guardsmen deployed around Baghdad, destroying missile sites and fuel depots. Meanwhile, President Bush signed an amendment to Executive Order 10448 of 22 April 1953, which authorized eligibility for the National Defense Service Medal to members in good standing in the Selected Reserve. The beginning date for eligibility was 11 September 2001, through a termination date to be determined” (Ref. 378A).
“TLAMs struck the Iraqi Ministry of Information in Baghdad, which the Iraqi regime utilized for command and control on 29 March 2003” (Ref. 378A).
“Two F/A-18E Super Hornets, piloted by Lt. Comdr. Hal Schmitt and Lt. Comdr. Jason Norris of VFA-14, and two F/A-18Fs flown by Lt. Comdr. Brian Garrison and Lt. Comdr. Mark Weisgerber, and Lt. Tom Poulter and Lt. Tom Brodine, all four men from VFA-41, temporarily shifted from USS Nimitz (CVN-68) to USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on 30 March 2003.
They made the move to provide the ship with an improved mix of fighter-tanker capabilities, but the transfer involved an exhausting 1,700 mile flight. This move brought the total number of Super Hornets embarked on board the ship up to 16 aircraft. The detachment returned to Nimitz after she arrived in Gulf waters (6 April). Meanwhile, multiple USAF B-52Hs, Rockwell (Boeing) B-1B Lancers and B-2As bombed the same area at the same time as part of a single strike package, the first such raid ever accomplished. The bombers plastered leadership and command and control targets in Baghdad using precision guided munitions. The scope of these operations ensured that many aircraft from different services and countries supported each other, and naval aircraft often flew with their Air Force counterparts” (Ref. 378A).
“As the coalition pounded them, many of Saddam Hussein’s cronies attempted to regain control of their collapsing order and lashed out at innocent people caught in the crossfire on 31 March 2003. One such paramilitary band gathered in an unused prison at Ar Rutbah, in western Iraq, to prepare to strike at civilians nearby. Allied intelligence specialists identified the thugs, however, and aircraft broke up the meeting” (Ref. 378A).
“Three brothers maintained the proud tradition of service to the Republic that the five Sullivan brothers of World War II exemplified when all three served on board three different ships simultaneously in the war: 24-year-old night-watch maintenance technician PO3 Melvin Casasola with VFA-25 embarked on board USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), 27-year-old Livni on board amphibious transport dock ship Dubuque (LPD-8) and 26-year-old Milton on board USS Constellation (CV-64) in April 2003. Their mother, Florencia, had fled fighting in Guatemala in 1985 to make a better life for her family, and struggled as a cleaning woman until she attained citizenship, and her sons honored her sacrifice by serving their adopted country” (Ref. 378A).
030401-N-6817C-008 - The Arabian Gulf (Apr. 1, 2003) - The catapult officer checks all aspects of safety before launching an E-2C Hawkeye from aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). The Lincoln and Carrier Air Wing Fourteen (CVW-14) are conducting combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Operation Iraqi Freedom is the multi-national coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and end the regime of Saddam Hussein. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Tyler J. Clements. (RELEASED) http://www.navy.mil/list_single.asp?id=6173
“Allied aircraft macerated a heavily secured Iraqi storage facility in the Al Karkh district of Baghdad with 40 JDAMs on 2 April 2003. The regime’s Special Security Organization, one of several internal security operations responsible for the illicit imprisonment and torture of countless victims, utilized the building for their crimes” (Ref. 378A).
“F/A-18Fs flying from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) made the first operational flight of the Super Hornet Fast Tactical Imagery reconnaissance module, during a strike over Iraq on 3 April 2003” (Ref. 378A).
030404-N-1159M-038 - The Arabian Gulf (April 4, 2003) - A Plane Captain stands by with tie down chains during an aircraft’s recovery (landing) aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and Carrier Air Wing Fourteen (CVW-14) are deployed conducting combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Operation Iraqi Freedom is the multi-national coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and end the regime of Saddam Hussein. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Dan J. Mark. (RELEASED) http://www.news.navy.mil/list_single.asp?id=6344
030405-N-9951B-021 - The Arabian Gulf (Apr. 5, 2003) - An F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the 'Fist of the Fleet' of Strike Fighter Squadron Twenty Five (VFA-25) prepares to launch from the flight deck of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), while an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the “Stingers” of Strike Fighter Squadron One Thirteen (VFA-113) lines-up behind a jet blast deflector (JBD) awaiting to launch. Lincoln and Carrier Air Wing Fourteen (CVW-14) are conducting combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Operation Iraqi Freedom is the multi-national coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and end the regime of Saddam Hussein. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Elizabeth A. Bartneck. (RELEASED) http://www.navy.mil/list_single.asp?id=6372
“The coalition declared air superiority over all of Iraq on 6 April 2003. CVW-14 aircraft of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) had dropped over 1.3 million pounds of ordnance on enemy troops” (Ref. 378A).
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) transferred equipments to USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in the Persian Gulf on 7 April 2003” (Ref. 76).
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) was relieved in support of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" by USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in the Persian Gulf from 8 to 9 April 2003, which enabled the ship to transit the Strait of Hormuz outbound the same day that coalition forces would declare that they had liberated most of Baghdad” (Ref. 378A).
As reported on 14 April 2003, “the EA-6B Prowler is one unique aircraft. Its ability to support strike aircraft is unparalleled, and the “Cougars” of Electronic Air Squadron (VAQ) 139 prove that every day during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
What it doesn’t blind, the Prowler otherwise suppresses via the formidable HARM missiles it also carries. “When a plane pinpoints a radar that’s transmitting, they fire the missile, the missile locks on to the radar site, and then blows the radar site up,” said Hamilton. Callahan said VAQ-139 has launched missiles nearly every day in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“ECMO 1 may also do targeting with the HARM, as well as Comms EA [Communications Electronic Attack],” she added. “In the back seat, you have the people who are running the jammers, that’s ECMOs 2 and 3." ECMOs 2 and 3 also do electronic surveillance and can do HARM targeting, as well, according to Callahan.
All the electronics equipment and personnel inside the plane are protected from the radiation produced by the jammers by a special gold filament on both the canopies, which is yet another feature unique to the Prowler. When strike aircraft shifted from flying patrols in the no-fly zone to targeting Baghdad, as well as providing close-air support to coalition ground troops, the importance of the Prowlers’ role intensified as American lives were now literally on the line. “That’s was a big task, to protect the strikers when they went into Baghdad, because it was so heavily protected,” said Callahan.
“To send a strike into Baghdad was a very dangerous thing, and that’s why you had to have a Prowler there." With its radar-jamming capabilities and HARM missiles, the unique one-two punch that the Prowler packs has put it in high demand. “Our jamming was required every day in Iraq for every strike mission. The Prowlers are a ‘high-demand, low-density’ asset, so we were booked,” Callahan said. “We’ve been really successful, we’ve been getting good feedback, and the strikers have told us that we’ve been providing them very good coverage and protection.”
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) concluded Operation Iraqi Freedom operations, underway in the Persian Gulf from 19 March to 12 April 2003, during which time the entire carrier battle group and air wing helped deliver the opening salvos and air strikes in Operation Iraqi Freedom on 20 March 2003, ending her (initial) commitment to Iraqi Freedom (12 April)” (Ref. 378A & 378B-2002).
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) transited the Strait of Hormuz outbound the same day that coalition forces declared that they had liberated most of Baghdad, steaming through the and Gulf of Oman, entering the Northern Arabian Sea, her fourth voyage while on deployment on 13 April 2003” (Ref. 378B-2002).
030413-N-8794V-001 - Indian Ocean (Apr. 13, 2003) - An SH-60F Seahawk from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Warfare Squadron Four (HS 4) takes off while Sailors man forklifts while waiting for cargo during a vertical replenishment (VERTREP) with USS Camden (AO-2). USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and Carrier Air Wing Fourteen are returning to homeport after supporting combat missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Kittie VandenBosch. (RELEASED)
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) entered the Indian Ocean on 13 April 2003” (Ref. 76).
As reported on 15 April 2003, “Vice Adm. Timothy Keating, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet, returned to USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) last week to thank the carrier and air wing Sailors for their efforts during their extended stay in the Arabian Gulf region.
As reported on 16 April 2003, “Lt.j.g. Sam Kesler, a Carrier Airborne Early Warning (VAW) Squadron 113 pilot, is sitting behind his duty desk passing out guns and bullets to a group of geared-up naval flight officers (NFOs) leaving on another mission. “The guns,” one pilot said, “are for our protection in case we get shot down.” The VAW-113 “Black Eagles” were concerned about getting shot down while they were deployed with USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) was underway in the Indian Ocean from 13 to 15 April 2003, steaming through the Strait of Malacca en route to the South China Sea” (Ref. 76).
“After approximately three weeks of fighting, Iraq was occupied by coalition forces and the rule of Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath Party came to an end. Subsequently, the period known as post-invasion Iraq began. Approximately 260,000 United States troops, with support from 45,000 British, and smaller forces from other nations, collectively called the "Coalition of the Willing", entered Iraq primarily through a staging area in Kuwait.
Plans for opening a second front in the north were abandoned when Turkey officially refused the use of its territory for such purposes. Forces also supported Iraqi Kurdish militia troops, estimated to number upwards of 50,000. Facing them was a large but poorly equipped military force.
The regular Iraqi army was estimated at 290,000–350,000 troops, with four Republican Guard divisions with 50,000–80,000 troops, and the Fedayeen Saddam, a 20,000–40,000 strong militia, who used guerrilla tactics during the war. There were an estimated thirteen infantry divisions, ten mechanized and armored divisions, as well as some special forces units. The Iraqi Air Force and Navy played a negligible role in the conflict” (Ref. 446).
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) was underway in the South China Sea from 16 to 17 April 2003” (Ref. 76).
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) was underway in the Philippine Sea on 18 April 2003” (Ref. 76).
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) performed an underway replenishment with USS Paul Hamilton on 19 April 2003, during which time the carrier’s Re-Fueling Station No. 21 experienced a casualty on the high-tensioning winch. This problem prevented the ships from completing their refueling, and interfered with Abraham Lincoln’s ability to support her group” (Ref. 378A).
“Sailors accomplished what the Deck Department described as “a rigorous overhaul” of the Re-Fueling Station No. 21 equipment, that experienced a casualty on the high-tensioning winch on 19 April 2003, so that USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) could finish refueling USS Paul Hamilton on 22 April 2003” (Ref. 378A).
“CVW-14 aircraft from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) covered other ships during the war, and six amphibious assault ships: USS Bataan (LHD-5), USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), USS Boxer (LHD-4), USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), USS Saipan (LHA-2) and USS Tarawa (LHA-1), sailed with the other 26 ships of Task Force 51 in the Arabian Gulf, which comprised the largest concentration of amphibious vessels to operate together simultaneously since the Korean War on 20 April 2003” (Ref. 378A).
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) area of operations was not reported from 19 to 20 April 2003.
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) was underway in the Pacific from 21 to 25 April 2003” (Ref. 76).
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for Naval Air Station, North Island (NASNI), San Diego, California on 27 April 2003, inport Pearl Harbor, Hi. from 26 to 27 April 2003” (Ref. & 378B-2002).
President George W. Bush poses with flight deck crew of the USS Abraham Lincoln May 1, 2003. White House photo by Paul Morse [20030501-15]
“Before steaming into Naval Air Station, North Island (NASNI),, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) crew welcomed the Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush, who welcomed the crew home for a job well done, underway in the Eastern Pacific from 27 April to 1 May 2003” (Ref. 76 & 371).
“On 1 May 2003, President George W. Bush safely landed in an S-3B Viking on the deck of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), which was returning from a nearly ten month deployment for operations in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The deployment was the longest of an aircraft carrier since the Vietnam War. The President landed while the carrier was underway about 30 miles (50 km) off the coast of San Diego, California. It was the first time a sitting president arrived on the deck of an aircraft carrier by plane. Bush made a primetime address from the flightdeck, surrounded by hundreds of sailors, in which he declared major combat operations in Iraq over.
Critics characterized the event as footage for a campaign advertisement; in the background was a large banner reading "Mission Accomplished", made by a private vendor at the request of the White House, and put up on Lincoln's island by the crew. It was unclear whether the banner referred to the ship's mission or to the Iraq war as a whole, and different explanations were put out; it was several months before the White House admitted that they had the banner made and offered it to Lincoln. As combat in Iraq continued, the banner came to be an embarassment to the President, and in April 2004, Bush adviser Karl Rove told The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, "I wish the banner was not up there.
In addition to the banner, the manner in which the President landed on the carrier was the subject of some controversy, since although the original rationale for using the jet was that Lincoln was too far offshore for the usual helicopter arrival, the ship was well within range by the time of the landing. Presumably planners for the event realized that the President's traveling staff, camera crews, and their equipment would not themselves fit into S-3Bs, and so the carrier had to be brought within helicopter range so that they could be on hand and set up to film the landing” (Ref. 72, & 371 & 525).
“President Bush arrived on board USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) in Aircraft No. 700, an S-3B Viking (BuNo 159387), piloted by Comdr. John “Loose” (also known as “Skip”) Lussier, the squadron executive officer, and Lt. Ryan Phillips as his flight officer, both from VS-35, and accompanied by a Secret Service agent on 1 May 2003. At one point during the approximately 30 mile flight from NAS North Island, Lussier turned control of the Viking over to the President, who sat in the co-pilot’s seat wearing a flight suit equipped with a parachute and water survival kit.
When journalists asked Lawrence A. [Ari] Fleischer, the White House’s press secretary, just before the historic flight concerning who would fly the aircraft, he replied humorously: “I think the best clue, you know, if the president is actually flying the plane will be to see if the plane is flying on a straight line, you’ll know that the Navy pilot is in charge. If it does anything else, it’s an open question.”
Afterward referring to the chief executive’s flying skills, Lussier noted that “He did fly in a straight line, and he flew at a level one, too,” and added that the President and the agent did not become ill during the flight. As he climbed out of the Viking, enthusiastic sailors swarmed the President, shook hands with the chief executive, patted him on the back and offered “high fives.” Officials designated the aircraft, which maintainers had painted with the words “George W. Bush, Commander in Chief,” just below the flight canopy, as ‘Navy 1’ in honor of the President, and donated the Viking to the National Museum of Naval Aviation at NAS Pensacola, Florida.
A huge banner strung across the bridge read: “Mission Accomplished.” Preparing for the President’s visit required technical adjustments that included installing over 5,000 feet of telephone lines to the flight deck, island and hanger bay, to facilitate White House communications for national security considerations, for the Secret Service and their protection of the chief executive, and for the media. Ten Super Hornets from VFA-115 and two from VFA-122 performed a fly by for the President and for their triumph during the war. The President ate a steak-and-lobster dinner with sailors and then addressed the American people that evening from the flight deck of the ship, standing before the two remaining Super Hornets from VFA-115 that had flown against the enemy, and declared an end to major combat operations.
“…In this battle,” he also explained proudly, “we have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world. Our nation and our coalition are proud of this accomplishment – yet, it is you, the members of the United States military, who achieved it. Your courage, your willingness to face danger for your country and for each other, made this day possible. Because of you, our nation is more secure. Because of you, the tyrant is fallen, and Iraq is free. Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision, speed and boldness the enemy did not expect and the world had not seen before. From distant bases or ships a sea, we sent planes and missiles that could destroy an enemy division or strike a single building or bunker. Marines and soldiers charged to Baghdad across 350 miles of hostile ground in one of the swiftest mass advances of heavy arms in history. The world has seen the might of the American armed forces…”
Critics, however, would later deride the President’s declaration of the end of [major] battles as premature in light of the subsequent insurrection. Each year on the anniversary of the event, detractors would attack the President’s choice of words, and on the eve of the fifth anniversary journalists asked Dana M. Perino, Assistant to the President and Press Secretary at the White House, to address the issue (30 April 2008). “President Bush is well aware,” Perino replied, “that the banner should have been much more specific and said “mission accomplished for these sailors who are on this ship [Abraham Lincoln] on their mission.” And we have certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner. And I recognize that the media is going to play this up again tomorrow, as they do every single year.”
Some pundits, however, noted his arrival and speech on board the ship as one of the defining moments of the war, and compared the occasion to President Ronald W. Reagan’s challenge at the Berlin Wall: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” (12 June 1987). Despite media allegations or their own personal views on the conflict, most of those on board the ship recalled the incident with pride at their achievement of liberating the Iraqi people from the brutal tyranny of Saddam Hussein’s regime within a matter of weeks. Additional selected members of the cabinet who arrived on board (separately) for the occasion included Dr. Condoleezza Rice, President for National Security Affairs (commonly known as the National Security Advisor), and Andrew H. Card, Jr., White House Chief of Staff” (Ref. 378A).
“The Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush, who welcomed the crew of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) home for a job well done, remained embarked on the 1st and 2nd of May 2003, pulling into Naval Air Station, North Island (NASNI), San Diego, California on 2 May 2003” (Ref. & 378B-2002).
“USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) departed Naval Air Station, North Island (NASNI), San Diego, California on 3 May 2003, visiting from 2 to 3 May 2003, en route to her home port en route Naval Station Everett, Wa.” (Ref. & 378B-2002).
Chapter XV (1 January 2002 to 6 May 2003)
Part II of III - 1 January to 5 May 2003
A Sailors Tale of His Tour of Duty in the U. S. Navy (August 1977 to February 1983) Operations Evening Light and Eagle Claw
(24 April 1980)
Book - ISBN NO.
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Operations Evening Light and Eagle Claw (24 April 1980) Iran and Air Arm History (1941 to 2016)
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USS CORAL SEA CV-42, CVB-43, CVA-43 & CV-43 HISTORY, AND THOSE AIRCRAFT CARRIERS OPERATING WITH CORAL SEA Vol. I
(10 July 1944 to 31 December 1975) -
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USS CORAL SEA CV-42, CVB-43, CVA-43 & CV-43 HISTORY, AND THOSE AIRCRAFT CARRIERS OPERATING WITH CORAL SEA DURING HER TOUR OF SERVICE Vol. II (1 January 1976 to
25 August 1981) -
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USS CORAL SEA CV-42, CVB-43, CVA-43 & CV-43 HISTORY, AND THOSE AIRCRAFT CARRIERS OPERATING WITH CORAL SEA DURING HER TOUR OF SERVICE Vol. III (20 August 1981 to 26 April 1990) -
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(CVN-72) History Vol. II
(7 May 2003 to 13 January 2010)
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USS Abraham Lincoln
(CVN-72) History Vol. III
(14 January 2010 to
31 December 2012)
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USS Abraham Lincoln
(CVN-72) History of
Refueling and Complex
(1 January 2013 to 2017
Sea Trials) Volume IV
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U. S. AIRCRAFT CARRIER SHIP HISTORY (1920 to 2016)
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Library of Congress
U. S. AIRCRAFT
(1953 to 2016)
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Library of Congress
ENERGY QUEST AND U. S. AIRCRAFT CARRIER DEPLOY. HISTORY INVESTMENT CAPITAL REQUIRED TO PUBLISH 55 EIGHTH HUNNDRED PAGE BOOKS, EBOOKS & CD’s (48 Navy Books)
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