24 Hours Aboard the USS Wasp
EDITOR’S NOTE: I am delighted to welcome as a guest columnist Kenneth G. Kraetzer, vice president, CBSI, a credit card marketing services firm in Harrison, N.Y., and a member of the Sons of the American Legion Post 50, Pelham, N.Y.
Suddenly the Navy is getting a lot of respect. President Bush startled the media, the military, and all of us by choosing Admiral William Fallon to replace General John Abazaid as head of Central Command in charge of the land war in Iraq. Now Admiral Mike Mullen has been picked to replace Marine General Peter Pace as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Navy is the only service that projects American power by sending huge floating, fighting cities around the world.
As part of New York City Fleet Week, the Navy provided several members of the American Legion an opportunity—called an Embarkation—to spend a night aboard one of these floating cities to experience the life of its officers and crew.
Spending time visiting a U.S. warship while at sea provides a view of impressive equipment, but more importantly proud and capable people. This was an unforgettable experience.
Our trip began at a heliport in lower Manhattan for a flight to the USS Wasp (LHD-1), an amphibious assault ship built by the Ingalls Shipbuilding division of Litton in Pascagoula, Miss. She can take up to 2,000 Marines and all their equipment wherever in the world they are needed. We were asked to don orange “dry suits,” helmets and goggles for a 30-minute Navy helicopter flight to the ship, which had sailed from its home port of Norfolk, Va. We landed directly across from the ship’s superstructure and walked back under the helicopter blades to the hatch leading to the interior. There we were welcomed aboard by the very outgoing executive officer, Captain Daniel H. Fillion, who wore a bright yellow shirt with the letters XO on the back to identify him on the deck. The staterooms to which we were assigned were outfitted with double bunk beds, lots of pipes running across the ceiling, and a gas mask dispenser. It was great, just like being back in a college dorm.