Photos by Brad Graverson, Staff Photographer
If you’re looking for something fun to do with the kids this summer, why not take them down to San Pedro to tour some actual Navy ships during Navy Week. The aircraft carrier the USS Abraham Lincoln sailed into port on Monday and will be joined by the minesweeper USS Champion, cruiser USS Princeton and destroyer USS Chaffee.
I was lucky enough to visit the Abe on Monday and it’s awesome.
“It’s an opportunity to showcase the Navy and show the public how their money is being spent,” said Adm. Troy “Mike” Shoemaker, commander of Carrier Strike Group 9.
“As our sailors get out and visit around town, we have the opportunity to show off the quality people we have in the Navy,” Shoemaker added. “They’re very proud, they love to show off what they’re doing and share their experiences.”
The enthusiastic admiral leads a task force of eight ships centered around the 1,000 foot long Abe. The 97,500 ton ships carries 70 aircraft in its air wing. The Super Hornets deliver the sting of strike group.
The aircrat operate from a flight deck of 4.5 acres. The planes are literally thrown off the carrier’s bow by steam catapults, going from 0 to 180 miles per hours in 2.4 seconds.
“The sights and sounds of a launch are overwhelming,” said a Navy spokeswoman.
While visitors won’t see the carrier in operation,
they can visit the flight deck where they’ll see the different aircraft embarked: F/A 18, E2 Hawkeye radar aircraft and MH-60 Seahawk helicopter.
Be sure to walk to the back of the flightdeck, where aircraft crash onto the deck where they have to catch on one of the arresting wires strung across it.
“The pilots aim for the second wire in a perfect landing, but they have four cables,” explained Lt. Jonathan Halbach, a flight surgeon aboard the Abe.
“We’re excited to be here. This is the first time in 20 years that a carrier has called on Los Angeles,” said Capt. John Alexander, commanding officer of the carrier.
While this weapon of war has served extensively in the Middle East, Capt. Alexander pointed out the carrier has also served humanitarian missions. “We were sent to Malaysia in 2008 to help the victims of the tsunami,” he said. The carrier distills more than 400,000 gallons of fresh water per day.
Visitors will also get to see the large hangar deck used to work on the aircraft when they’re not on the flight deck. Four huge elevators carry aircraft between the two decks in 70 seconds.
But right now, 2,800 members of the crew were anxiously waiting for liberty call. Sailors from Southern California wanted to reunite with family and friends.
Petty Officer Alberto Aguirre grew up in Paramount. The 20-year-old has served a year and a half on the Abe as a radar man.
“When I graduated high school, I wanted to do something with my life, but I didn’t think I was mature enough for college,” Aguirre said. “I wanted to make my family proud and stay off the streets, so I joined the military and I’m really enjoying it.”
Another 1,500 sailors serve in the air wing when it is embarked. Together with the ship’s crew, the 4,400 sailors consume more than 15,000 meals every day, including 600 gallons of milk, 900 pounds of fruit. 180 dozen eggs and 620 pounds of hamburger.
The aircraft carrier will be open for public tours on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Tours begin at 10 a.m. and close at 4 p.m., except on Saturday when it closes at 5 p.m. The other ships are open at other time, check the schedule at www.navyweek.org.
A word of caution, expect long lines on the weekends. Thousands can show up to see the naval vessels.
The Port of Los Angeles offers these details for the ship tours:
Free Public Parking & Shuttle to the Aircraft Carrier at Los Angeles World Cruise Center (Harbor Blvd. and 1st Street in San Pedro). The other ships will be docked at the cruise center.
No auto or foot traffic will be allowed for viewing the Aircraft Carrier – the public shuttle is mandatory.
All persons will be subject to strict security procedures before accessing the vessels.
No handicap access although an equivalency experience will be offered if desired.
Tours are limited to those 8 yrs of age and older and physically able to walk through tight spaces and up/down steep ladders. Close-toed shoes only.
Visitors are required to have a government issued photo ID and are requested to leave behind any objects such as pocketknives, tools, and drinks – other than water, to facilitate security screenings.
No bags larger than a lady’s hand-purse will be allowed. Backpacks and other large carrying devices are prohibited. Please pack light.Cameras are allowed and encouraged.
For more information, see www.portoflosangeles.org or www.navyweek.org