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San Diego-Bound USS Lincoln On Last Leg Of Record-Breaking Deployment

Sailors partake in a foreign object and debris (FOD) walk-down on the flight ...

Credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class Garrett LaBarge / US Navy

Above: Sailors partake in a foreign object and debris (FOD) walk-down on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 19, 2019.

The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln is on its way to San Diego, after leaving Hawaii.

The Lincoln left Norfolk, Virginia on April 1. The carrier was supposed to go around the globe and arrive at its new home port of San Diego by Halloween. But on May 5, then-National Security Advisor John Bolton announced the Lincoln would be directed to the Middle East to counter an unspecified threat from Iran. The Lincoln stayed in the Gulf after electrical problems kept the carrier USS Harry S. Truman in Norfolk.

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The Lincoln was delayed four times, which made life tough on families, who had to decide when to move cross-country to the carrier’s new home port of San Diego, said Gina Swain, command ombudsman USS Lincoln. She is married to a sailor on board the Lincoln and works with Lincoln families.

“We’re the ones who have to tell the families,” she said. “Hey, it’s unfortunate. Your sailor is not coming home. And it is hard to deal with that.”

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Swain said their 5-year-old son had the most difficult time with the long deployment.

“My son, he didn’t take it well, that his dad wasn’t here for Halloween or for any of the holidays,” she said. “My husband has missed all of our birthdays. All of the holidays, Fourth of July, the start of kindergarten for our son. My son is very smart so that benefited him. He understands daddy is in the Navy. Daddy has a job to do.”

Complicating the move, the Navy's Basic Allowance for Housing stipend compensates for pricey San Diego, but families normally don’t receive the money until the carrier docks in its new home port.

“It’s not easy moving without your sailor,” Swain said. “Especially when you have children, whether they are older or younger, even an animal. It’s hard to do that.”

Eventually, the captain of the Lincoln was able to arrange to release the larger amount of the stipend, so families weren’t left to negotiate with landlords, she said.

Under the rules laid out by the Trump administration, the Pentagon provides limited information, even about large-scale operations, like the movement of a carrier group. The carrier is still days away from reaching San Diego, though a handful of families have had an early reunion.

Renee Anderson’s husband, Kyle, touched down at North Island late last week. They were married a month when Kyle deployed. Some of their furniture was damaged by a flood while waiting in storage.

“I would stress about stuff and he would tell me, don’t worry about it,” said Renee Anderson, who is also a command ombudsman for families of sailors on board the USS Lincoln.

After 10 months at sea, the Lincoln has now left Hawaii. The rest of the more than 2,000 sailors on board the carrier, along with those still left from the carrier’s air wing, are expected to arrive in San Diego sometime in the next two weeks.

“I’m sure they’ll be overwhelmed with emotions, as I was,” Renee Anderson said. “When I saw him get off that plane. He’s here. He’s not in my phone anymore.”

The Lincoln will break its own record Thursday for the longest deployment by a U.S. carrier since the Vietnam War, at 290 days.

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Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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