End Of An Era of the Day: Just over half a century since she was christened the eighth US naval vessel to bear the name "Enterprise," the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is setting sail for the last time.
In addition to being the only one in her class, the so-called "Big E" is also the longest and oldest aircraft carrier currently in operation. That has presented many a problem for the warship's 4,000-strong crew, who are often forced to resort to makeshift solutions in order to keep the old girl going.
"It's kind of like when you get older and you know it's harder to get out of the bed in the morning," explains commanding officer Capt. William Hamilton. "It takes you a couple hours to kind of really get up and then you're fine. Well, it's the same sort of thing here with Enterprise."
The USS Enterprise was originally slated to be decommissioned 25 years ago, but a ship-wide overhaul in 1979 gave the warship a second wind that lasted another 25 years.
She will eventually be put out to pasture in December, but before then, she's headed to the Middle East for a seven-month stint during which she'll be charged with providing support should tensions with Iran boil over.
When she returns home later this year, the Enterprise will receive a proper sendoff from the President, and then shipped to Newport News, where her nuclear fuel will be removed. Afterwards, it'll be on to Washington state, where the rest of the ship will be scrapped.
There will be no floating museum: The process of removing the nuclear fuel would require repairs too costly to make.
Past and present crew members, however, don't need a storage space for their memories. "Life is hard on Enterprise," said Capt. Hamilton. "But when they leave here, they leave knowing if they can do this, they can do anything."
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