Jud McCrehin

Army Times

I live and work for Army Times Publishing Company in Northern Virginia. I'm 31 years old and have a wife, Christine, who is not real excited that I'm over here. She is in Colorado attending her brother's wedding this weekend. I've got a plane ticket at home that says I should be in Colorado also. I am a civilian and attended the University of Missouri School of journalism. I graduated in 1992.

A couple of weeks ago I helped cover the plane attack on the Pentagon for Army Times. I got there about 20 -40 minutes after it happened. I heard the explosion, but really didn't think anything of it at the time until I saw black smoke in the direction of the Pentagon. I could not believe it. A month later I'm on the Indian Ocean covering the US war on terrorism.

I'm in a hotel room in Bahrain right now. Bill McMichael my reporter (I finally get to say that) and I are waiting to go back out on a small boy (frigate, destroyer, LHD etc.). It looks like we will be able to head out on Monday (10/15), but it could be a case of hurry up and wait. We will have to see. I hope we get back out, or the company will probably what us to head back to the states. To tell you the truth, I feel safer here than on a jet flying back to Washington D.C. Terrorists have me a little concerned.

This is my first combat assignment. I guess you can call it combat. I felt pretty safe on the carrier. It is a pretty well protected place to work, but it is still a very dangerous place. Sometimes I felt like I was too close to an arresting wire that had just caught an F-14 Tomcat. If that thing were to snap I'm in two pieces real fast. The heat of the jet exhaust is extreme and you feel it a lot on the flight deck and basically anywhere on the outside of the ship when planes are launching and moving around on the deck.

I've covered several training exercises on carriers and I really can't tell the difference between a training exercise and combat. The big difference you see right away is the ordinance on the planes, on the flight deck and below decks. The sailors are looking pretty worn out. That could be explained by a couple of things. The Enterprise is supposed to be heading back to Norfolk, VA because her deployment is up. So the fact the sailors have been in the Persian Gulf for 6 months already could explain why they look tired, as well as the long hours they have been working flying and prepping for the combat missions.

I'm using two Nikon D1 cameras so I'm not really worried about shooting too much film, I have a bunch of hard drive space and can burn CD's so that really is not an issue. The public affairs personnel onboard were letting us transmit images using their email. Sometimes it took a while to get my images back to Virginia since I had to wait in line behind other photographers. I had a couple of images published in USA Today, so that is pretty exciting. The Army Times newspapers come out on Monday. Some of my images are on the Navy Times web site under frontline images. It will be interesting to see which images, of the about 30 I sent back, they used.

So far the cameras and computer have been working flawlessly. Knock on wood. I make sure I burn everything I shoot on CD just to make sure my hard drive doesn't burp and I lose everything. I had to buy a couple lens filters today in Bahrain, because I broke two. Being on the ship is hard on the cameras. They get knocked around a little. You can try and be careful, but they still get knocked around.

I packed pretty light, but my bags are still quite heavy. I had to leave one of bags at the hotel because I really didn't want to take some the stuff I brought out to the ship. I packed warm clothes, sleeping bag, combat boots, batteries for strobes, cameras, laptop. I really didn't know where I was going to be after we arrived in Bahrain, so I tried to pack some items that would make me available to shot other things besides the navy. I still don't know what the plans are and when I will be heading home. I had about 2 hours to pack from the time Steve let me know that I needed to be at Dulles to make and 7:30 flight. I thought security at Dulles would be extremely tough so I would have to show them my cameras, laptop etc. I had to show them my laptop, but that was it. It really didn't make me feel to confident in the airlines.

There were about 40 journalists waiting in Bahrain to be taken out to the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Enterprise when Bill and I arrived. We were in the group of about 16 other journalists that rode the carrier onboard delivery (COD) plane for 3.5 hours to the USS Enterprise in the Northern Indian Ocean. We had photojournalists from AP, AFP, Time Magazine, CBS, NBC, BBC and ITN as well as print journalists from New York Times, AFP, London Times in our group. It was an interesting diverse group. A lot of British journalists were
in our group. It is really fun to talk with them and see how they work. I have made some friends on this trip.

We slept in Distinguished Visitor (DV) staterooms for the five nights we were on board. The rooms were great. They had bunk beds, two desks and a sink in them. As far as living conditions go there were pretty awesome. Sometimes in the middle of the night I would wake up and freak a little bit until I realized where I was. It is pretty hard to sleep on a carrier unless you are extremely tired. The planes, catapults and arresting gear on the flightdeck make a bunch of noise and rattle the entire ship when they are working.

Since, basically the planes were launched at night it was hard to get good sleep. By Wednesday and Thursday night I was so exhausted I slept through most of the launches and recoveries. I made a mistake planning my coverage on the carrier. I stayed up all night on Sunday and pretty much all night on Monday. That was bad decision, looking back I really wish I would have slept at least a few more hours both of those nights. I still feel really tired and I have been getting plenty of sleep that last couple of days and nights. Hindsight is 20/20.

Everytime you get on a Navy ship and a carrier especially it takes some time to find out where everything is. You can get really lost really fast trying to find the restroom (head). The kicker is once you find the head you have to find your way back to the room. It can get pretty frustrating. They even had valet laundry that was available for us to use. It was pretty much like a small hotel room. I'm pretty tall (6'5") and I really have to watch out so I don't leave skin on the ceiling of the passageways. I did and pretty good job, I think I hit my head once and it didn't draw blood.

We ate our meals with both officers and enlisted sailors for the most part. It is hard also hard to find the mess hall. You have to really pay attention when somebody shows you where it is. Basically, they served cafeteria food. It was pretty good, but I would not want to eat it for a six-month deployment.

All the sailors on board the ship were extremely nice to me. In fact just about every one of them that I met in the passageways said hello. Some of them even took the time to ask who I worked for. When I said Navy Times their eyes lit up. I guess that is a good thing.

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