A jet launches from the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush during its final pre-deployment evaluations. The Bush Carrier Strike Group deployed today. (MC3 Abe McNatt / Navy)
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NORFOLK, VA. — A tiny aquatic invertebrate delayed deployment of the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush on Saturday by about four hours.
Bryozoa was the culprit. The “moss animals” are common in the James River during winter months.
“Sometimes we get unlucky and we suck some of that stuff up into the machines,” said Capt. Andrew Loiselle, the carrier’s commanding officer. “Now we’ve just got to get it out.”
The Bryozoa was sucked up by large intakes under the ship that take in sea water to cool various pieces of equipment. This fouled condensers which, in turn, affected the ships propulsion and electrical power generation.
Though frustrating, the remedy is not overly complicated. Crew members took off the large condenser covers — some measuring more than 6 feet — and pulled gallons of moss from condenser tubes.
The aircraft carrier Enterprise had the same problem in March 2012. Bryozoa fouled three of Big E’s four main engines and five of her eight service turbine generators.
Four ships, one air wing and more than 5,000 sailors comprise Carrier Strike Group Two. They include two ships based here: Bush and the guided missile destroyer Truxtun. The guided missile destroyer Roosevelt and guided missile cruiser Philippine Sea are based out of Naval Station Mayport, Fla. Carrier Air Wing 8 is based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.
Deploying the morning after Valentine’s Day was bittersweet, according to the skipper.
“We’ve all worked so hard to get the ship ready to deploy,” he said. “Now, it’s all coming to fruition and were getting ready to see the product of an awful lot of work that an awful lot of people on this team have done. But at the same point in time, we are leaving our families behind. I’ve got six kids, so my wife is incredibly tolerant to put up with this as a career path. I still do this because I still love it and my wife still lets me. And everybody on the ship has the same answer. We only do this because we have the support of our families.”
But that is the nature of the beast, according to Rear Adm. John Aquilino, CSG-2 commander.
“If we are not forward, then we are irrelevant,” he said.
This planned nine-month pump will certainly put them at the tip of the spear. The carrier strike group will conduct maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the 5th and 6th U.S. Fleet areas of responsibility. This is the second cruise for Bush, which was commissioned in 2009.
“We are ready to go wherever we may be sent,” Aquilino said. “This unit is flexible. It is ready to perform any mission assigned. We are operating on the pillars of war fighting first, forward presence and readiness. We are all of those things.”
The guided missile destroyer Arleigh Burke also departed Norfolk Saturday on an independent eight-month Ballistic Missile Defense deployment in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.