A ceremony honoring the 20th anniversary of the commissioning of the Norfolk-based aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (TR) (CVN 71) took place in the ship’s hangar bay Oct. 25.
Several distinguished guests who have played an important role in the life of the ship were on hand for the occasion.
“Twenty years of service … think about that for a minute,” said TR Commanding Officer, Capt. J. R. Haley, who took command June 9, 2005. “The median age of the crew on this ship is 19. That means that on average, a good portion of this ship’s crew was not even born when she entered service.”
A significant moment for the more than 3,000 TR crew members on hand came when TR’s first commanding officer took to the podium to deliver a brief message with high impact.
Retired Rear Adm. Wick Parcells first turned to Haley and asked the captain for permission to speak directly to the crew.
“Now I’m going to be brief, so listen up!” Parcells said. “Way back then, they always talked about battery of a ship. They said for an aircraft carrier, the battery was the aircraft. Well I’m here to tell ya, they’re wrong. They were wrong then and they’re wrong now.
“The battery of this ship is you. It’s the crew. This ship would do nothing on its own if it wasn’t for you," he said. "You bring this ship to life.”
Parcells concluded his short time at the podium with three cheers for “the man,” as he referred to President Theodore Roosevelt, and three cheers for “the ship,” and its crew.
Haley also asked Barbara Lehman to join him at the podium. Oct. 27, 1984, Lehman, wife of former Navy Secretary John
F. Lehman, christened TR. The ship was commissioned about two years later, Oct. 25, 1986, officially becoming a part of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet and the Navy’s fourth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier
A cake-cutting reception immediately followed the ceremony. TR’s oldest and youngest Sailors, Lt. Cmdr. (chaplain) Donald Moss and Airman Andrew Bryan, respectively, made the traditional first cuts.
The ship’s maiden voyage began Dec. 30, 1988, and more than 17 years later, March 11, 2006, TR returned from its 10th scheduled deployment. In that span, the “Big Stick” participated in every major U.S. conflict, in operations ranging from Provide Promise and Deny Flight to Southern Watch and Desert Storm. TR was also the first carrier to deploy in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The lifespan of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is estimated to last 50 years with a refueling scheduled at the 25-year-mark. TR has more sea time before it gets that rest at the midway point and begins another quarter-century of leading the fleet and maintaining its presence as a key element in the U.S. forward-deployed defense strategy.
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Mark A. Catalano, USS Theodore Roosevelt Public