Navy serves up tur­key with a side of sor­ties

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Sam McNeil and Petr David Josek

ABOARD THE USS EISEN­HOWER — While mil­lions of Amer­i­cans cel­e­brate Thanks­giv­ing with fam­ily and home-cooked meals, the 5,200 sailors aboard the USS Eisen­hower are busy launch­ing fighter jets to strike Is­lamic State tar­gets in Iraq and Syria.

The crew is spend­ing their se­cond Thanks­giv­ing on duty, and will be carv­ing their own roasted tur­keys when their du­ties aboard the thou­sand-foot long Amer­i­can air­craft car­rier al­low. Some will spend part of the day fly­ing over the Mid­dle East, drop­ping pre­ci­sion mu­ni­tions on Is­lamic State mil­i­tants.

“It’s not go­ing to stop us f rom hav­ing a great Thanks­giv­ing meal,” Capt. Paul C. Spedero Jr. said. “We’re go­ing to watch foot­ball when we can. It’ll prob­a­bly be a lit­tle bit time-de­layed but we’re go­ing to do all the things that we can do and what we can ex­pect to do with our fam­i­lies back home,” he said.

He es­ti­mates the carri- er’s fight­ers have dropped nearly 1,100 bombs in the fight against Is­lamic State since June, when the Eisen­hower be­gan op­er­at­ing in the Per­sian Gulf. Last Thanks­giv­ing it was de­ployed off the coast of Vir­ginia.

Rear Admiral James Mal­loy, com­man­der of the Eisen­hower strike group, says his forces are in­creas­ingly us­ing pre­ci­sion mu­ni­tions as Is­lamic State mil­i­tants hide and fight among civil­ians, in­clud­ing in the north­ern Iraqi city of Mo­sul.

“They’re ac­tu­ally us­ing civil­ians in mil­i­tary ca­pac­ity to shield them, know­ing that that would stay the hand of the coali­tion,” he said. “The power of the pre­ci­sion, re­spon­sive airstrikes that we pro­vide is even more crit­i­cal than be­fore.”

Lt. Jennifer San­difer, a 27-year old fighter pi­lot from Austin, Texas, plans to eat her tur­key mid­morn­ing be­fore don­ning a flight suit la­beled with her call sign, Fur.

She’ll then climb up a metal lad­der and make her way across the bustling flight deck. Me­chan­ics and a ground crew there main- tain jets for 17 pi­lots, in­clud­ing her sin­gle-seat F18.

She’ll taxi to the launch point where a cat­a­pult will con­nect to the jet. A sailor known as a shooter will sig­nal when the cat­a­pult is ready and then she’ll give a fi­nal salute be­fore roar­ing off the deck go­ing 0 to 145 mph in 2.5 sec­onds.

On Thanks­giv­ing, as on any day, she’ll fly six to nine hours and strike tar­gets iden­ti­fied by ground forces, per­haps in Mo­sul or the Syr­ian city of Raqqa, the de facto cap­i­tal of the Is­lamic State.

Back on the Eisen­hower, culi­nary spe­cial­ist and Petty Of­fi­cer 1st Class An­to­nio Brown is or­ga­niz­ing a feast con­sist­ing of 4,950 pounds of tur­key, 1,050 pounds of ham, 1,200 pounds of beef, 648 pounds of shrimp, 7,000 por­tions of mashed pota­toes, 400 pies, and 200 cheese­cakes.

Brown is also serv­ing his take on stan­dard Navy recipes, like adding marsh­mal­lows to the sweet pota­toes. Brown said Thanks­giv­ing is the most im­por­tant day of the year for the car­rier’s cooks and kitchen staff.

“It’s like the Su­per Bowl,” Brown said.

PETR DAVID JOSEK/AP

Sailors pre­pare tur­keys for Thanks­giv­ing din­ner aboard the car­rier USS Eisen­hower.

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