First U.S. Warship to Carry Women on Extended Mission Leaves for Gulf
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) _ With friends and relatives watching from a distance because of a bomb threat, the aircraft carrier Eisenhower set sail on a six-month sea tour Thursday, becoming the first U.S. warship to carry women on an extended mission.
Lt. Cmdr. Janice M. Hamby, one of almost 400 women among the carrier’s 5,500 personnel, said she feels much safer on an aircraft carrier than on the lightly armed support ships to which women were relegated in the past.
″The big difference for us is that we can defend ourselves,″ Ms. Hamby said. ″I can go to the Persian Gulf and feel a lot safer than someone on a repair ship or a resupply ship.″
The Eisenhower and its support ships are carrying more than 12,000 sailors and Marines to relieve the carrier USS George Washington and its battle group off the Arabian peninsula, where it was sent in response to the Iraqi troop buildup.
Despite a telephoned bomb threat an hour before its departure, the USS Eisenhower pulled away from the Norfolk Naval Base on time after a search by the crew, bomb experts and dogs found no bomb. The threat forced authorities to evacuate a pier where about 500 family members waited to bid farewell.
″Some people will do anything to slow it down if they can,″ said Stephanie Corvin of Chesapeake, whose husband, Darrel, is a machinist mate aboard the nuclear-powered ship.
Cmdr. Kevin Wensing, a spokesman for the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet air force, said the caller said only that there was a bomb aboard the ship. ″There was no indication of what the person’s motive could have been,″ he said.
In March, the Eisenhower became the first U.S. combat ship to take women as crew members. Last month, about 300 women went on a trip of about 10 days to Haiti to deliver members of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division.
Women have served on noncombat vessels since the Carter administration.
Sailors of both sexes said the transition has gone smoothly.
″They all work hard,″ said Jason Hughes, an aviation support equipment technician. ″We do pretty well together.″
Said Ms. Hamby, ″I saw insignificant resentment which evaporated within days.″