USS Cole goes overseas for first time since attack

Crew forswears revenge for bombing in Yemen

November 28, 2003|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

NORFOLK, Va. - Its jagged and torn hull fully repaired, its decks polished and shimmering, the destroyer USS Cole is headed back overseas for the first time since it was attacked in Yemen.

This morning, the Norfolk-based ship will head out for its first deployment since Oct. 12, 2000, when two suicide bombers drove an explosive-packed boat into the Cole as it refueled in Aden, Yemen. The attack left 17 crew members dead and 39 wounded. It nearly sank the ship and changed the Navy drastically.

Normal crew rotations have cleared the Cole of all but 10 who were on board that day. None of those holdovers wanted to talk to the media, according to Navy officials, but many among the current crew of 340 said payback is not part of this mission.

"It's not revenge," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Nancy Patterson, 28. "It's more like we are ready to go play our part now. She was over there ready to play her part but never got a chance."

The Cole will deploy with two other destroyers, the USS Thorn and the USS Gonzalez, to form a surface strike group. Officially part of the USS Enterprise carrier strike group, which left last month, the three destroyers are scheduled to head to the Mediterranean Sea for about six months.

As it sails, many aboard the Cole are eager to demonstrate the ship's original motto, "Determined Warrior."

"That's the perfect name," said Ensign Chris Cisek, 24, who like many others in the crew volunteered for duty aboard the Cole. "I think that's probably why a lot of people picked this ship. They want to go over there and leave their mark, and they want to say, `Hey, you can do what you want to, bomb us, whatever, but we're coming right back at you.'"

Cisek is the son of a New York City Port Authority police officer who survived the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

His father, 37 of whose fellow police officers were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, called his son's selection of the Cole a "great pick," Cisek said.

The attack on the Cole signaled the beginning of the nation's war against terrorism and began an era of port security that has changed the way the Navy operates.

Sentries walk the Cole's decks 24 hours a day when in port. Small craft are kept far away. The air is constantly searched.

"We train for it every day," said Cmdr. Christopher W. Grady, the Cole's commanding officer since January.

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