The longest and oldest aircraft carrier in the U.S. fleet, the USS Enterprise, has set sail on its last voyage. The first nuclear-powered aircraft career, which made its film debut in the film Top Gun, left Norfolk, Va. approximately 12 p.m. Sunday.
The carrier, which holds a crew of over 4,000, has a 50 year history in the Navy. It has been taken part several wars and was a prominent part of the Cuban Missile Crisis, reported The Associated Press. It even served as a lookout during John Glenn's orbit around the Earth.
The USS Enterprise will be heading out on a routine mission, leading a strike group into the Middle East waters, while on the lookout for pirates, mariners lost at sea and in distress, humanitarian crises and, of course, the ever present threats of Syria and Iran.
In 1962, the first crew was ordered by President John F. Kennedy to patrol the waters of near Cuba, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the standoff that almost brought the United States and the Soviet Union into a deadly war.
All of a sudden, we were off the coast of Florida and the water was warm and President Kennedy got on and told us what was going on, said 72-year-old retired Navy veteran and former crew member of the Enterprise Ray Godfrey, according to the Daily Press. We just went down there and did our job.
The ship is reportedly a one-of-kind in the U.S. naval fleet. Crew members acknowledge how tricky this ship can be to repair, since most of the parts must be built from scratch.
Still, the current crew of the Navy's oldest and longest ship remains thankful for what the first crew accomplished.
They laid the groundwork for us, said Airman Myles Thompson of Colombia, Tenn., according to the Daily Press. We're just following in their footsteps.
The current commander of the Enterprise, Capt. William Hamilton Jr. shared similar sentiments, believing the first crew was something important to the Navy.
These are the guys who invented this stuff, he said. They were the pioneers in this eight-reactor nuclear warship that was the largest ship in the world at the time it was built. We appreciate them a lot and we owe them a lot.