A Trip to be Remembered
As far as school trips go, this one was pretty special. A small group of Year 7 students were invited on board the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower for a tour of its facilities whilst the aircraft carrier was moored in Bahrain for restocking and to allow the crew R&R. With places on the trip limited to just ten students, names were drawn out of a hat to determine the lucky few. Security was very tight at Prince Al Khalifa port as you could imagine, and we waited for over an hour to be granted clearance to board the enormous vessel. The armed Navy Officers entertained the students as they waited in security by talking to them about the weaponry on board. But it was the machine guns in the soldiers hands that our students were more interested in. Once on board we were allowed on to the flight deck to wander around the millions and millions of dollars worth of aircraft that was on show. There was a very poignant and solemn moment when one of our students asked where the aircraft carrier was heading to next and for what reason. The soldiers could not tell us for security reasons, and, as our students put two and two together, there was a stark moment of realisation that this machine was heading off to an obvious area of conflict in the region. Never before have current affairs become so immediate in the eyes of these students. We were treated exceptionally well by the US Navy and the girls in particular were really motivated by the fact that so many women were on board as engineers, electricians and pilots. Amelie Winwood was one of those students and it prompted her to write the following report:
On 2 Wednesday, a small number of Year 7 students and Mr O’Dowd, Head of Year 7, were invited aboard the USS Dwight Eisenhower, named after one of America’s presidents. What a jaw-dropping sight she is! At over 1,300 feet long, she holds over 5,000 navy crew members and can achieve a top speed of more than 30 knots. We were met on board by a crew member who introduced us to our tour guides, Stellama and Maynard. Despite the taking of photos usually being prohibited for security purposes, an exception was made for this occasion, much to our delight! Our tour began with us excitedly being taken up several flights of stairs (she’s a tall vessel) and along narrow corridors. It certainly felt very maze-like. We exited onto the main deck where all the fighter jets are stationed. This was jet heaven! All of the jets can take off from an almost vertical position, which is essential given the short length of the landing strip. There are other aircraft on board, which cannot do this. Next, we viewed the towering crane which is used to move the jets. During our visit, we learned many fascinating facts. For example, she cost a few billion dollars to build, and she is always followed and surrounded by two other ships, both destroyers like her, only not as big. We were also told that the Captain was a qualified jet pilot and his name was Captain Spedaro. For short he is called Captain Speedy, and this nickname is written on his plane. As our visit drew to a close, we said a big ‘Thank you’ and were allowed to take a few pictures. It was an exciting and different experience and I am very grateful to Tony Green for arranging the trip and to the crew of the USS D.Eisenhower for allowing us on board.