ABOARD USS JOHN PAUL JONES, At Sea (NNS) -- As the nation paused to remember the victims of 9/11, USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) was being vigilant off the coast of Southern California.
It wasn't exactly vigilance against possible terrorist attacks but more a preparation to be ready in case the call came to be answered again.
A year ago, when America was attacked, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer did answer the call while on deployment and on station in the Arabian Gulf. In Oct. 2001, John Paul Jones was the first ship to launch Tomahawk missiles at al-Qaeda positions in Afghanistan at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Nine-Eleven and Operation Enduring Freedom are great examples why the Navy remains forward deployed 365 days a year," said Cmdr. David Steindl, the John Paul Jones' Commanding Officer. "Those that go to a crisis will require prompt action. They have to be there and they have to be able to stay there."
According to the John Paul Jones commander, the ability to deploy starts and continues with constant training.
One year after the attacks, while Americans were remembering the victims of 9/11, John Paul Jones was again at sea continuing the training they began before entering the gulf last year. In a sense they were continuing a business as usual policy - the business of maintaining the ship to be ready.
This has been one of the Navy's creeds since the days of Commodore John Paul Jones more than 200 years ago. As Jones said, "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm's way."
"The crew has demonstrated during training that we are fully ready to deploy anytime," Steindl said. "We have the ability to train ourselves to deploy and are standing by for any orders the President has for us."
During the week Americans were recalling the events of a year ago, John Paul Jones was conducting gunnery exercises, missile exercises, maneuvering operations, damage control evolutions and an underway replenishment. They were staying focused and keeping sharp, but through all of this usual business of daily routine, the destroyer and its 350 Sailors also found time to pause to remember and reflect 9/11 at sea.
On September 11th, the ship and crew marked three separate moments of silence, one at 5:46 a.m., 6:10 a.m. and 6:37 a.m. Each pause represented the exact time the three airliners crashed into World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon.
"Because of the training schedule for the week, 9-11 wasn't in the forefronts of our minds. We have been concentrating on what we do and safely doing it," Operational Specialist 2nd Class Jason Lewis, 30, from Dallas, said. "The moments of silence on the ship Wednesday took me back to that day a year ago in the Arabian Gulf. It's very strange being back home now and remembering where we were a year ago."
Lewis was in the ship's Combat Information Center monitoring the Aegis System on Sept. 11, 2001. He remembers everyone being anxious but calm going about his or her assigned tasks. Around the ship others were remembering the same anxiousness and calmness.
Gas Turbine Systems Technician 1st Class Ronald Wilkins found it interesting waking up Wednesday morning to the moments of silence thinking back to where he was a year ago on the ship in the gulf on a normal Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf deployment.
"It's interesting because on that day everything changed, for us on deployment, for our families back home and for nearly everyone around the world. If you think about it, this is our generations Pearl Harbor," the 31-year-old Orange County, Calif., native said. "I just saw that movie for the first time recently and it really hit me how Sailors and Americans must have felt in 1941. It has to be the same emotions we were feeling a year ago. I'll never forget it nor should anyone on board here."
For others on board John Paul Jones, the emotions were closer to home. A few members of the crew were born or grew up in the Manhattan area.
"I thought it was a joke when the captain came on the 1MC (ship's announcing system) to tell us about the attacks," said Fireman Eric Purvis, 23, from the Bronx, N.Y., whose mother-in-law worked on the 80th Floor but was late to work the day of the attacks and survived.
"When it happened, I was a wreck. All my family was right there and because of the attacks and an immediate raising of security concerns, emails and the Internet were shut down. I couldn't get through to anyone. After what seemed to be days but was only a few hours, we were allowed to email. But now we couldn't get through to New York because the lines were either busy or were knocked out in New York. It was nerve wracking," Purvis said.
For more news from USS John Paul Jones, go to their Web site at www.john-paul-jones.navy.mil.