Tuesday, June 29, 1999

Power in the Pacific


By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Daniel To'oto'o, 23, who went to Waianae High School,
is an aircraft refueler on board the aircraft carrier USS
Constellation. He is shown below deck where the
planes are stored.

Aircraft carrier
USS Constellation
maneuvers in
Hawaii waters

By Gregg K. Kakesako


ABOARD THE USS CONSTELLATION -- There are no plans to steam the Constellation aircraft carrier battle group immediately to the Korean peninsula where North and South Korean vessels skirmished earlier this month.

But Capt. Donald Bullard, the Constellation's commander, said the carrier and its nine escorts will visit Korean waters later this summer as was planned months ago.

The aircraft carrier Constellation left its San Diego home base earlier this month amid reports that a South Korean vessel sunk a North Korean patrol boat, killing 30 North Koreans.

It will complete a joint task force exercise 250 miles south of Oahu tomorrow in preparation of a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf.

What is unique is that it is the first time a West Coast carrier battle group has performed an exercise en route to a deployment, said Rear Adm. Timothy W. LaFleur, commander of the Constellation battle group.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
A jet lands aboard the Constellation. The ship is in
waters off Hawaii to participate in military exercises
before heading to the Western Pacific for more maneuvers.
It is one of 11 carriers in the Navy.

LaFleur said normally a battle group would train off the coast of California before leaving on a six-month deployment. "This has meant that the (California-based) crew had an extra 12 days in port with their families," LaFleur said.

But on these exercises, the people benefitting are the crews of four Pearl Harbor-based warships that normally are members of the Constellation battle group. In the past, the four vessels would have had to steam to California, train with it, return home and then rejoin the Constellation as it sailed for the western Pacific.

"This time they were able to spend an extra 14 days or so at home in Pearl Harbor," LaFleur said.

The Constellation is the hub of a 10-ship surface warfare group that could move across the ocean at more than 30 knots at top speed.

Flanked by Aegis guided missile cruisers from Pearl Harbor -- USS Chosin and USS Lake Erie -- the Constellation also is protected by two destroyers -- USS Kinkaid and USS Benfold. Also accompanying the battle group is the 53,000-ton combat support ship, USS Sacramento.

Two Los Angeles-class attack nuclear submarines from Pearl Harbor -- USS Santa Fe and USS Olympia -- ride shotgun far up front, clearing the way for the carrier.

Rising 17 stories from its keel, the Constellation's flight deck is 270 feet wide.

Of the 5,000 sailors assigned to the Constellation, 2,600 are primarily concerning with plotting and supporting the moves of this 90,000-ton behemoth. The other 2,400 are members of the air wing.

Spearheading the group's fighter bomber-attack force are nearly 36 F/A-18C Hornet jet fighters and another 10 F-14D Tomcats, which provide cover for the fighters and the carrier group.

Airman Daniel To'oto'o, a 1994 Waianae High School graduate, who only joined the Constellation's crew last month, said he turned to the Navy when he was laid off from one of the two jobs he had in Honolulu.

"I am hoping to make a better future for me and my family," said To'oto'o, whose trip on the Constellation is his first trip way from home.

To'oto'o, who will be an aircraft refueler, said it has been hard to be away for nine days from his wife, Esther, who turned 22 today, and his 2-year-old son, Ezra.

"And I got six more months to go ... so I write to them every day."

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