Indy 500 Centennial Tour Journal 2
Day 3. USS Abraham Lincoln.
It's the end of day 3, I have no idea what day of the week it is, or what time it is!....Someone just told me it is 12:47am. We have a 5:45am wake up call so I will get about 4 hours of sleep tonight. That doesn't sound like much, but I will be DOUBLING my total sleep count since we left America from 3.5 hours to 7.5, so I couldn't be more appreciative. You may think I am exaggerating the lack of sleep, but honest to god, we're not lying. How are we not passed out on the floor, I hear you say? When you have had a day like we've had, sleep is for when you die. Today we were alive.
I am currently on the USS Abraham Lincoln, sailing somewhere in the Persian Gulf. First things first, let me tell you how we got here. After touching down in Bahrain after a 6-hour flight from Germany for a few minutes break, we switched onto a COD (carrier on-board delivery) aircraft. This comprises of about 26 seats, all facing backward. They face backward for a reason! To land a plane on an aircraft, the pilot will push the engines to full throttle moments before attempting to 'catch the cord'. The cord is what snatches onto the plane and brings to plane to a violent stop. When I say violent, I mean my eyeballs actually saw the inside cavity of my cranium as every organ in my body compressed to the size of a bag of M&M's. We were told about preparing to brace for landing. Nothing can prepare you for that experience. It's scary, intimidating, and insane, yet I would do it again in a heartbeat!
Once we disembarked from the aircraft, I got the feeling I was walking into a Hollywood set. I was greeted by an array of monster planes and crew guys straight from the set of the movie Top-Gun. We were quickly ushered down below to the greeting room where we had refreshments with the captain and admiral of the ship. It was apparent the captain was a keen hunter as he proudly displayed a 10-point buck he had recently shot while at home on the wall.
There was so much that went on today, I have no idea of where to begin as I write this. We clearly stepped into a place where the big toys are kept, and we met the people who proudly operate and run them. They were dying to show us what they did and how these toys work, which included over 115 different aircraft! In fact, the ship that we are on is the eighth largest Navy in the world-just this ship alone. Think about that!
We were shown where the jet engines are rebuilt, tested and re-installed. The ship is almost fully self-sufficient and a plane can almost be fully rebuilt all on ship. We were taken outside where we got to witness a jet engine go through its first cycle after a re-build. The guy gave the crew with the controls the signal to wind it up, and slowly the ground began to shake, the air began to vibrate, and then they turned on the after-burner. It was as if all of us stopped what we were doing and were transfixed by its sheer power, like deer in the headlights. One of the crew guys motioned me forward to touch the outside casing of the after burner. To my surprise, it was relatively cold!
We spent a lot of our time on the hangar deck, where they store all of the planes. Because of the change in shifts we spent 3 hours at a time to make sure we met sailors who work both the morning and night shifts. One common theme I can't get over is how appreciative and thankful the guys are to see us. We are the ones who should be thanking them. It's really starting to hit home how important this mission is to morale. Just by spending time with as many of the troops and sailors as we can, we hope to give them something to smile about and break up the ground-hog day effect of their deployment.
One of the cool things I got to do was challenge airmen and women to a race on Grand Turismo 5. They had set up a huge inflatable projectable screen on the hangar deck. Some of the guys were really hard to beat, but that's not saying a lot for someone who can't play video games. Many of the others were just having a blast hanging out and taking a break from the routine.
As I am sure you have seen on the videos on Indycar.com, today I lost nearly all of my hair. It was quite a hit with the guys and was all in good humor for two great causes. 'Coach' the ships barber did a great job and made the whole experience a whole lot less painful. I hope that you like my new look, but don't forget I still need you to donate!
I met so many fantastic people. There are a lot of unsung heroes, people you will never meet who are out here and are 'doing the business' in the Middle East and making the world a safer place. Did you know that there are over 4900 crew men and women who operate this ship and will be deployed at sea for over a year with no leave time. It's easy to see why the military creates a feeling of brotherhood. We have only been on this ship for 20 hours, yet they have already made us feel like family.
I suppose I had better sign out. It's now 1:20am and I have to be up for another full day at 5:45. Good night!
Speak to you later!
-source: martin plowman PR