ABOARD USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- Vice Adm. Timothy Keating, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet, returned to USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) last week to thank the carrier and air wing Sailors for their efforts during their extended stay in the Arabian Gulf region.
Keating praised the crew for justifying the confidence he saw in them during an all-hands call exactly three weeks earlier. In that visit, he told Abe Sailors the confidence he saw was, in his words, "...a check I can cash."
Though the audience had an idea a show of force against the Iraq regime might be imminent, Keating simply said, "Be ready." Three weeks and thousands of sorties over Iraq later, Keating was pleased his confidence in Abe's crew was not unfounded.
"Last time I was out here, I was saying that something might be coming soon, and it did," Keating said. "I was bragging about you guys - I was writing some big-time checks. You backed me up; you cashed those checks."
As Abraham Lincoln made preparations to leave the Gulf, Keating reflected on Abe Sailors' hand in history.
"What you have done is unprecedented in the history of the Navy," Keating said. "The best Navy in the world ... that's us. But the best job by a battle group in the history of the navies of the world ... that's you."
Keating also said when historians look back on Operation Iraqi Freedom, they will find the Abraham Lincoln Battle Group at the top of the list of those who helped make it effective and successful. In his praise, he also cautioned Sailors to remain vigilant when it comes to safety issues.
"Don't get cautious to the point of being timid," Keating said. "But be careful and aggressive about safety issues on your way home. Get home in one piece, and get home safely so you can reunite joyously with your families."
Keating was also a messenger of "thanks" for the determination of Abe Sailors during their extended deployment.
"I met with the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) yesterday morning," Keating said, "and I had breakfast with Gen. Tommy Franks this morning. I told them I was coming out here to visit the men and women of the 'good ship' Lincoln. When I told them that, they both had one identical response. They said 'go out there and thank each and every one of them for us.'"
Though Operation Iraqi Freedom will continue without the Sailors of the Abraham Lincoln Battle Group, Abe Sailors know when their commander instructed them to "Be ready," they complied, and when the checks their commander spoke of were cashed, they were paid in full.
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