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USS Carl Vinson Comes Home To San Diego

Aired 6/15/11 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Today is the homecoming for the USS Carl Vinson. The aircraft carrier is returning home after a historic seven-month deployment that included the at-sea burial of Osama bin Laden and air support for the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. We speak to KPBS Military Blogger Beth Ford Roth about the return of the Vinson.

USS Carl Vinson
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Above: USS Carl Vinson

Today is the homecoming for the USS Carl Vinson. The aircraft carrier is returning home after a historic seven-month deployment that included the at-sea burial of Osama bin Laden and air support for the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. We speak to KPBS Military Blogger Beth Ford Roth about the return of the Vinson.

Guest

Beth Ford Roth, KPBS Military Blogger. You can read her posts at homepost.kpbs.org

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Joining me to talk about the return of the aircraft carrier is my guest KPBS military blogger Beth Ford Roth. Hi, Beth,

BETH FORD ROTH: Hi, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And why was the USS Carl Vinson the ship to receive bin Laden's body?

BETH FORD ROTH: I think it was a case of geography actually. The Vinson was doing its operations in the area of the North Arabian Sea and I think it was an issue of proximity.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Remind us how and where bin Laden's body was disposed.

BETH FORD ROTH: It was disposed off the deck of the Vinson and as we learn the correct religious rights took place before hand. His body was washed, wrapped in a white sheet, placed in a weighted bag, one of the Vinson's officers read the appropriate religious remarks and then they placed him on a board, taped up the board and bin Laden slid into the sea.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do we know where at sea?

BETH FORD ROTH: We don't know. Apparently there's a man in Fallbrook who plans to go scuba dive and find him but they keep that quite a secret.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This deployment and the ship will always be remembered for this event. What has the captain said about bin Laden's burial?

BETH FORD ROTH: Not much and I think that goes with the whole appropriateness of keeping everything secret for the safety of the crew and Americans in general. When the commanding officer spoke with reporters this week from the Vinson he really wouldn't comment on it except to say that he's made it a point to urge his crewmembers to stay safe.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There is concern about possible reprisals aimed at the crew because of their participation being on board a ship that deposited bin Laden in his final resting place at sea, why is there concern?

BETH FORD ROTH: I would imagine fear of reprisal. This is the final place where bin Laden was and a terrorist group may want to avenge his death and that this would be sort of an ideal target I would imagine. So a lot of family members when they spoke to reporters when the Vinson stopped in Hawaii expressed concern when they learned it was the Vinson that was responsible for the burial at sea.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So what message is Vinson Capt. Bruce Lindsay, captain Lindsay giving the crew to keep them safe?

BETH FORD ROTH: Basically to remember what they learned while on the ship. Remember your surroundings and do not take anything for granted. Stay safe and make sure you know what's going on around you at all times.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's talk a little bit about the aircraft carrier itself and the total deployment. How long has the ship been away from San Diego?

BETH FORD ROTH: Almost 7 months. It left San Diego November 30, 2010.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And what other missions besides this most famous one did the ship participate in?

BETH FORD ROTH: Vinson conducted military exercises with different countries like Great Britain, France Japan and South Korea and the ship also took part in community service projects in different areas like the UAE, Hong Kong, the Philippines. So they did other things besides participate in this most famous burial.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now was this considered particularly long deployment for the Carl Vinson?

BETH FORD ROTH: Think it depends on how much time they spend at sea. They were gone for 191 days and 171 days were at sea, not at port or on land. So it's a long time to be out in the ocean I would imagine.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Was that partially at least for security reasons?

BETH FORD ROTH: I believe so. They had sort of a different mission thrust upon them and different security measures I would imagine are sort of put in place to protect them after that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now I read that because they were on board the ship and not being able to sail into many ports they got some special visitors and entertainment.

BETH FORD ROTH: I don't know if you want to say special I mean perhaps we've been told the Green Bay Packers visited the ship, the Padres visited the ship and the comedian Gallagher I don't know if we all remember him, he is famous for his watermelon smashing but I guess if you are at sea for a long time anyone who would come and visit you you would appreciate that, not to knock Gallagher at all.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Not indeed. He made the long trip and they got some special refreshment days as well?

BETH FORD ROTH: They were able to enjoy two beers as I understand it they were able to swim off the stern talk which isn't I don't think a normal thing but I think the commanding officer realized they were at sea for so long they need a little bit of refreshment.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see, they actually got to swim in the ocean.

BETH FORD ROTH: There are pictures that the military released of some sort of playing around like young kids having a good time.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's interesting. Tell us what you know about people who serve on the Vinson.

BETH FORD ROTH: There are about 5500 crewmembers. There are sailors and Marines and as we heard in the intro this is, a lot of them have been in the military so long that they are used to this kind of deployment where they are missing a half year in a small child's life or their spouse's life. So it takes a very I think committed kind of person to participate in that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now as we also heard in the intro one of the people that was interviewed at the 32nd St., Naval base today said that her young child and her father or her father-in-law were also on board the ship. A lot of people were picked up in Hawaii, right?

BETH FORD ROTH: It was part of something called the tiger cruise where a crew member could pick a family member and it had to be okay by the higher-ups, to spend time with them on the ship. It could be a come I don't believe it could be a spouse, but a parent or a child just sort of to experience what their family member experienced as a crew member. So they were on the ship for about five days or so. So coming into port it wasn't just the crew but I think you had about 1000 family members on board as well as part of the tiger cruise.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Whenever a home ported ship and aircraft carrier like this, Maj. Maj. ship returns to San Diego we always hear that it is a boost for the San Diego economy. To really many many of the crewmembers of the Vinson actually live here in San Diego.

BETH FORD ROTH: I've read that they live all over the country but what is interesting is that he didn't give specifics but the commanding officer did say that they were not going to be important very long. But they would be heading out back again very soon and begin getting specifics as is the case oftentimes not wanting to give away too much information but I would imagine a lot of them are staying close in the commanding officer left a note on Facebook letting everyone know of the holidays coming up that they could enjoy. Fourth of July, Labor Day so we know that they will be around for at least that long.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And I suppose that not many of the ship's crew going to be speaking to the media about this. Have they been warned them not to?

BETH FORD ROTH: I've heard they been warned not to indifferent reporters checking out different TV stations this morning when I actually ask what's going on with Osama bin Laden what did you think there was a habit you feel about this particular mission, how proud were you, sort of skirting the issue because I would imagine if you're a family member, you do not want to give out your name and say this is my husband, he was aboard the Vinson when Osama bin Laden was buried at sea. So it's a matter of keeping everyone safe.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As I said a unique deployment for the USS Carl Vinson. I've been speaking with Beth Ford Roth, KPBS military blogger. You can read her blog at homepost@KPBS.org. Thank you Beth.

BETH FORD ROTH: My pleasure.

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