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USS Eisenhower is ready to deploy

USS Eisenhower (US Department of Defense/Released)

“Ike is back! Ike is ready to fight.”

Capt. Kyle Higgins, commanding officer of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, said “heavy maintenance” has been completed and the Navy’s nuclear-power aircraft carrier is ready for action.

“It is nice to be back, I can tell you that. We are out to sea. We are doing what we are designed to do; launch and recover airplanes on a regular basis,” Higgins said, “keeping our sailors occupied in a business of what they were hired to do.

“With a city of about 5,000 sailors, we have about every discipline onboard that you would need to run a small town,” he said.

The ship is back in port for a short period to get ready for an upcoming deployment.

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Higgins and a delegation from the aircraft were in Abilene last weekend. They visited Eisenhower Elementary School, the Abilene Rotary Club, attended the rededication of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Museum and toured the museum.

Some of the crew also participated in the vintage baseball game on the Eisenhower lawn Saturday.

The USS Eisenhower now has the unique feature of having the capability of launching the MQ-25 unmanned aircraft when it becomes available.

“Ike is the first carrier that will be able to fly it,” Higgins said.

The MQ-25 is a drone capable of refueling the warship’s F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft in air, thus extending the combat range.

“When they get that out to the fleet, quickly Ike will be ready,” he said.

Higgins said the aircraft carrier’s control station is set up. They are waiting for the controlling stations that come with the aircraft.

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Be prepared

Higgins said it is important the Navy is prepared.

“It is so important to make sure that we are ready in case the nation does need us and calls us to do whatever it is we need to do,” he said. “We are working, and have been working on our same goals prior to everything in the world that has been happening. Should that change, then our priorities could change. Maybe they will ask us to get ready for something else.”

The Navy’s mission is to keep the sea lines of communication open.

“Protect the interests of the United States worldwide. That’s what we do,” Higgins said. “We are out there protecting our interests whether it is telecommunications under the ocean or whether it is transporting goods on the surface. We are there to make sure America is protected.”

He said part of the deterrent is not knowing the location of the warships, cruisers and submarines.

“To not know if somebody is out there, or could be out there, is a powerful deterrent,” Higgins said.

How it started

The Naval Act of 1794 created the Navy. That year the first six frigates were commissioned.

He said the Navy was first formed to stop piracy in the Mediterranean Sea.

He said the Navy was disbanded after the Revolutionary War because it was not affordable.

“Does that sound familiar? We couldn’t afford some of our military so we just get rid of it,” Higgins said. “It was like ‘Wait a minute. We really needed that. Let’s get that back.’ And we did.”

He said the original six warships cost close to $700,000.

“I don’t have that converted but I don’t think it is close to the $10 billion it cost to build an aircraft carrier. But back then, $700,000 for six warships was a lot of money,” he said.

One of those, the USS Constitution, still floats today.

He said the Navy now has 287 ships in the battle force. About 100 are overseas. The Navy is on a path for 350 ships.

Election

Higgins said that the upcoming election for president of the U.S. does not play a big role with the Navy.

“One of the unique things about the military is that we are apolitical. So whoever happens to be in power at the time doesn’t matter. Our oaths of office when we take them are to the Constitution and the country it protects,” he said. “We work for the people in the United States and the Constitution.

“We know what our role is. We know what our mission is and it is to provide protection of the country,” he added.

In addition to providing protection, the Navy also has anti-piracy operations and disaster relief by providing aid and assistance as needed.

Higgins said the USS Eisenhower makes 40,000 gallons of fresh water every day.

“This is what makes us such a powerful tool in the event of a humanitarian disaster relief mission,” Higgins said. “If that country can’t make its own fresh water, we can make it for them. If something bad happens, we have the capability to providing an awful lot of relief.”

Two crew members were honored Saturday night.

AMC Joshua S. Roberson was the recipient of the Presidential Eisenhower Leadership Award which is presented not only for civilian in the community.

ITCS Aimie Windemiller was the recipient of the General Eisenhower Leadership Award which is presented for military leadership on the ship.

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© 2019 the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle