She’s a beautiful lady; sleek, imposing, up-to-the-minute Intelligence, compassionate and protective. Her sisters weigh about the same, a little over 104,000 tons, yet a Nutrisystem diet would trigger rebellion among her family. On a daily average the clan consumes 800 loaves of bread, 660 gallons of milk, 13,000 sodas, 180 dozen eggs, 800 pounds of fresh vegetables and 540 pounds of hamburger.
A powerful lady, she’s labeled a female, but identified by a man’s name — a paradox on word-play accurately describing the ability to be a tender caregiver one minute, yet when violated will strike back with the lethal force of an armed-to-the-teeth citadel. Her name is the USS Abraham Lincoln, one of several nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy.
She’s a high-maintenance lady. Refurbishing, an RCOH (Refueling and Complex Overhaul), upgrades and general maintenance easily break a quarter billion dollars. Her service life will span 50 years and she will be called home to over 3,200 crewmembers plus an average of 2,400 pilots and ground crews of a formidable air wing. There are no slackers on board Abe — her nickname and each man and woman has a critical job as part of a well-honed team. This is one of their stories.
Keenan Moore graduated from Spalding High School in 2009, eager for new adventures and to make his mark on the world. He chose the U.S. Navy. He recalled, “I needed a change in my life, a foundation on which to build my future.” On basic training and tech school during the winter months at Great Lakes, Illinois, his one comment, “Cold.”
Reflecting the thoughts of most new recruits, Moore stated, “The first few days I wondered what in the world I’d gotten myself into, but you learn to cope and go with the flow.” Asked his favorite memory of the Great Lakes Training Center, he recalled, “Well, I suppose I can say this now without repercussions, but we regularly ‘appropriated’ bread and pieces of cheese from the mess hall to make grilled cheese sandwiches in our quarters.” Asked if they had a small grill or toaster oven, Moore stated, “Nope, we used an iron.”
The young man from Georgia with a dislike for freezing weather and a passion for grilled cheese sandwiches soon took on a responsibility few his age could handle, navigation. His first endeavor: the USS Abraham Lincoln.
Moore’s initial impression of the mammoth carrier: “Good grief, it was huge. I never thought I’d figure out how to locate my work station, let alone not get lost.” His berthing (sleeping quarters) is on level 01, his work station is on level 09 — basically eight stories from his bed to the nerve center of carrier life, the bridge.
A brief description of duties performed by Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Keenan Moore: As Quartermaster, or QM3, Moore stands watch as an assistant to officers of the deck and the navigator, serves as helmsman and performs ship control, navigation and bridge watch responsibilities. He procures, corrects, uses and stows navigational and oceanographic charts and publications, maintains navigational instruments and keeps correct navigational time. Moore also renders ‘honors and ceremonies’ in accordance with national observance and foreign customs; sends and receives visual messages and acts as the petty officer in charge of tugs, self-propelled barges and other yard and district craft.
Moore was 19 years old when he took his first cruise. “It was great,” he said. “The view from the bridge is breathtaking, and I’d never seen so much water in my life. It was pretty exciting, although, I did get seasick on my first voyage.”
Come this June, QM3 Moore will have served four years aboard Abe. An old Navy poster once claimed, “Join the Navy and See the World.” The statement is still true. Moore’s ports-of-call so far include Hawaii, San Diego, Turkey, Dubai, Bahrain, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. “I enjoyed Hawaii,” he said. “But my favorite foreign port was Malaysia. The people were friendly and we really had a nice time.”
On watching a 37,000-pound F-18 Super Hornet (max weight 52,000 pounds) catapult from the Lincoln, Moore said, “It’s unbelievable. A 40,000-pound aircraft can go from 0 to 140 mph in two seconds.” Asked if he’d like to land on a carrier in a fighter jet, Moore replied, “I don’t think so.”
While his reply may sound amusing, it wasn’t meant to be. Moore appreciates the perils of take-offs and landings on a sometimes pitching deck and an always unpredictable runway recognized as an aircraft carrier. The USS Abraham Lincoln was home to the first female F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot in the Navy, Lt. Kara Spears Hultgreen. On Oct. 25, 1994, Lt. Hultgreen died in a fiery crash while on final approach. The crash was due to an engine malfunction and plausible pilot error.
Military action always beckons the media to report on the devastating destructive power of an aircraft carrier, but carriers, like the Abraham Lincoln, are American ambassadors of peace and comfort during crisis situations. A few of Abe’s charitable, yet unreported, accomplishments include leading an armada to evacuate 45,000 people from Luzon after Mount Pinatubo erupted. This was the largest peacetime evacuation of military people and their families in history. She was on station for 33 days after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck southern Asia. Abe and her battle group delivered 5.7 million pounds of relief supplies.
And it’s QM3 Moore, and thousands of other men and women of the U.S. Navy, that continually answer their call to duty, wherever the seven seas may beckon the USS Abraham Lincoln and her sister ships. Thus, the Latin motto of the United States Navy, “Non Sibi Sed Patriae,” – Not for Self, but for Country.
Moore’s final comments: “Right now, sir, I’m going with the flow before I decide if I’ll make a career of the Navy, but I believe in patriotism and I know for a fact that we have it the best in America. I’m getting a great foundation for life in the Navy and I know the service to my country will help me in the long run.”
Pete Mecca is a Vietnam veteran, columnist and freelance writer. You can reach him at email@example.com or aveteransstory.us.