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San Diego Carrier Departs for Arabian Sea

November 13, 2001|From a Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — To the strains of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis departed here Monday for the Arabian Sea.

With hundreds of family members and other well-wishers on the dock at North Island Naval Air Station, the nuclear-powered ship, carrying 70 warplanes and 5,000 sailors and Marines, is set to relieve the carrier Carl Vinson, which will return to its home port in Bremerton, Wash.

The Stennis battle group had been set to deploy in mid-January, but the Pentagon ordered an early departure to provide firepower for the campaign against the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan and the terrorist network of Osama bin Laden that they are harboring.

"We were expecting this but not before the holidays," said a tearful Carrie Stuart, whose husband, Lt. Cliff Stuart, is a chaplain aboard the Stennis. "We're all very proud of him, but it's still very difficult."

Chief Petty Officer Lillian Fredeluces was leaving behind her year-old son, Joshua. "It's all very sad," she said, hugging the child.

Capt. R.C. Thompson, an F-18 Hornet pilot and commander of the Stennis air group, said the aviation crews are eager to get to the war after watching the devastation wrought by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "It's time for payback," he said.

The Stennis is the flagship of a 10-ship battle group that includes submarines, frigates and destroyers, and involves more than 8,500 sailors and Marines.

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