Hawaii dean experiences life aboard USS Reagan

Release Date: July 7, 2008

HAWAII – Being aboard military sea vessels is not a new experience for Dr. Steven Reid, executive director and dean of the Wayland Baptist University campus in Hawaii. But his most recent experience aboard one of the U.S. Navy’s newest ships trumped them all.

Reid and a group of executives from Hawaii were invited to experience a few days aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier that Reid called “a floating city.” Home to more than 5,000 men and women who serve in the Navy, the ship was underway to Asia when Reid and the group joined them from the air.

“The G-force in landing and taking off was an incredible experience,” said Reid. “We were catapulted off the deck and went from 0 to 180 miles per hour in a little over two seconds.”

While on board, the visiting group got the grand tour of the vessel, which was constructed using 3-D computer modeling and other technology to make major improvements and advancements in manufacturing, design and efficiency. Christened in 2003 by former President Ronald Reagan’s wife, Nancy, the ship towers 20 stories above the waterline and is 1,092 feet long, with a 4.5-acre flight deck. It carries about 80 combat aircraft and can reach speeds of 30 knots.

Reid and his group toured flight control, radar, the maintenance bay, the catapult mechanism, storage areas, classrooms and the cafeteria as well as the on-board Ronald Reagan museum. The captain hosted a dinner for Reid’s group, and he got to spend a night in the Commander-in-Chief’s quarters. Watching other jets land and take off constantly throughout the day was the major attraction and captivated Reid and the other guests.

“I have a renewed appreciation of pilots now,” he said. “It was fascinating watching the precision of the pilots as they land their jets by dragging a hook to catch a relatively small cable on the flight deck.”

While at sea, the U.S.S. Reagan was engaged in war games, in which the carrier and an accompanying group of ships were being “hunted” by submarines and other ships as a drill leading up to PACRIM, an annual exercise involving military from eight Asian countries. The carrier actually ended up heading to Asia to replace another ship instead of participating in PACRIM, though they still drilled.

“We took evasive action as we also tried to hunt these ‘enemy,’” Reid said. “At one point, the carrier took an incredible right turn to avoid a sub, and even most of the seasoned sailors were surprised at the sharp degree of this turn.”

Another impressive part of the experience was visiting with the officers and sailors aboard the Reagan and seeing their excitement, pride and professionalism for the role they play on the carrier.

Reid said the Reagan’s size was breathtaking and getting lost aboard the massive carrier was definitely a possibility given the many decks and hallways. He said it should prove a formidable member of the Navy fleet.

“To see something this big in the ocean is impressive and would definitely be a daunting vision for any enemy,” Reid said.

While he admitted the trip was the opportunity of a lifetime, Reid said the takeoff and landing was an experience he’d just as soon pass up the next go round.

“The landing and takeoff was truly memorable yet frightening. It’s hard to describe what that amount of G-force does to a body,” he said. “The next time I’m invited aboard, I will wait until they are docked!”