ABOARD USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (NNS) -- As part of Summer Pulse '04, USS John F. Kennedy (JFK) (CV 67) transited through the Suez Canal July 2-3, in just more than 18 hours.
Many Kennedy Sailors were excited to move through this leg of their deployment. Some marveled as land passed so closely on either side of the ship.
"I thought it was neat how one side was all green and the other side was all brown. You look at one side and see actual buildings, cars and trees. Then you look on the other side and all you see is sand. I found it pretty interesting," said Aviation Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Josh Wood from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 81 and Clearwater, Fla.
The canal was built by a French corporation from 1859-1869 - 10 years of work for a 103-mile passage from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. Controlling interest was taken by the British in 1875 and remained with them through 1956. Egypt nationalized the canal a month after taking control. Some reports say approximately 50 ships now cross the canal daily. The cities and beaches along the Bitter Lakes and the canal have become a summer resort for tourists.
While many of Kennedy's "salty Sailors" have seen the Suez Canal before, the carrier also boasts many boatswain's mates, cryptologic technicians, damage controlmen and others who have never been through the "ditch." For these Sailors, witnessing the passage of a massive aircraft carrier through a sleeve-like canal was a first. They got a chance to see several historic monuments, such as the Japan-Egypt Friendship Bridge and another monument marking the point where Egyptians crossed into the Sinai in a surprise attack against the Israeli Army in 1973. Many Kennedy Sailors made a trip to the flight deck with camera in hand to record the passage.
Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class Steve Vaughn with Sea Control Squadron (VS) 30 described how he worked on the flight deck the night before to prepare aircraft for the potentially dangerous passage.
"At about [11:30 p.m.], we started wrapping the planes up. We had to tape up all the gaps, all the canopies and any open spaces just in case there was a sandstorm," said Vaughn, from Terre Haute, Ind.
Fortunately, there weren't any. According to Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Joseph Johnson of G-1 division, 80 Sailors from weapons department stood a total of 640 watch hours manning .50-caliber machine guns and M-16 rifles just in case of unexpected trouble.
Thanks to them and many others aboard JFK, the carrier had a swift ride through the canal, joined by USS Vicksburg (CG 69) and USS Seattle (AOE 3), both part of the Kennedy Strike Group taking part in Summer Pulse 04.
Summer Pulse is the Navy's first exercise under the Fleet Response Plan. Leaders say the simultaneous deployment of seven carrier strike groups is significant because it validates the maritime power the U.S. Navy can bring to bear throughout the world in short order.
It also highlights the inherent flexibility of naval forces to adapt to the changing security environment. This flexibility has become increasingly necessary in order to fight the global war on terrorism.
For more information about Summer Pulse '04 visit, the CFFC Web site at www.cffc.navy.mil/summerpulse04.htm.
For related news, visit the USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cv67.