Thursday, July 25, 2024
HomeWorld NewsUS aircraft carrier counters false Houthi claims with 'Taco Tuesdays'

US aircraft carrier counters false Houthi claims with ‘Taco Tuesdays’


ABOARD THE USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER IN THE RED SEA — The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower may be one of the oldest aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy, but it’s still fighting — despite repeated false claims by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The Houthis and social media accounts supporting them repeatedly have claimed they hit or even sank the carrier in the Red Sea. The carrier leads the U.S. response to the rebels’ targeting of commercial vessels and warships in the crucial waterway — attacks that began as a show solidarity with Hamas in its war with Israel.

The Eisenhower’s leader, Capt. Christopher “Chowdah” Hill, is creatively striking back on social media to counter the misinformation — and boost the morale of the ship’s 5,000 personnel — as the Navy faces its most intense combat since World War II.

“I think it’s been about two or three times in the past six months we’ve allegedly been sunk, which we have not been,” Hill told The Associated Press during a recent visit to the carrier. “It is almost comical at this point. They’re attempting to maybe inspire themselves through misinformation, but it doesn’t work on us.”

The visit by two AP journalists and others to the Eisenhower represents part of the effort the Navy has made to try to counter the Houthi claims. While on board for about a day and a half, journalists escorted by sailors crisscrossed the nuclear-powered ship’s 1,092-foot (332-meter) length. AP journalists also repeatedly circled the Eisenhower from the air in a Seahawk helicopter.

Other than rust on its side from the hot, humid Red Sea air and water apparently leaking from a pipe in a dining room, the ship appeared no worse for wear. Its flight deck bore no blast damage or gaping holes, just the stink of jet fuel, pooled puddles of oily water and the scream of engines before its F/A-18 fighter jets took flight.

The other half of the information warfare effort has been Hill himself, a native of Quincy, Massachusetts, something noticeable immediately in his South Boston accent. While even the secretive leader of the Houthis, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, has name-dropped the carrier in speeches while making false claims about the vessel, Hill has offered ceaselessly positive messages online about his sailors on board.

Videos of flight operations from the bridge and images of sailors eating cookies in the captain’s chair are constant staple. After one false Houthi claim, Hill responded by posting images of cinnamon rolls and muffins in the bakery on board the Eisenhower — a subtle jab at the claims.

“The whole intent of the social media outreach was to connect with families, to bring them closer to the ship,” Hill said. “So if I can post pictures of sons and daughters, husbands and wives out here, or even fathers and mothers, get it out there, it just kind of brings the family closer to us. And again, that’s our support network. But it also took on another role because everyone else was watching to see what we’re doing.”

Then there’s the “Star Wars” memes and images of Captain Demo, the Labrador-golden retriever mix who roams the ship as a support animal for sailors. And as far as the Houthi forces watching his postings, Hill takes special pleasure in writing about “Taco Tuesday” on the ship.

“We’re going to celebrate ‘Taco Tuesdays’ because it’s my absolute favorite day of the week. That will never end,” the captain said. “If you call that an information warfare campaign, you can. It’s just who I am, you know, at the end of the day.”

But morale remains a deep concern for Hill and other leaders on board the ship. The Eisenhower and its allied ships have gotten just one short port call during the eight-month rotation so far to Greece. The carrier also has been the most-deployed carrier among the entire U.S. fleet over the last five years, according to an analysis by the U.S. Naval Institute’s news service.

One sailor, Lt. Joseph Hirl from Raleigh, North Carolina, wore a patch reading: “Go Navy, Beat Houthis.” While that’s a play on the classic call for the annual Army-Navy football game, the naval flight officer stressed that he knew the combat was deadly serious.

“It’s pretty much the day-in, day-out stress of knowing that we are being shot at definitely gives a realism to the whole experience that this is not a normal deployment,” Hirl said.

Meanwhile, munitions also remain a concern. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro told the U.S. Senate’s Armed Services Committee in May the Navy had spent at least $1 billion in armaments to fight in the Red Sea. Every leader on board the Eisenhower that the AP spoke to acknowledged the Navy was trying to use the right weapon against the Houthis, whose asymmetrical warfare sees them use far cheaper munitions.

“My sailors, my ships are priceless — that’s not a calculus I want a captain to have,” said Capt. David Wroe, the commodore overseeing the guided missile destroyers escorting the Eisenhower. “Now, using the appropriate effect weapon system on the appropriate threat to preserve magazine depth, to have more missiles, is certainly a germane tactical question.”

For now, the Eisenhower continues its patrol along with the USS Philippine Sea, a cruiser, and two destroyers, the USS Gravely and the USS Mason. It’s been extended twice already and there’s always the chance it could happen again. But Hill said his sailors remained ready to fight and he remained ready to continue to captain in his style.

“I came to a revelation at some point in my career that, one of the things that all humans require is to be loved and valued,” Hill said. “So I shouldn’t be afraid, as a leader, to try to love and value everybody, and also to expect other leaders that I’m responsible for to love and value their sailors.”

___

Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war



Source link

RELATED ARTICLES
- Advertisment -
Google search engine

Most Popular

Recent Comments