By Jim Haley Special to The Herald
For the USS Nimitz, coming home wasn’t so easy.
Neither was getting under way.
The huge warship’s six-month deployment was extended to nearly nine months because of the possibility of military intervention in Syria, and then again due to the need for relief efforts in the typhoon-wracked Philippines.
Instead of coming home at its scheduled time, it was ordered to pass through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean Sea while the nation’s leaders decided whether to intervene in Syria’s civil war. The Nimitz conducted exercises with NATO forces and waited for a decision.
When Typhoon Haiyan roared through the Philippines Nov. 8, the Nimitz was under consideration to conduct relief efforts there. Later, another carrier was sent to help out instead.
It also had a rough beginning to the deployment.
In September and November 2012, the Nimitz left Everett for what the Navy calls a Composite Training Exercise and a Joint Task Force Exercise off the coast of Southern California.
The exercises are designed to show that the big carrier and crew can work in coordination with other ships that would accompany it in a strike force.
Carriers typically are accompanied by a number of destroyers, cruisers, frigates and submarines.
Upon completion of the exercises, the commander of the U.S. Third Fleet certified the carrier and other ships, including the Everett-based USS Shoup, as ready for deployment. The Shoup returned to Everett last month.
However, an emergency maintenance issue cropped up with a Nimitz cooling system, delaying the carrier’s deployment from January until March.
“One of our major engineering components was showing some unusual indications that caused us concern over its ability to operate properly across a long deployment,” said Rear Adm. Michael White, who rides aboard the Nimitz and is in overall charge of the carrier’s activities and those of four destroyers and a cruiser that accompany it.
“It was some of the original equipment on Nimitz, about 38 years old, and it was determined that the prudent action was to replace it before our departure,” he added. “The repair was completed and it functioned perfectly throughout deployment.”
The delay allowed time for sailors to remain ashore, but the additional time created a need for more exercises and recertification.
The carrier and strike force took off for the Western Pacific after supporting the war effort in Afghanistan. It had been scheduled to head for home in August, but the Pentagon ordered the carrier into the Red Sea in September following reports of chemical weapons use in Syria.
It then was told to go through the canal into the Mediterranean for more joint exercises with allied navies.
The events underscore a growing trend among Navy carriers toward longer deployments. Everett’s first carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, had an extended deployment in 2002 at the start of the war in Iraq.
By the numbers
Sold and consumed in vending machines and ship’s store:
• 840,000 sodas
• 234,000 candy bars
Food prepared, consumed:
• 40,693 pounds of Hamburger
• 648,000 pounds of Chicken
• 320,000 pounds of Beef
• 387,200 apples
• 792,000 eggs
• 16,740 gallons of milk