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OPINION

Aircraft carriers built and manned by the best

By LISA PAPINI | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: November 22, 2019

The final two months of 2019 are an important time for the aircraft carrier community. Not only is November National U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier Month but this year the Newport News Shipbuilding will christen John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) — the second ship of the Gerald R. Ford-class of carriers.

John F. Kennedy’s christening will join a rich legacy of aircraft carrier milestones, many of which have occurred in November over the past century:

 On Nov. 14, 1910, naval aviation was born when pilot Eugene Ely launched from the deck of a U.S. Navy ship in a Curtiss Model D, the first successful takeoff and landing.

 In November of 1961, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was commissioned — USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

 On Nov. 8, 2013, the first of the next-generation of aircraft carriers, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) — the pinnacle of 100 years of aircraft carrier innovation — was christened. And a year later, the 5th Generation F-35C Lightning II completed the first arrested landing aboard USS Nimitz (CVN-68) in November, ushering yet another new example of the future of naval aviation.

All of these exceptional accomplishments garnered tremendous momentum for our nation’s aircraft carrier program. Now with John F. Kennedy marching toward her commissioning, the momentum will carry on with great speed, driving toward future innovations and remarkable feats of engineering by thousands of shipbuilders.

I am president of Dante Valve, in Bellflower, Calif., and Norfolk, Va. My company engineers and manufactures crucial operating equipment, such as pressure-relief valves, for these massive vessels. Dante Valve is part of the aircraft carrier industrial base supply chain, which stretches across 46 states, where 2,000 companies contribute to building and maintaining aircraft carriers. This injects more than $4.1 billion and thousands of jobs into communities across the country.

Just this past summer, I had the privilege of spending time on board USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) as part of a Distinguished Visitor Embark program.

Larger than four football fields, with over 5,000 crew members, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is an incredible thing to behold. These powerhouses of the U.S. Navy support and maintain 75 aircraft — operating 24 hours a day, and provide a level of national security that is impossible to quantify with unmatched capability.

Recently, Rear Adm. Roy J. Kelley, commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic, said it best: “Carriers deploy with the responsiveness, endurance, multidimensional might, inherent battlespace awareness and command-and-control capabilities that America needs to prevail in great power competition. … A carrier strike group, by its mere presence, can shape events in the nation’s favor.”

Most importantly, the commitment and sacrifice of the men and women of the U.S. Navy is what ensures the power of these vessels. Their tireless efforts cannot be overstated. Witnessing firsthand the dedication and focus of our nation’s Navy is an experience I’ll never forget. To be able to support the sailors and pilots who work aboard our nation’s carriers is one of the great privileges of my work. It was a humbling experience to visit the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, but even more so, it was my honor to meet the men and women who serve on these great ships.

Dozens of events and activities are occurring across the nation celebrating the legacy and accomplishments of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and their air wings. I encourage each and every reader to make an effort this month to reflect on the legacy of the aircraft carrier, the men and women who serve and served aboard these ships and the skilled workers who build these marvels of modern engineering. You won’t have to look too far to find a member of the aircraft carrier community, and when you do, thank them.

Lisa Papini is president of Dante Valve in Bellflower, Calif., and Norfolk, Va., and a regional board member of the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition.

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