USS Abraham Lincoln


By Peter de Silva & Esteban Villanueva


Today, yesterday, tomorrow and every day after that, the men and women of the U.S. Navy are protecting us, our country and our freedoms. What we might not see or be aware of is a never-ending dedication to keeping us safe.

The centerpiece of America’s Naval forces is the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier measuring 1,100 feet in length, weighing over 100,000 tons, carrying 3,000,000 gallons of jet fuel, carrying 90 jets and helicopters and home to 5,400 sailors. The scale of one ship is difficult to grasp- twice the size of carriers seen as shoreside museums – but even more impressive is the fact that the United States has 11 nuclear-powered carriers positioned around the globe, able to protect, defend or attack on a moment’s notice. The carriers can bring the might of the US military to anywhere in the world.

We were invited to be part of the Navy’s Distinguished Visitor program thanks to a recommendation by the San Diego Air & Space Museum. We were flown to the ship on a Sikorsky CH-53 helicopter – the rear loading ramp was left open, immediately setting the tone for the next 30 hours. This was no pleasure cruise; we were visiting an active Naval Warship undergoing training one hundred miles off the coast.

Upon landing on the flight deck, we were surrounded by F18, stealth F35, radar planes, helicopters and the hundreds of dedicated crewmembers that keep them in operation. And that is no small task- everyone on the ship has the same goal, to get the planes in the air – and they can launch one every thirty seconds, twenty-four hours a day if needed.

Watching these jets take off at full afterburner from just a few feet away is a bone-rumbling, 140-decibel experience that is incomparable to anything in the civilian world. To see them take off with jet engines flaming pales only to seeing them land at night, in the dark, in rough seas.

Whether working in the kitchen, the flight deck, the hospital, or rebuilding a jet engine, every crew member is laser focused on their task and does so with dedication and honor. These are the brightest, bravest and hardest-working young men and women in our country – all either dedicating their careers to the military or spending several years in service before moving on to careers in the private sector with the skills and talents they have acquired. The average age on board is 20 and with all the exercise and hard work, everyone is incredibly fit!

What truly surprised us was the warmth, politeness and openness of every person we encountered on the ship – from Rear Admiral Kevin Lenox, Commanding Officer Captain Pete Riebe, Big XO Captain Damon Loveless and Command Master Chief Robert Stumm to the men and women who sat at dinner with us or helped guide us through the miles of passageways, stairwells and “knee knockers” throughout the ship.

The Distinguished Visitor experience left us with an appreciation and respect for our true military heroes, the men and women aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and serving in all the branches of our military.