By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
The commander of the Everett-based aircraft carrier USS Nimitz wants everyone back home to know that his crew is doing well, especially after a visit to South Korea.
Navy Capt. Jeff Ruth, who took command of the nuclear-powered warship more than a year ago, phoned Wednesday morning from the middle of the Indian Ocean. The Nimitz is about two months into a deployment that could last much of the remainder of the year.
Ruth said his ship, his crew and the air wing on board — a floating city of 5,000 people — are headed to the Persian Gulf in support of troops in Afghanistan.
“We’ve been exceptionally busy the last two months,” Ruth said. “On May 3, the crew of the Nimitz celebrated the ship’s 38th birthday. She’s the oldest aircraft carrier on duty, but she’s capable and doing quite well. And our sailors are doing a great job.”
After a training stint off the Southern California coast, the Nimitz headed to Hawaii in April and then to South Korea in early May.
The visit to South Korea was scheduled earlier, Ruth said, but it came just as North Korean officials unleashed a flurry of war threats and were complaining about a summit meeting between the U.S. and South Korean presidents.
North Korea criticized the Nimitz visit when the ship arrived in the southeastern port city of Busan. The crew of the carrier and the South Korean navy participated in a variety of joint naval exercises, which also drew the ire of the North Korean government.
“It was a regular port call in South Korea,” Ruth said. “The Korean navy and our navy share a number of security issues. The U.S. Navy routinely stops there to show our commitment to our allies.”
During a stop in Thailand, more than 300 sailors volunteered for 13 different community service projects that included repairs to an orphanage and the sponsorship of some athletic events.
“We had more sailors volunteering to help than there were spots,” Ruth said. “Our volunteer work is something the Navy does a great job with. It’s great fun for us to interact with the people in various countries.”
The temperatures in the Middle East are beginning to climb, Ruth said.
“Our young sailors are very motivated and working very hard, especially in this 110-degree heat,” he said. “It’s inspiring to see. We also are happy about the young families holding down the fort back home. The families of these sailors are the unsung heroes of our mission.”
While on board, the sailors keep in touch with their families as much as possible and also keep an eye on the news back home.
“We want to thank everyone for their support,” Ruth said.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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