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Captain: Carrier Crew in Good Shape

January 22, 2002

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ABOARD USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (AP) _ Success in the U.S. war on terrorism keeps the crew of this U.S. aircraft carrier energized, even after 125 days at sea, the ship’s captain said Tuesday.

Although U.S. fighter jets from the carrier have not dropped bombs since Jan. 14, the planes continue flying over Afghanistan for reconnaissance and in support of troops on the ground.

``It’s been draining,″ said Capt. Richard O’Hanlon, a 26-year Navy veteran from New York City. ``It’s been one of the most challenging deployments I have ever been on. But, on the other hand, what we have been asked to do, what we have done and why we have done it has really energized the crew and me.″

U.S. warplanes based aboard aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea carried out round-the-clock airstrikes on Afghanistan in the early weeks of the war, which began Oct. 7.

With last month’s fall of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia and the shredding of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network inside the country, O’Hanlon said the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s mission is to sustain gains on the ground.

Regular deployments last about 20 days before a port call, giving the 5,500-strong crew a chance for a break on land. But since leaving the ship’s Norfolk, Va., home port Sept. 19, the crew has been working 12-hour shifts, with only seven no-fly days, O’Hanlon said.

O’Hanlon said the ship hasn’t gone to port in 125 days because it is needed at sea in the war on terrorism. He also said that ``because of revenge that has been promised against the Navy by terrorist forces, it is probably a good idea not to go to port for the safety of the crew, safety of the ship.″

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