Chris Scarano will help say good-bye to a grande dame today. The Quincy resident will be one of more than 12,000 people who are expected to congregate at Norfolk Naval Station in Norfolk, Va., to watch the U.S. Navy deactivate the USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
A 31-year-veteran of the Navy, Scarano spent three years on the ship during the early 2000s. It's an experience that he called one of the best of his military career.
"It was probably the most challenging time, but the most rewarding," Scarano said. "It's the USS Enterprise, which is a one-of-a-kind. It had eight (nuclear) reactors on board. Imagine trying to keep that thing running."
Scarano, a command master chief, was in charge of the electric division. He oversaw 220 electrician and interior communications men for the giant vessel, which could hold up to 4,600 people.
"It was like a little city," Scarano said.
The aircraft carrier made its first deployment in October 1962 when it was dispatched to be part of a blockade of a shipment of Soviet military equipment to communist Cuba. Four days after the blockade was put in place, Soviet leaders agreed to dismantle their nuclear missiles and bases in Cuba to conclude the Cuban Missile Crisis. The ship was one of the first U.S. warships on station following the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks. It was also used during the Vietnam War and the Gulf Wars, making 25 deployments during its 51 years of service.
The massive structure cost $451.3 million to build. It was launched Sept. 24, 1960, and was commissioned just over a year later. Its maiden voyage came on Jan. 12, 1962. The carrier can reach a top speed of 30 knots. It's 1,123 feet long and it's height from keel to mast is 250 feet. It can displace more than 90,000 tons of water and can hold more than 60 aircraft.
The ship was expected to only last about 25 years, but doubled that life expectancy. As a result, an estimated 250,000 people wound up serving on "The Big E."
Scarano was on board during the time that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was captured by American forces.
"They were actually going to bring him on board, but they decided against that," Scarano said. "We were there when that happened, and that was great stuff."
Most of the time, Scarano said, the Enterprise was in the Persian Gulf.
"We spent most of our time in the gulf just flying, shooting planes and catching them out there off the carrier," he said, "and helping coalition groups on the ground."
Scarano, a native of Woodbridge, N.J., has lived in Quincy for a year and a half with his wife, Ann, who is a Quincy native. They met when he was stationed in San Diego. He has been an advertising account executive with The Herald-Whig since May.
He's looking forward to having one last look at the vessel. He talks about how proud he is of being a member of the engineering department for the ship.
"It's going to be amazing," Scarano said.