Amanda Larson, a 2010 graduate of North Branch High, talks about serving aboard one of world’s largest warships
From Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sunday Sawyer
A 2010 North Branch High School graduate is serving on one of the world’s largest warships, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).
Seaman Amanda L. Larson is an undesignated seaman aboard the San Diego-based ship, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and currently one of only 10 operational aircraft carriers in the Navy.
Named in honor of former President Ronald Reagan, the carrier is longer than three football fields at nearly 1,100 feet long. The ship is 252 feet wide and weighs more than 100,000 tons. Two nuclear reactors can push the ship through the water at nearly 35 mph.
Larson said she decided to join the Navy for a change of pace from school.
“I was studying to be a pharmacy technician and decided that it was not for me, so I walked into a recruiting office one day and joined the Navy,” she said. “I am really trying to decide what I want to do, but I do want to be an officer, and I am looking into the Navy Surface Warfare Oceanography program.”
She also said she is proud of the work she is doing as part of the Reagan’s 5,500-member crew, protecting America on the world’s oceans.
Sailors’ jobs vary aboard USS Ronald Reagan. Approximately 3,000 men and women make up the ship’s company, which keeps all parts of the aircraft carrier running smoothly — this includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the nuclear reactors. Another 2,500 or so form the air wing, the people who actually fly and maintain the aircraft.
“I never cease to be impressed with the type and quality of work that goes on aboard the carrier each day,” said Capt. Christopher E. Bolt, the carrier’s commanding officer. “Our team is filled with highly qualified young adults — in many cases, 19 and 20 years old — and they’re out here launching and recovering aircraft, running a complex propulsion system safely, serving as air traffic controllers, operating sophisticated electronics and keeping this floating city alive and functioning.
“Their work ethic, enthusiasm and esprit de corps are second to none. If you pick up a newspaper in any city and examine what other 19- and 20-year-olds are doing, there is no comparison to the level of responsibility our sailors hold. That caliber of sailor is what has earned us the title of America’s Flagship,” Bolt added.
USS Ronald Reagan, like each of the Navy’s aircraft carriers, is designed for a 50-year service life. The ship carries more than 60 attack jets, helicopters and other aircraft, all of which take off from and land aboard the carrier at sea.
Powerful catapults slingshot the aircraft off the bow of the ship. The planes land aboard the carrier by snagging a steel cable with an arresting hook that protrudes from the rear of the aircraft. All of this makes the Ronald Reagan a self-contained mobile airport, and often the first response to a global crisis because of a carrier’s ability to operate freely in international waters anywhere on the world’s oceans.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Larson and other USS Ronald Reagan sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.
“I strongly recommend the Navy to people at home because the opportunities are endless,” Larson said.