Preserving the Legend of USS Enterprise
"We Are Legend." USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Sailors have undoubtedly grown accustomed to hearing the words comprising the motto of the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier during their time aboard the ship.
After completing 25 deployments and more than five decades of active duty naval service, the ship's legend speaks for itself, and as the life of the eighth ship to bear the name Enterprise winds to an end, the thousands of Sailors comprising that legend now begin to reflect upon and understand in their own ways what that all-too-familiar motto truly means to them.
To help ensure Enterprise's legend lives on long after her decommissioning, one of the ship's final culminating projects has called for an all-hands effort to help capture the history, tradition and legacy of Enterprise and preserve them all for generations to come in the form of a CVN-65 time capsule.
The capsule, measuring in at a length of three feet, width of two feet and height of one foot, will both house and feature a wide variety of functional and decorative items designed to showcase as many facets of the legendary carrier as possible for future Sailors to view.
"It can kind of be intimidating [to be involved with the capsule project] because you have 51 years of history behind you that you're trying to put into a capsule that will be the only thing carried on to the next Enterprise," said Intelligence Specialist 1st Class (SW/IDW/AW) Jillian Cardoza, capsule project coordinator. "We want to make sure this sense of pride and history is something we don't let go down with the ship."
All hands assigned to Enterprise and its plank-owners have been invited to add a small item of personal significance in relation to his or her own experience on the ship to the capsule upon its completion. The capsule will then be sealed and presented to the Secretary of the Navy at the ship's inactivation ceremony scheduled for December 1.
Items being added to the capsule include flags, coins, patches, tools, record logs, uniform items, photos and other various artifacts from around the ship. Enterprise's Commanding Officer (CO), Capt. William C. Hamilton, Jr., will also have a special compartment in the capsule in which he can keep personal items locked away for a future CO to rediscover.
Enterprise Sailors have also been encouraged to write letters to future Sailors to paint a picture of what life aboard CVN-65 was like during their time of service.
"I want it to be something people put a lot of effort into," said Cardoza. "My letter isn't going to be all rainbows and butterflies, you know? There are some parts in there that are the trials and tribulations of being in the Navy in the year 2012 and serving on back-to-back deployments."
Cardoza also said that her letter, which she's addressing to the next Enterprise intelligence leading petty officer, is meant to be a source of advice and encouragement to future Sailors down the road.
The capsule itself will be constructed primarily of aluminum with glass viewing panels in wooden frames and many customized items from around the ship incorporated in the functionality of the design to give it a purely 'Enterprise' feel. The capsule will also include seals and modified door handles from the ship that will allow it to be 'dogged down' in order to make it airtight and waterproof to withstand the test of time and the elements.
The brunt of this task has been placed on a team of five hull maintenance technicians assigned to Enterprise's Repair Division, which accepted the challenge to design and construct the time capsule from scratch within a roughly two-month time frame.
"We want to make [the capsule] look good with craftsmanship and attention to detail," said Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class (SW) Mark Hamilton, Repair Division leading petty officer. "It's kind of neat to see [the team] take a hold of it and put their own ideas toward it."
Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 1st Class (AW/SW) James C. Rothrock, Enterprise's arresting gear leading petty officer, donated sections of arresting cables from the Big 'E' flight deck to use as handles on the sides of the capsule.
"[Arresting gear] is a major part of the ship, and one of the major roles of the ship is to launch and recover aircraft," said Rothrock. "We're probably not going to have these systems after a while, so putting a piece of that in [the capsule] will show people what we used to use and how things were in the days of old."
"I was happy to be able to be a part of [the capsule project] - putting a piece of what I thought was important in there," Rothrock added. "[Arresting gear] is one of the few tangible things you can actually put in there and say 'this is what we did.'"
Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 1st Class (AW/SW) Jay Brambrink, Enterprise's V-2 maintenance support leading petty officer, was requested to craft one of his own signature creations for the capsule - a miniature model of the Big 'E' flight deck made from a section of a jet blast deflector.
"It's a lot of work cutting, grinding, sanding, grit blasting, painting - it takes a lot of time," said Brambrink. "It's kind of cool, you know, it's going to be there for a long time. It's a legacy thing. Maybe some day my kids will come and see [the capsule] and be like 'Hey! My dad made that'. Maybe they'll be on the next Enterprise - you never know."
Like any great undertaking, building the capsule has presented its challenges, but its construction team has persisted to overcome all obstacles in their way to ensure they can achieve their original vision for the historic project.
It's been a bit of a challenge because it's made of aluminum," said Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class Timothy N. Albiniano, the construction team's lead welder. "I've had to come up with and fabricate things that I never thought were going to be possible, then just sit down and hope it all comes together - it's very complex."
"I do feel like I've put a lot of myself into [the capsule]," added Albiniano. "I've put in a lot of time and effort and a lot of care. I don't want to just throw this together and hand it off as just another job - I want it to be perfect. This ship was the first of its kind and this time capsule will definitely be one of a kind."
Cardoza said it is her hope that the capsule will be opened at the commissioning ceremony for the ninth Enterprise, though no future U.S. Navy ship has yet to formally inherit that name or its legacy dating back to 1775. For now, the Enterprise time capsule will serve to bridge the gap between CVN-65 and the future.
"When the capsule is opened, whether it be 50 years or 100 years from now, I'm really hoping that the Sailors who open it sense the pride that we put into it," said Cardoza. "I hope when they open it they understand the history of the word 'Enterprise' and how long that's been going on and that they're continuing that word."
"I hope to be around when they open it," said Albiniano. "I'll probably be nervous to see what people 50 years or so from now think about it, and by then I'll probably forget what's in there, so it'll be interesting to see what comes out and to see how much we've all progressed."
Regardless of what future Enterprise Sailors think about the time capsule, it's been a project that has made present-day Sailors aboard Big 'E' proud to play their part.
"Being part of something like [the capsule project] is an amazing feeling and to be able to share that with my guys...we'll always have that, no matter where we go next," said Hamilton. "I guess it's what we all try to do in life - leave something behind."