After 7 years in Norfolk, the USS Abraham Lincoln leaves for deployment and a new home
Debbie Doig yelled up at her grandson as he lingered on the stern of the USS Abraham Lincoln, waiting to man the rails.
“You’re too close to the edge,” Doig hollered to Airman Daylan Doig, who waved back at his family gathered Monday at Naval Station Norfolk to see him off on his first deployment.
The aircraft carrier was still tied up at Pier 14 , but not for much longer. Lincoln arrived in Hampton Roads in 2012 for its mid-life refueling and overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding. During that four year period, which began in 2013, the carrier became the first in the Nimitz class capable of accommodating the Navy’s F-35C Lightning II aircraft. The ship has spent much of the last two years working up to this deployment, which will end with a homeport shift to San Diego.
“We’re doing the maiden deployment of the second half of the ship’s life,” said Capt. Putnam Browne, the commanding officer of the Lincoln.
The Navy won’t say exactly what the ship’s route will be be, only that it’s expected to circumnavigate the globe.
The service has recently switched up how it deploys as part of a plan to make itself less predictable. The Norfolk-based USS Harry S. Truman became the first aircraft carrier to fall under that plan when it deployed in April 2018 only to return that July for a five-week surprise working port visit before leaving again. While East Coast carriers have typically sailed across the Atlantic and through the Mediterranean Sea on the way to the Persian Gulf, that second half of Truman’s deployment notched another highlight when the carrier became the first in nearly three decades to enter the Arctic Circle, where it joined a NATO exercise.
Whether an Arctic visit is on Lincoln’s to-do list Browne couldn’t say.
“I hope that we’re going to do some interesting things and I expect that this will be a very interesting deployment,” Browne said.
The Lincoln strike group includes the embarked Carrier Air Wing 7, guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and guided-missile destroyers USS Bainbridge, USS Mason and USS Nitze. The guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzales left the naval station in March to perform ballistic missile defense and other missions. Spanish frigate ESPS Mendez Nunez will also join the Lincoln and stay with the strike group until October, the Spanish Navy said.
As many as 60 to 70 percent of the Lincoln’s sailors were deploying for the first time, Command Master Chief Jim Stedding said. The thought of an around-the-world cruise is exciting for many of those young sailors, Stedding said. With nearly 26 years of service and multiple deployments behind him, this global tour also marks a first for Stedding.
“Even I’m excited, not knowing what to expect once we get on the further end of the deployment,” he said.
Amanda Almanza, of San Antonio, Texas, shared in that excitement. Her son, Airman Xavier Garcia, grew up a fan of the movie “Top Gun” and watched it “over and over,” she said. Almanza said her son packed his San Antonio Spurs clothes and a pair of cowboy boots in his sea bag.
“He brought Texas to the ship,” she said.
With Lincoln’s homeport changing, some Navy families have already left Hampton Roads for the West Coast. Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Carlos works in the Lincoln’s dental department and has been with the ship since 2017. The ship’s move will mean a homecoming for him.
“I’m pretty excited about that since my family’s all over there, all in California,” Carlos said.
Nicole Salinas waited with her three children to see the ship, and her husband, Petty Officer 1st Class Jacob Salinas, off. With two of her children attending schools in Hampton Roads, the family decided to wait until summer to make the cross-country move.
“It’s a new adventure out there, on that side,” Salinas said. “We’ve been on the East Coast 10, 11 years.”
She didn’t have to wait to make new Navy friends. Jaime Gallardo and his girlfriend, Tracy Cabanas, traveled from outside San Diego to see off Cabanas’ daughter, Kiana, a seaman. While they chatted, Salinas, Gallardo and Cabanas learned their sailors all work as operations specialists.
“That’s the best thing about it, all these new friends, new family members,” Salinas said.
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