On Halloween, I went with a small group of mostly Fulbrighters to take a tour of the USS Ronald Reagan! We were invited and led by George Dolan, a navy commander and former ETA. The USS Ronald Reagan is the largest ship in the US navy. At first I thought, would I really be interested in taking a tour of a boat? But then I decided since this was such a unique opportunity, and only offered to ETAs around in Busan that day, why not?
It was strange to be in Korea but have the sudden occasion to learn more about America. I thought I would just go in, see a few things and get out, but setting foot onto the USS Ronald Reagon was a really cool experience. If I had to sum up the experience in one word, it’d be “impressive.”
The ship really was HUGE (and that’s an understatement). We first went up into one of the ship’s three flight hangers, where it didn’t even feel like we were on a ship.
Next we went up to the flight deck and, after a brief explanation, pretty much had free reign to explore as we liked. The ship launches as many as 100 aircraft in one day.
There are catapults on the flight deck, since it’s too short of a runway for planes to take off, and the catapults take planes from 0 to 150 miles per hour in a matter of seconds. A fun fact from our tour: If a person was launched from it, they’d be dead long before they hit the water. Other notable causes of death pointed out to us were walking into black jet propellers at night – not all of the aircraft had these propellers, just a select few. They looked really cool and contrasted beautifully against the sky that day, but then George told us about their dark side (pun intended) (no apologies).
But the worst way to die on the ship, according to George, would be to get crushed by massive sound barriers. The force and noise from aircraft taking off is too loud for those who have to work on the flight deck, so they wear noise-cancelling headphones (which probably have a more technical name), but there are also massive sound barriers that can be elevated and then lowered again if that space is needed on the runway. These also have pipes with running water; something that also helps reduce noise. Being caught under one of those as it’s being lowered would be a low painful, crushing death.
The whole ship is not even like a ship, but more of a mini city. it was even described that way to us on the tour. It has a post office, small hospital, and the chefs serve over 1000 meals a day. Woah.
At the end, after the official tour was over, our small group got to head up to the control room and captain’s cabin. We were allowed to take pictures from the windows, but not of the equipment inside. This is a view of the flight deck from above:
Afterwards we walked around some food stands and shop tents near the ship and munched on things like chicken; there were also legit hamburgers and fries. I may or may not be feeling regretful that I didn’t take advantage of that. Most of the Fulbrighters were sucked in by a tent selling “IQ” puzzles. They were really fun for nerds like us. I bought one and played against David, who’d also bought some sets, for a good portion of that evening.