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Paynesville Press - May 14, 2003

Local sailor home after Middle East deployment

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

When President George W. Bush recently addressed the nation from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, Paynesville native Charlie Davidson was a member of the security detail that protected the president while he was on the carrier.

Charlie Davidson aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln Petty Officer Davidson, a 2000 PAHS graduate, is home after a 10-month cruise on the USS Abraham Lincoln, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier whose planes patroled the skies of Afghanistan and participated in the war in Iraq on their recent deployment.

By the time the ship returned to its home port in Everett, Wash., it had set a record for the longest cruise for a nuclear-powered carrier.

As an aviation ordanceman, Charlie works with weapons that are launched from aircraft. Some of his responsibilities include inspecting weapons and their guidance systems as well as loading them onto aircraft. Charlie, along with all of his shipmates, are also responsible for performing collateral duties, such as security details and firefighting.

Charlie Davidson recently returned from a cruise on the USS Abraham Lincoln. Davidson had the honor of being on President George W. Bush's security detail when he addressed the nation from the ship.

Most of the weapons Charlie works on are computer-guided weapons like the the tomahawk missiles launched against Iraq during Operation Shock and Awe, meaning Charlie needs to continually hone his technical skills.

Charlie joined the Navy right out of high school. While his parents weren't crazy about his plan, he said, they were supportive of his decision.

According to Charlie's dad, Cal Davidson, he knew his son was considering the military but was informed of his final decision with a note that read: "I'm at work at Subway. I joined the Navy today."

After he left for boot camp, Charlie's mother, Marsha Davidson, was sorting through his old schoolwork and found a picture of an aircraft carrier Charlie had drawn in the third grade, she said. Until that moment, she didn't realize how important the Navy was to her son, she said. Then she knew he was fulfilling a dream.

Originally, Charlie wanted to be a Navy Seal, but he is glad he became an aviation ordanceman because he loves his job. "At least I still get to play with bombs," he said.

When the Abraham Lincoln left its home port last July, Charlie and the rest of the crew were expecting a routine six-month cruise of the western Pacific with one exception - the ship was expected to take a turn enforcing the no-fly zone over Afghanistan in Operation Southern Watch.

The ship had completed its mission and was on its way home after visiting Australia when the crew got word that they were being sent back to the Middle East to participate in Operation Shock and Awe.

After spending some time in Australia preparing the ship and aircraft, the ship headed for the Middle East where it circled for several weeks before the war began.

On March 18, aircraft from the Lincoln started bombing Baghdad with some weapons that were prepared by Charlie.

USS Abraham Lincoln For three weeks, the ship supported combat operations in the Middle East. Pilots from the ship averaged 100 bombing missions every day, flying from 7 a.m. to midnight, said Charlie. The ship had no casualties during the bombing operations, neither human nor aircraft, he added.

The USS Abraham Lincoln recently returned home after a 10-month deployment that included action in Afghanistan and in Iraq. President George W. Bush visited the ship near San Diego.

Although he didn't have a lot of spare time, Charlie said he was able to e-mail his family and friends during his off-time. In fact, since he had a computer at his work center and only a few others to share it with, he was able to keep in touch almost constantly with his family and friends. This made the long deployment easier, he said.

The ship was relieved by another carrier in early April and was on its way home when word came that the president was going to meet the ship near San Diego. President Bush flew onto the ship in a two-person bomber, becoming the first president to land on an aircraft carrier. "I got to shake his hand," said Charlie, beaming.

Cal is pleased his son had positive war experiences. "It's fortunate that he's had a part in a historical moment," he said.

While on deployment, the Abraham Lincoln can carry over 5,000 sailors, pilots, and marines. During the cruise, it used 42,000 gallons of milk, 27,275 pounds of steak, and over 161,000 pounds of coffee. The ship's barbers gave over 35,000 haircuts, and 150 men became fathers during the cruise.

The cruise was the longest for an aircraft carrier since 1973. Although he loves the Navy and has seen places few of his PAHS classmates will ever have the opportunity to see, Charlie was anxious to get home. He actually left the ship to begin his leave while it was docked in San Diego, the last stop before returning to Washington. "The first thing I did was go to Denny's for breakfast," he laughed. Then he caught a flight for Minneapolis.

While he is home, besides getting his "land legs" back, Charlie will tell his story to group of local seniors during this month's senior social at the Paynesville Area Center on Tuesday, May 20, at 1:30 p.m.

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