The following post is written by CAPT William C. Hamilton, 22nd Commanding Officer of the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) in honor of the carrier’s 50th birthday, November 25, 2011.
Friday one of the most storied ships in U.S. Navy history broke another record. The world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) became the first aircraft carrier in history to celebrate 50 years of active service. The oldest warship still in active service, ENTERPRISE has participated in every major naval conflict from the Cuban Missile Crisis through six arduous tours in Vietnam, the Cold War, the Gulf Wars, and today’s effort to rid the world of terrorism and piracy.
To serve as Commanding Officer of the Big E is nothing less than an honor and a dream fulfilled. To carry the name ENTERPRISE is a great responsibility and one that I hold dear. As a Student Naval Aviator in 1985, I was qualified to operate from carriers while flying from her deck. As an F/A-18 Hornet squadron Department Head in 1995, I flew patrol and combat missions from her deck. As Executive Officer in 2004, I learned to appreciate the heritage and legacy of the ship and the challenge of operating and maintaining her. And now, as her Commanding Officer, I fully understand that ENTERPRISE is not a piece of steel, pointed at one end and blunt at the other. Rather, ENTERPRISE is the pride, spirit, dedication, and hard work of the 200,000 Sailors that have served aboard and flown from her deck.
There is something special about being an ENTERPRISE Sailor. We have a saying onboard… “There is tough, and there is Enterprise tough.” The reputation is well known throughout the Fleet and well deserved. Sailors studying at Nuclear Power School are often met with chuckles and false condolences when it is learned they will be serving on ENTERPRISE. When they transfer following their tour aboard, the chuckles and false condolences become respect and congratulations. ENTERPRISE Sailors have to work a little harder and a little longer than their peers on other ships. They have to overcome and adapt to the challenges of maintaining a 50 year old piece of hardware for which there are precious few spare parts. And at the end of the day, ENTERPRISE Sailors walk a little taller knowing they kept her “Ready on Arrival” for half a century.
Through three tours in ENTERPRISE, I have been fortunate to have a part in several milestones, but today is like no other and I expect the days ahead will be moving, to say the least. In the days ahead, I look forward to welcoming home so many of our shipmates, hearing first-hand the many stories of those who served throughout Big-E history, and sharing the bond that each and every ENTERPRISE Sailor knows.
USS Enterprise (CVN 65)