The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz recently arrived in the Arabian Sea to support coalition forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. As one of two U.S. carriers in the region, it is a powerful symbol of America's military power and its ability to project air power anywhere in the world. VOA's Nazzy Belgari and Saman Arbabi were among the first journalists onboard the massive warship after its arrival in the region. They had a chance to see firsthand how this "floating city" operates inside and out. Jim Bertel narrates.
Flight operations on the USS Nimitz. Its four catapults on the flight deck hurl the ship's 90 aircraft into combat day and night. Within days of arriving on station in the Middle East the ship was launching missions to support ground troops in Afghanistan.
"Tonight we'll be in support of the guys that are actually going over the beach. So, no, it is not an exercise – it's a mission," one pilot told us.
The USS Nimitz is one of the largest warships in the world, stretching more than 330 meters in length and housing over 5,000 sailors and airmen.
It is often described as a floating city, with its own hospital, barber shops, post office and cafeterias that serve nearly 20,000 meals a day. And men are not the only ones on board.
"I do communications; my title is WISO, weapons systems officer,” said one female sailor.
But its number one purpose is launching warplanes into combat. Admiral John Terence Blake is the Commander of the Carrier Strike Group. “Our mission is two-fold. Our mission is security and stability," he said.
That mission doesn't always mean military action. Sometimes just the presence of a super carrier can persuade nations to resolve issues diplomatically. Senior administration officials concede that was part of the thinking when President Bush ordered a second carrier into the Gulf region late last year, saying it was part of an effort to gain some negotiating leverage over Iran. The U.S. and Iran have been at odds for months over Iran's nuclear aspirations.
Blake was asked about the U.S. strategy on Iran. "I would say that if you look at what our government and, in particular, what our State Department is doing, is we are working with the international community to resolve diplomatically the issues we currently have with Iran,” said the admiral. “And we are working through them. The idea is to solve the issues that are currently on the table from a diplomatic perspective."
While diplomacy continues, the crewmembers are hard at work, putting in long days to be ready for any mission they are called on to perform.