The first U.S. Navy ship named in honor of Ronald Wilson Reagan (6 February 1911–5 June 2004), the 40th President of the United States. See Ronald Reagan for additional information.
(CVN-76: Displacement 98,235; length 1,092'; beam 252'; draft 37'; speed 30 knots; complement 6,275; armament 2 RIM-116 RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) systems, 2 RIM-7 Sea Sparrow Basic Point Defense Missile Systems, two 40 millimeter saluting guns, 85 aircraft, class Nimitz)
Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) was laid down on 12 February 1998, at Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Va.; launched on 10 March 2001; sponsored by Mrs. Nancy D. Reagan, First Lady of the United States; and commissioned on 12 July 2003 at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Capt. John W. Goodwin in command.
The red border rings the ship’s seal much like the distinctive red rim defines the White House china designed for, and used by President and Mrs. Reagan during their White House years. The four gold stars represent his 40th presidency and his four Pillars of Freedom, the timeless principles he championed: preserving individual liberty; promoting economic opportunity; advancing global democracy; and instilling national pride.
The aircraft carrier, cutting a powerful swath through the sea, is positioned by the United States’ west coast, representing his two terms as the governor of California and the ship’s homeport and service in the Pacific Fleet. The three aircraft with their patriotic contrails symbolize the three major military operations the President directed during his tenure as Chief Executive: Operations Urgent Fury (Grenada, 1983); El Dorado Canyon (Libya, 1986); and Praying Mantis (Iran, 1988). The view of the globe signifies President Reagan’s vision of global democracy, and the United States is situated in the center, representing national pride. The colors of red, white, and blue dominate the seal, reflecting the American flag and the President’s love of the republic, who once told Americans to “love your country, not for her power or wealth, but for her selflessness and her idealism.”
“Peace Through Strength,” a recurring theme of President Reagan’s life in public service. He spoke of its significance during a radio broadcast to the nation on 24 September 1988: “One thing is certain. If we’re to continue to advance world peace and human freedom, America must remain strong. If we have learned anything these last eight years, it’s that peace through strength works.”
Ronald Reagan, Capt. James A. Symonds in command, shifted coasts from the Atlantic Fleet to the Pacific Fleet, shortly after her commissioning. The ship, with 15 aircraft embarked: Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornets of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14, F/A-18Fs of VFA-41, Grumman E-2C Hawkeye 2000s of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117, and Sikorsky SH-60F Seahawks of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 6 from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, Capt. James K. Greene in command, together with two Grumman C-2A Greyhounds of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30, sailed from Norfolk on 27 May 2004. Rear Adm. Robert T. Moeller, Commander Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, and Capt. William P. Hoker, Commander Destroyer Squadron 7, broke their flags in the ship.
Ronald Reagan also took part in Summer Pulse 04, a series of exercises in which the Navy tested changes to operational methods that resulted from the Fleet Response Plan. At times aircraft carriers Enterprise (CVN-65), George Washington (CVN-73), Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), John C. Stennis (CVN-74), John F. Kennedy (CV-67), Kitty Hawk (CV-63) also deployed in five theaters. The operations of these ships extended into September during scheduled deployments, surge operations, and joint and international exercises.
The carrier buried 11 veterans at sea on 31 May, and crossed the equator on 3 June. President Reagan died on 5 June 2004, and crewmembers honored their ship’s namesake by flying her flag at half-mast and laying a wreath on the flight deck. Capt. Symonds was flown ashore to render honors during the president’s interment service at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, Calif., on 11 June. Symonds presented the national ensign used to cover the president’s casket to Mrs. Reagan.
Ronald Reagan meanwhile trained with the Brazilian armed forces, and Brazilian naval Douglas AF-1 (A-4KU) Skyhawks performed “touch and go’s” on board the carrier on 8 June. The ship then visited Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 9–13 June. Two days later the ship held a memorial service for her namesake, and began another series of exercises with South American naval forces, from 15–17 June. An Argentinean naval Dassault-Breguet Super Étendard and a Grumman S-2T (S-2E) Turbo Tracker carried out touch and go’s on board Ronald Reagan on 17 June. The carrier passed through the Strait of Magellan from 19–21 June, anchoring at Punta Areanas, Chile, on 20 June.
Snow-capped mountains rise majestically in the distance as the ship as she transits the Strait of Magellan, 21 June 2004. (Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Elizabeth Thompson, U.S. Navy Photograph 040621-N-6536T-066, Navy NewsStand)
The carrier rendezvoused with guided missile destroyer Benfold (DDG-65) and fast combat support ship Camden (AOE-2) four days later. Ronald Reagan visited Valparaiso, Chile, from 25–29 June, and took part in Silent Forces, a multinational exercise with guided missile cruiser Thomas S. Gates (CG-51), guided missile destroyers Benfold and Mitscher (DDG-57), Camden, the Brazilians, and the Peruvians from 1–5 July. Capt. Greene celebrated Independence Day by marking his 1,200th carrier landing. The ship afterward put into Callao, Peru, 9–13 July, and reached her new homeport of Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island, Calif., on 23 July. The estimated crowd of 5,000 guests who greeted her arrival included Mrs. Reagan, who was flown out to Ronald Reagan and embarked during the ship’s passage into port. “Ronnie would have loved the sight of this great ship coming into his beloved California,” she said of the late President. “I know how proud he was to have this ship named after him, and in my heart I know he’s looking down on us today and smiling.” On 7 November 2004, the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department performed its first at-sea jet engine test on an engine from an F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Tugs ease Ronald Reagan away from NAS North Island as she sets sail on her maiden deployment, 4 January 2006. (Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Christopher Brown, U.S. Navy Photograph 060104-N-5060B-016, Navy NewsStand)
Ronald Reagan made her maiden deployment during a voyage to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf, 4 January–6 July 2006. The cruise also marked the first deployment of Grumman Improved Capability III EA-6B Prowlers (of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 139), and F/A-18C Hornets and F/A-18E Super Hornets of VFAs 22, 25, 113, and 115 equipped with the Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER) system. On 3 November 2006, the Naval Air Systems Command announced the planned installation (in 2007) of the Advanced Recovery Control system on board Ronald Reagan. The system replaced mechanical arresting systems and their controls with state-of-the-art arresting gear digital control technology.
Ronald Reagan, her flight deck packed with aircraft, refuels guided missile destroyer Paul Hamilton (DDG-60) while they train together in the Pacific Ocean, published on 12 February 2007. (Unattributed U.S. Navy Photograph 070209-N-5961C-003, Navy NewsStand)
On 22 October 2007, Santa Ana winds drove 23 wild fires across 12 southern Californian counties. Ships involved in fighting the fires included Ronald Reagan, amphibious assault ships Boxer (LHD-4), Peleliu (LHD-5), and Precommissioning Unit Makin Island (LHD-8), and amphibious transport dock Cleveland (LPD-7). Ronald Reagan stood up her Crisis Response Team, which monitored the situation and kept crewmember’s families informed of the battle against the flames. The ship’s Sailors living in barracks at NAS North Island hurriedly moved back on board to free over 100 rooms for their families displaced by the fires. More than 150 crewmembers volunteered to assist affected communities.
In addition, marines evacuated more than 40 aircraft from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., and all the armed forces aided civilian firefighters. Commander Maritime Strike Wing Pacific established the Helicopter Coordination Center at NAS North Island. The center coordinated a variety of aircraft including a Lockheed P-3C Orion from Patrol Squadron (VP) 46, MH-60S Seahawks from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadrons (HSCs) 3 and 85, SH-60Fs from HSs 4 and 6, SH-60Bs from Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (Light) (HSL) 45, marine Boeing Vertol CH-46E Sea Knights and Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallions from Camp Pendleton and Miramar, and a Bell UH-1N Iroquois from NAS Fallon, Nev. Other facilities including NAS North Island accommodated evacuees. Responders contained the infernos by 3 November. On 11 February 2008, sailors consigned the ashes of nine Navy veterans including astronaut Capt. Walter M. Schirra to the Pacific, during a ceremony on board Ronald Reagan.
While Ronald Reagan steamed in the Western Pacific on 25 June 2008, she supported relief efforts to victims of Typhoon Fengshen on Panay in the Philippines. Sikorsky HH-60H and SH-60F Seahawks from HS-4 flying from the carrier, along with SH-60Bs of HSL-49, embarked on board guided missile cruiser Chancellorsville (CG-62), HSL-43, flying from guided missile destroyer Howard (DDG-83), and HSL-37, deployed with guided missile frigate Thach (FFG-43), delivered food and water to people in the area. Two C-2A Greyhounds from VRC-30 flew rice and water from the carrier to Santa Barbara Airport, Iloilo. Ronald Reagan came about from the Sulu Sea on 3 July.
A fire erupted in the aft engine room of Carnival cruise ship Carnival Splendor and she lost power, 150 nautical miles southwest of San Diego, on 8 November 2010. The following day, C-2A Greyhounds of VRC-30 transported supplies from NAS North Island to Ronald Reagan, and HH-60H and SH-60F Seahawks of HS-4 then delivered the provisions to the stricken vessel. A Coast Guard Lockheed HC-130H Hercules, a Eurocopter HH-65C Dolphin, MH-60T Jayhawks, and cutters Aspen (WLB-208), Edisto (WPB-1313), Morgenthau (WHEC-722), and Petrel (WPB-87350) also participated. Tugs towed Carnival Splendor to San Diego.
Sailors prepare an F/A-18E Super Hornet of VFA-147 to take off from the ship while she works up in southern Californian waters, 17 February 2011. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin B. Gray, U.S. Navy Photograph 110217-N-IC111-248, Navy NewsStand)
A magnitude 9.0 (Mw) undersea megathrust earthquake occurred off the Tōhoku region of Honshū, Japan, at 1446 on 11 March 2011. The earthquake triggered tsunami waves that reached more than 100 feet in height at places, and caused nearly 25,000 casualties, including more than 15,000 killed. The United States initiated Operation Tomodachi [from the Japanese Tomodachi Sakusen: Operation Friend(s)] to provide humanitarian relief to the victims.
When the disaster occurred, Ronald Reagan, Capt. Thom W. Burke in command, was steaming westerly courses during a deployment to the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf. She made for the affected area, and searched for survivors and launched aircraft that flew humanitarian supplies to victims ashore. While the Military Sealift Command auxiliary dry cargo ship Carl Brashear (T-AKE-7) closed Ronald Reagan during a replenishment, she encountered dangerous debris spread by the tsunamis. “Drifting shipping containers,” Capt. Michael Grogan, her master, succinctly summarized, “are difficult to see.” Ronald Reagan came about from supporting Tomodachi on 5 April and continued her deployment. A total of 24,000 U.S. servicemembers, 189 aircraft, and 24 ships served in Tomodachi, from 12 March–4 May 2011.
A CH-46E Sea Knight of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 262 lifts off from Ronald Reagan’s flight deck during Operation Tomodachi, 21 March 2011. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alexander Tidd, U.S. Navy Photograph 110321-N-5503T-301, Navy NewsStand)
Ronald Reagan visits Phuket, Thailand, 1 May 2011. (Unattributed U.S. Navy Photograph 110501-N-SB672-475, Navy NewsStand)
An F/A-18F Super Hornet of VFA-2 lands on board the ship while she accomplishes flight deck qualifications off southern California, 4 May 2013. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Black, U.S. Navy Photograph 130504-N-AV746-023, Navy NewsStand)
An F/A-18E Super Hornet of VFA-137 launches from Ronald Reagan beneath a breathtaking sunset over the Pacific off southern California, 10 July 2015. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chase C. Lacombe, U.S. Navy Photograph 150710-N-DV340-024, Navy NewsStand)
The Ronald Reagan Strike Group, comprising Ronald Reagan, with CVW-5 and DesRon 15 embarked, guided-missile cruisers Antietam (CG-54) and Chancellorsville, and guided missile destroyers Benfold, Milius (DDG-69), and Mustin (DDG-89), returned from a patrol in the Western Pacific to Yokosuka, Japan, on 24 July 2018.
While underway, Commander, Task Force (TF) 70 held a change of command ceremony in Ronald Reagan’s hangar bay. Rear Adm. Karl O. Thomas relieved Rear Adm. Marc H. Dalton as Commander, TF 70, Battle Force Seventh Fleet, and Commander, Carrier Strike Group 5.
“USS Ronald Reagan and her crew completed an extremely successful patrol,” Capt. Michael Donnelly, Ronald Reagan’s commanding officer, said, “including operations in multiple areas throughout the Indo-Pacific region, participating in the Malabar 18 exercise with our Japanese and Indian naval counterparts, and a memorable port visit to Manila, Philippines. I am very proud of the professionalism our Sailors consistently demonstrate on a daily basis: from executing liberty as a mission in Manila, to conducting complex flight and maritime operations underway, including seamless participation with our partners and allies. Our effective, safe execution reflects the immense capability, drive, and motivation onboard USS Ronald Reagan operating with Carrier Air Wing Five. It truly represents the strength and high operational readiness of our country's forward-deployed naval forces.”
Detailed history pending.
Mark L. Evans
26 July 2018