In case you’ve been living under a rock, one of the world’s largest warships was in Sri Lankan waters just a few days ago. As a result of LOOPS’s relationship with the Embassy of the United States in Sri Lanka, a lucky Loopie was given the awesome privilege of touring the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier during its recent visit to Sri Lanka as part of a tour of the Indo-Pacific. Oken Silva, the lucky Loopie who went on the tour to shoot footage and create content for the Embassy’s social media channels, excitedly recounted his experiences, ‘I couldn’t believe my ears when the management informed me that I’d be going on-board one of the greatest warships in the world. It’s almost every guy’s dream and I got to live it!’
The USS Nimitz Aircraft Carrier is the flagship of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, which also consists of the Cruiser, USS Princeton and 4 Destroyers. The strike group is currently touring the indo-pacific and stopped over in Colombo on a goodwill visit and to replenish their supplies.
Oken continued, ‘On Friday we were flown from BIA to a location about 130NM west of Colombo to the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier. It was totally mind-blowing as we landed while the ship was moving. I was part of a team that consisted of Media Crews, the State Minister for Defence, the Hon. Ruwan Wijewardena, MP, the Minister for Ports & Shipping, the Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe, MP and US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Atul Keshap along with representatives from the Sri Lanka Navy.
‘As we arrived they had an awesome welcoming ceremony ready for us, red carpet, guard of honour and all! You imagine aircraft carriers to be all planes, guns and ammo but we were taken inside and were surprised to find ourselves in a lavish dining and function room, with paintings on the walls and the table set for a proper fine dining meal, which we were later treated to and the food was absolutely amazing.’
‘We were then given a briefing about the rest of the schedule for the day and then taken to the command centre, which is right at the top of the ship. The USS Nimitz has a mind boggling 17 storeys, 7 floors above and 10 floors below the flight deck. The view from the command centre was amazing, we had a full view of the ship and aircraft taking off and landing. It was so awesome to be standing in the control centre of this massive ship knowing that the fleet on the USS Nimitz alone is larger than the air forces of more than 70% of all countries and that once refuelled, the ship need not be refuelled again for 20 years as it’s driven by nuclear power.’
‘An officer at the command centre told us that one of the most fascinating things about the ship is that it houses more than 5,000 sailors on board and each of them has their own individual story. How they joined the military and so on. We spoke to a few of them and it’s amazing how they come from very different backgrounds and still work tightly together as a team.’
‘The US Military doesn’t push people to join, it’s totally voluntary and some of these guys were only 18 years old. Many are just out of school and have answered a calling to serve their country. It’s quite amazing because so many of them are talented musicians and artists but serving their country is their day job.’
‘The carrier itself is like a mini city, there’s even a Starbucks on-board and the crew engage in regular fun activities during their off-duty hours like parties and stuff. I even saw a door with all these memes stuck on it. There’s a very ‘dorm’ kind of atmosphere, which is interesting because despite their relaxed, informal nature they still have that military precision and mind-set.’
‘The media team was then given a brief tour of the hangar where the jets are parked and serviced, below the flight deck. We were then taken on a tour of the Strategy Room where battle plans are drawn up and finally, we were given a tour of the flight deck, which was absolutely amazing. You’d think it’d be quite hot on the flight deck but it isn’t. Of course, when jets take off and the jet blast hits you, you can almost feel your skin being singed. It’s so crazy because you’re like standing there and jets are doing their take off roll a few feet ahead of you. It’s like a choreographed dance! Everyone has something to do and they do it perfectly, every time.’
‘When we were leaving and took off from the ship I was awestruck and grateful to have had the experience of being on this vessel that’s as big as the Galle Face Green. I was so busy filming during the visit that it was only at the end that the sheer size and grandeur of it struck me.’
Oken was also part of the team that covered the arrival of the Cruiser, USS Princeton at the Colombo Harbour and spoke about his experience there too, ‘The arrival of the USS Princeton at the Colombo Port was a sight to see. You can see the ship coming into port and from the point of entry till berthing it takes about 25 minutes. Most awesome for me was that for that whole time the sailors were standing to attention right round the ship in full ceremonial uniform and formation. The Sri Lanka Navy gave the US crew a fabulous warm welcome with their band and a full on welcoming ceremony.
‘During the US crew’s stay in Colombo they did many social service activities. They helped clean the School for the Deaf and Blind in Ratmalana, donated supplies to the Lady Ridgeway Hospital and some donated their hair to Cuts for a Cause by Ramani Fernando Salons for cancer victims.’
LOOPS is super proud to have had one of our own Loopie’s at the forefront of these significant events and through Oken’s experiences to have had a real glimpse of the excitement of it all. Oken’s extensive footage and photography of these events is also shared here for all to see.