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USS Theodore Roosevelt Comes To San Diego

The USS Theodore Roosevelt arrives in San Diego, Nov. 23, 2015.
Steve Walsh
The USS Theodore Roosevelt arrives in San Diego, Nov. 23, 2015.
USS Theodore Roosevelt Comes To San Diego
Marcus and Alexis Plair kiss after Marcus leaves the USS Theodore Roosevelt after a deployment which began in March, Nov. 23, 2015.
Steve Walsh
Marcus and Alexis Plair kiss after Marcus leaves the USS Theodore Roosevelt after a deployment which began in March, Nov. 23, 2015.

USS Theodore Roosevelt Comes To San Diego
GUESTS:Navy Capt. Benjamin Hewlett, air wing commander, Carrier Air Wing 1

The USS Roosevelt aircraft carrier arrived and homeport San Diego today after supporting the US-led air mission against ISIS. The trend of Mexican emigration has reversed according to a new research study. People here the reasons why more immigrants are returning home and coming -- been coming to the US. And, after comedian Maz Jobrani talks about his American childhood, and why he's a Dutch decided to stop playing terrorists. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Yes Midday Edition is next. First, the news. Belgium's capital will remain under the countries highest alert level, at least until the morning because of credible threats against residents. Charles Michelle described the states is potentially imminent. Brussels Metrorail and school systems both of which were closed today, are scheduled to reopen on Wednesday. Earlier today, Belgian police conducted more rates and their search for suspects connected to the Paris attacks on November 13. Local authorities have charged at least one person with terrorism related offenses in Belgium, however, the majority of the people detained since yesterday have been released. With ice of clinical response ability for the attacks in Paris as well as others in Lebanon, Turkey, and against a Russian airliner over recent -- region recently. The ticket place on multiple fronts the fate. Russian president to discuss the matter during a visit to Iran. While the United -- Emirates John Kerry prospects for a larger global response. And purse, Lauren [ Indiscernible ] reports that the French president discussed anti-ice a strategy visiting David Cameron. The two leaders laid flowers outside of any back, the concert hall were scores were killed. United Kingdom adult all to support all are allied France to defeat the evil death camps. Timmarie told them that it must do more to attack more from ISIS territory. He called for external union borders, and for data sharing among member states, including airline passenger lists. He offered France the use of a British airbase in Cyprus and said that he left the UK Parliament to prepare sexy in ISIS Pierce Cameron ended his speech in French. [ Indiscernible ] We are in solidarity with you. For NPR news, I am any back to Paris. Pfizer and elegant have agreed to merge. The deal would create the world's biggest pharmaceutical company. NPR's Jim [ Indiscernible ] allows it to slash tax bill. The $160 million merger with United is unanimously approved the boards. Is the biggest example of a corporate inversion. Although Allergan is a smaller company, it will technically by Pfizer and shift the company to its domicile of Maryland for taxes are lower. As a result, Pfizer will no longer have to paint US corporate taxes on this global income. But in most other ways, it will remain the same company. Keeping the same name, the same CEO, and even the same stock ticker symbol. The deal comes several days after the Treasury Department proposed rules to make inversions tougher to pull off. But critics say congressional action is also needed to stop them. Jim's early, NPR news New York. Was down 47 points 17,777. This is impurities. The Navy air wing commander for the USS Theodore Roosevelt tells us what air support in the fight against ISIS really means. In the new study on immigration from Mexico finds the numbers are not only going down, they are reversing. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am Maureen Cavanaugh. It is Monday, November 23. Today we start this show the sad news that there are only three northern white rhinos left in the world. Nola, the San Diego zoo's beloved white rhino died at the Safari Park on Sunday. Wickes Schwartz a global ambassador for the San Diego zoo joins me now and Rick, welcome to the show. Make you for having us. I do wish it was under better terms. & 41 years old. Is that elderly for northern white rhino? Yes, it is. On average, they look into there 30s. Anything beyond the late 30s is a blessing every day and the fact that she did so well into her forest makes us very happy. Why with the decision made to euthanize her on Sunday? She had been fighting an ongoing bacterial infection along with a wide variety of things that you see in anybody that is becoming elderly. Certain parts of the body just want functioning properly. Like the influence was her age, and her inability to deal with the infection that was deep into her pelvis. Our vet staff have done amazing pork on -- work on an animal for HIV months ago to try and track down this infection and take care of it. She seemed to be improving, but then started to slide down again. Stuff decision, but clear that the best choice at this time was to go ahead and say goodbyes and euthanize her. Was she in pain? They had her on medication. To look at her, it was hard to say. Animals in general, we usually mask pain because Bishop in the wild, it makes your target for predators. To be able to say if she was or will not, it was hard to say. She was being treated for a wide variety of things to make sure that she was comfortable. It was clear that Nola was deeply loved the San Diego zoo. What made her so endearing? I consider myself that the First Amendment are, I was enamored by how gentle she was, and how connected she was with her keepers and vice-versa. Having been a keeper for several decades myself, I know that connection. Anyone and has a dog or cat, knows the connection that you have. They are family. And to see how she was so good with her keepers made her very special. On the other side, you mentioned at the opening, she was one of four of her kind left him a planet. Now there's only three. On social media, we are getting a massive outpouring of support and condolences from people have seen her just on one of our tools or had met her once before at the park. Now, the meeting getting messages from people who haven't seen her, but know the significance of her passing. It is very impressive to see how much she meant to the world. It's not just us or our members, but the support on social media shows us that it is global. As you mentioned, this is a big loss for the world. Where are the three remaining white rhinos, and how are they doing? They are doing all right. I was lucky enough to spend time with them back in October in Kenya. They under this they are in a protected area called [ Indiscernible ]. They are behind a fence near armed guards, and there are guard dogs. That is important because right now, rhino horn on the black market is valued to heroin and pound. It is a lot of money to someone if they were able to sell a rhino horn. These animals need to be protected. The need to be an accredited zoos, or need to be behind fences in Africa. That is a sad reality of it. Have spoken about the possible extension of the northern white rhino before, because the three remaining rhinos are passed their prime and they will not be able to reproduce. How was the San Diego zoo involved in trying to save the species? First and foremost, it needs to be understood that this is not something that can be done alone. There working closely with agencies in Africa and our own zoos and our own scientists here. Right now, we're utilizing sites that will allow us to create embryos of the northern white rhinos. That said, we have 12 individuals represented in our frozen zoo that -- of white rhino's that have passed away. The of cells for many species around the world and have been collecting them for quite a long time. There hoping that we can utilize the cells from those 12 individuals to create an embryo that will thrive in for dashing betrayal, and utilize the southern white rhino, a very close relative of the white rhino as a surrogate. We are hoping in 5 to 10 years, science will allow us to have a new northern white light best rhinos on our planet. Ivins eking with Rick Schwartz, a global ambassador for the San Diego zoo. Thank you so much for taking the time. And keep so much for covering this. This means so much for us. The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt arrived at its new home port your in San Diego today after an 8/2 month deployment to the Persian Gulf. The sailors and Marines onboard were involved in the US-led air mission against ISIS in Syria into Iraq members of the carriers air wing took off for the how bases before the USS Roosevelt arrived back in San Diego, and I had a chance to talk with the commander of the air wing. Maybe Captain Captain Benjamin Hewlett took Captain Hewlett thanks for joining us. Absolute. Is a fantastic day as we are excited on the Roosevelt to fly off the air wing here and get the ship pulling into San Diego. 14, can you tell us about the mission in Iraq and Syria? Absolutely. The air wing which consists of basically eight squadrons that are on board here on the Theodore Roosevelt, we would launch and be primarily close to support over Iraq and Syria primarily Iraq, but we did do many missions in Syria and the folks that we were supported on the ground were typically Iraqi security forces, coalition forces that were on the ground, for instance up in the northern route, it was the Iraqi soldiers. We were in contact with them and one of the joint tactical controllers from the US that would be talking with and controlling from a distance -- usually via satellite radio. How many sorties did they complete? We ended up flying almost 2000 sorties, so that is quite a few. We delivered over 1800 bombs on target. A total over 1,000,000 pounds of weapons. I will tell you, having experience in Afghanistan on two different occasions and now Iraq and Afghanistan, the activities as far as bombing was very high. We were delivering bombs on a daily basis. Most cases, our guys would drop. Which areas of those countries did you concentrate your missions on? One of the largest concentration area is just to the west of Baghdad in the Mahdi Falluja area. That was an area as you probably have heard, that ISIS had taken earlier on when we -- just before we arrived on scene, and we spent a lot of our time in that area. Other areas where the Baghdad into [ Indiscernible ] refinery. That was an area where we spent a lot of are concentrated close air support. Then up north along the area in the center area over Mosul, and in Syria, on the eastern side, and I recce area and Osaka area, which is up in the Northeast. We did have some very, very long missions that went almost all the way over to [ Indiscernible ], which is new the Mediterranean coast. That is a long way to fly for the Persian Gulf. Yes. How long can you fly before you have to get back to the ship? You refuel in midair, is that right? That is correct. We were supported by the large US Air Force tankers, and also coalition tinkers. We would take off British aerial fueling tankers as well as Singapore. Also supported by them. We would fuel about 3 to 4 -- usually four times during our flight. Most of the missions lasted on approximately 7 our missions. Captain Hewlett, we've been told that they were providing air support for ground troops -- fighting ISIS. That is basically less about what Americans know about a. Can you tell us a little bit more? How does that work? Many of our connections between the ground forces on the ground in the aircraft in the air, are actually occurring through remote radio locations. It is actually satellite communications. But it is almost real-time. Is transparent to the aircraft after talking to folks on the ground and are able to see the Iraqi security forces, or open the forces on the ground. You are physically talking to them and they are directing you for the targets and giving you approval for strikes on the ground as well. It is very similar to what we see in Afghanistan and Iraq previously. Is it challenging working with the Iraqi forces who, what we understand, are not as experienced as American troops? There is a challenge and an language barrier that causes delays. It is been very active these are the most bombs I've seen dropped in a very long time in my career. That, the challenges sometimes, whether interest is the same or not, the fact is, you are supporting training -- graduates on the ground. Is a graduates are not moving or advancing forward, there may not -- may not be any engagement targets. A lot of times, there approved -- their approval is coming from the Iraqis for which targets you are getting to hit. So, sometimes when you have it is clear to be in ISIS target, it may not be getting approved or hit, or to having to wait a time until the can get the approvals. Captain Hewlett, what devices targets look like? Do they have camps? Most are not can split this. Moser urban. So, you are taking out individual -- a lot of times -- trucks or no locations that are in a building where you know that there is leadership, will be calling notification of the two location for communications. Many times it's open artillery or vehicles, or individuals themselves. Rarely, do you find a camp or a dedicated ISIS target. The difficulty in the challenge in a close air support, especially in an environment where there is an enemy that does not dress up in a uniform, is that they blend in with the civilian population. That is the hardest part about picking at a target and knowing the difference between in ISIS target and someone that is [ Indiscernible ] population. That's where we spend than majority of our time trying to determine. How precise can your bombs be when it comes to making that really Delco this delicate decision? I've seen the change over my 25 year career and how precise we can be between laserguided bombs and GPS guided bombs. But with a good coordinate on a target, which we can generate ourselves from the air, we can hit a target within feet of it. So, we could minimize -- and we are very good at minimizing collateral damage when there is a concern there's been many times when we drop weapons within 200 feet of Iraqi security forces medical danger close, and we were able to effectively take out those targets very close proximity to the good guys. I am speaking with baby Captain Benjamin Hulett, commander of the air wing of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Captain Hewlett, one of the cities that you mentioned that you targeted with your airstrikes was were Mahdi can you tell us what type of impact you were able to make against ISIS there. There was no doubt that we degraded ISIS capabilities to fight and defend there position in for Mahdi. The security forces as you they vacated [ Indiscernible ], and ISIS took over, there were many months where we were just softening those targets with [ Indiscernible ] and taking out key leadership. But then the Iraqis began to move in from the north, the South, and the East, and they were able to take substantial land back and have solely made gains in the Mahdi taking a back. The slow process is that the Iraqis are taking a back were not interested in taking the city, they were interested in [ Indiscernible ]. That's what makes it very slow and were Mahdi. There are definitely gains that need to be made in the are extremely affected. You mentioned that sometimes from the air, you are saying a target, and yet you are not getting anywhere from the ground that they want you to go for that target. Is that frustrating? Is that the continuing frustration that you have during the mission? It can be frustrating. I think it is pretty normal for a close air mission where we in the air see a target. Maybe the folks on the ground have not seen it yet, or they haven't located that yet and then they have to make a determination whether it is a valid ISIS target. Because, that is -- and a urban situation, you could easily be wrong. To go through great pains to make sure it's the right target. A lot of times it may be frustrating, but is the right thing to do in order to try to prevent civilian casualties. Captain Hewlett, earlier this year we saw Jordanian pilot who was part of the US air support being supported by the US -- after his plane crashed in Syria. That must be something that your pilots think about as they fly over Syria? Absolutely, it is. I will tell you, as an air wing commander, every single day that we would launch aircraft over Iraq and Syria, my biggest fear was not necessarily aircraft getting shot down, but an aircraft that might be experiencing mechanical failures and forcing the pilot to eject over to -- enemy territory, being captured, and seeing what happened to that pilot was on the minds of all of our pilots. You were there we were very fortunate that we didn't have anything like that. We did have search and rescue that -- in Iraq that are ready to respond. But you never know when you get in a situation like that. I would to you that [ Indiscernible ] is a commander in every pilot that Slover definitely thought about it. I don't think it affected how the operator, but it was on our mind every time we fly. I also understand that the weather was something to cope with in the Middle East that temperature over 100 degrees, high humidity. How did you cope with that? I will tell you that the sailors and Marines that operated on the flight of this aircraft carrier are absolute heroes. Anytime that you have temperatures in the Persian Gulf that the super hundred and 10 degrees, the heat index popped out at well over 150 degrees on the deck of the aircraft carrier. It was absolutely brutal. We would locate folks off the bright -- flightdeck. We would make sure they were hydrated. Everyone carried Camelback with water on call at every time that they could. But, the bottom line was, the kids working the flightdeck, and I say this because they were young 18 to 21 years old, they were soaked have from toe morning, noon, and night as they stayed up there and perspire to as they worked so hard. But, it was really something that we have to watch our folks and make sure the leadership was engaged with every single sailor and Marine and that they were taking care of themselves. Most important thing, eat well, get a good night sleep, and stay hydrated. You were telling us the air wing was coming of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. They are going to go back to there home bases. But, when do you expect, or do you expect to be headed back to the Persian Gulf soon? It might be a little bit different from each of the squadrons because as we go back to Virginia Beach, we are obviously with the Theodore Roosevelt being relocated, the air wing will switch aircraft carriers pick some of this hundreds will switch to different airplanes. It may be different for all of the squadrons. The air wing itself, my staff, and some of the squadrons will actually will be slated to move to the ISS USS Eisenhower when it returns from its next department. The expect to start doing our work up in another department in late 2018. Finally. What would you want the American public to understand about the US mission against ISIS? I want people to realize that, US forces, even though you've lately the French conducting strikes. The Russians are conducting strikes. Really, they are doing a great job, but they are small in comparison to what the US is doing every single day over there. The US and all of the large coalition forces flying strikes, hundred submissions and hundreds of airstrikes every single day and taking out ISIS targets on a daily basis, and doing a great job. They are very effectively degrading their ability to fight. I've been speaking with baby Captain Ben Hulett, air wing commander of carrier wing this Monday USS Theodore Roosevelt. Welcome back to the US, and thank you for your service to this country. Thank you very much. Thanks for having me today. It feels good to be home.

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt arrived Monday at its new home port of San Diego.

The 1,092-foot-long carrier known as the "Big Stick" completed what amounts to an epic voyage in which it left its old base in Norfolk, Virginia, more than eight months ago for deployment to the Middle East.

Air squadrons aboard the Roosevelt flew almost 2,000 combat sorties against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, racking up 10,600 flight hours for the crews. Navy Capt. Benjamin Hewlett said they delivered more than 1,800 bombs on target.

“Having experienced both Afghanistan on two different occasions and now Iraq and Syria, the activity as far as bombing these targets was very high. We were delivering bombs on a daily basis,” Hewlett said.

He said targets included vehicles, buildings with leaders from the self-declared Islamic State, artillery or mortar locations, and individual people.

“I’ve seen the change over my 25-year career in how precise we can be between laser-guided bombs and GPS-guided bombs. We can hit a target within feet of it,” Hewlett said.

Most of the action occurred during the summer, when temperatures rose well over 100 degrees.

Hewlett said that when temperatures in the Persian Gulf exceeded 110 degrees, the heat index on the flight deck topped off at more than 150 degrees.

“It was absolutely brutal,” Hewlett said. “The kids ... that were working this flight deck were soaked head to toe, morning, noon and night.”

The 29-year-old Roosevelt, named for the 26th president, was part of a three-way swap of carrier home ports. The USS George Washington, formerly based in Japan, was sent to Virginia to have its nuclear power plant refueled. The USS Ronald Reagan, based in San Diego for 11 years, replaced the George Washington in Japan.

About two-thirds of the 3,300 or so Roosevelt sailors will fly on from San Diego to Virginia, where they will take over the George Washington.

Most of the Reagan's crew sailed the George Washington around the tip of South America and up to the East Coast of the U.S. They'll fly back to San Diego and become the Roosevelt's crew.

Around one-third of each vessel's sailors, mainly command staff and nuclear power experts, stayed with their ships.

The complicated process is estimated to be saving the Navy $41 million in personnel transfer costs.