Mid-ocean birthday celebration breaks out aboard USS Ronald Reagan
Stars and Stripes July 31, 2023
The USS Ronald Reagan’s normally hectic flight deck swapped fighter jets and helicopters Sunday for party hats and a giant, aircraft carrier-shaped cake to celebrate the ship’s two decades of service.
Still on their annual six-month patrol of the Indo-Pacific, the Ronald Reagan and its crew gathered for a gun salute and a “steel beach” picnic, ship spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Phillip Chitty told Stars and Stripes by email Monday.
The carrier, two months at sea and cruising through the Indian Ocean, paused while its commander, Capt. Daryle Cardone, spoke to the occasion.
“Since the ship’s commissioning two decades ago, tens of thousands of sailors like us have stood the watch here aboard this warship,” Cardone said during the ceremony, according to Chitty. “Together, we have kept the peace through our continuous display of combat readiness, agility and grit.”
Commissioned July 12, 2003, at Norfolk Naval Station, Va., the Ronald Reagan saw action during its first operational deployment, to the Middle East, in 2006. Its air wing flew in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
The ship that year launched 6,100 sorties totaling more than 19,600 flights hours. Of those, 2,940 were in support of the war in Iraq, according to U.S. Pacific Fleet.
In 2015, the carrier switched homeports to Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, headquarters of the 7th Fleet, after more than 10 years at Naval Base San Diego.
This year’s Indo-Pacific deployment may be the last from Japan for the Ronald Reagan for some time. It is scheduled to relocate sometime next year to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., for maintenance.
The USS George Washington, the carrier the Ronald Reagan replaced in 2015, is expected to return to Yokosuka after six years of maintenance and midlife nuclear refueling at Huntington Ingalls’ Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.
“Our predecessors got the USS Ronald Reagan to 2023; and now, you are the realized vision of President Reagan’s legacy,” Cardone said during the ceremony, according to Chitty. “The work you do here ensures this ship and his legacy remain strong for another 30-plus years. Let us all proudly celebrate 20 years of ‘peace through Strength’ and continue to pave the way for many more ahead.”