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Dinner and a movie aboard the USS Enterprise

By SCOTT SCHONAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 2, 2007

ABOARD THE USS ENTERPRISE — Some sailors aboard the USS Enterprise call it “date night” because it is as close as you’ll get to a night out on the aircraft carrier.

Its official name is “XO Movie Night,” and it is a tradition aboard the Enterprise.

Every week, executive officer Cmdr. J.R. Dixon picks a movie for the evening. Pizza, ice cream and popcorn are available on the mess deck and the officers’ ward room for viewers. The movie is projected on a big screen in some of the common areas.

While many sailors come for the pizza and the flick, they say the real reason they come is the comical video skits the executive officer puts on before the movie.

Some of the skits are good, and some are really, really bad. But they are almost always entertaining.

A couple of weeks ago, the ship ran the movie “Evan Almighty.” The executive officer’s clip that week included his many outtakes and bloopers.

“I think everyone looks forward to ‘XO Movie Night’ just to see what the XO is going to do next,” Petty Officer 3rd Class Kimrochelle Harker said.

The ‘Big E’

There is a reason why the USS Enterprise is nicknamed the “Big E.”

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has in excess of 5,000 people. That’s more than any other U.S. Navy carrier.

Why does the Enterprise have more?

The carrier has eight nuclear reactors driving its four propellers, each of which weighs 32 tons. Lt. Mark Jones, the ship’s public affairs officer, said the higher number of reactors requires more people to operate, maintain and look after them.

Cooling the carrier

The Enterprise was launched in 1960. That’s before the parents of some of the sailors on board were even born.

And there are times when the carrier shows its age.

That was the case when the carrier was cruising in the Persian Gulf earlier in its deployment to the region. Temperatures reached the triple digits, and the ship’s air conditioning system struggled to keep up, sailors said.

Although air conditioning on the newer ships can work so well that crewmembers might need an extra layer of clothing, sailors said the heat was unbearable at times on the Enterprise while they were in the Persian Gulf.

When the carrier was built during the Cold War, it wasn’t designed to make many trips to the Persian Gulf. Some sailors said that it was built to operate in the Arctic, so engineers didn’t exactly put a priority on a robust AC system. The heater, on the other hand, works great.

Now that the ship has gone south to the Gulf of Oman, they say it has actually gotten cooler. One officer remarked how she now needed a jacket while below decks.


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