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Correspondent Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
USS Abraham Lincoln at war
Planes on USS Abraham Lincoln
Aircraft on board the carrier are prepared for a mission
Warship: At War was broadcast on Monday, 15 September at 2320 BST on BBC Two. It was originally broadcast on Tuesday, 6 May, 2003.

The American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, a huge floating battle station with 6,000 crew, played a vital role in the war in Iraq.

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Its planes were involved from the start of operations, bombing air defence systems and supporting the ground troops all the way to Baghdad, even in the middle of a sand storm that grounded other aircraft.

They're trying to kill us so we're definitely still on the edge.

Lt Tim Jackson

Correspondent was on board the carrier to film the crew from the last days of the diplomatic dance through to the last stages of the conflict.

During the war, pilots revealed their worst fears about being killed in action, including Lieutenant Dave Hickey who flew bombing missions over Iraq.

"If I eject over Baghdad, that's it I'm not coming home. One of my fears is not coming home at all," Lt Hickey said.

Crewman Naveed Muhammed prays on board the USS Abraham Lincoln
Muslim crewman Naveed Muhammed prays on board the carrier
"Fear can have a positive effect on somebody. It keeps the adrenaline pumping, it keeps you on your toes, it keeps you at the top of your game.

But fellow pilot Lieutenant Tim Jackson, who flew EA 6B Prowler aircraft that jammed enemy radar, said the fear factor was reduced after a few missions.

"They don't catch you off guard any more. In the early days of the war it was: 'Wow, they're really trying to kill us'. Now it's to the point: 'Oh, here they they go again'," he said.

"They're trying to kill us so we're definitely still on the edge, but we're ready for it and know what to expect now."

As a Muslim and a human I'm not 100% comfortable with the war.

Muslim crewman Naveed Muhammed

But the morality of war against Iraq was not a cut and dried issue for some of the crew.

Naveed Muhammed, part of the maintenance team and one of the few Muslim crewmen on board the Lincoln, expressed his concerns.

"As a Muslim and a human I'm not 100% comfortable with the war. All those civilians over there are innocent and haven't done anything, and they have a chance of being hurt," he said.

Aircraft on bombing mission
An aircraft releases a bomb over Iraq
His concerns intensified after news filtered through that a Muslim US soldier had apparently killed two of his own troops by rolling a grenade into their tent.

"People are walking through the hanger bay and the mess just looking at me all funny and thinking just because I'm a Muslim I might do the same thing."

But the vast majority of the crew fully believed that the conflict was justified despite protests around the world.

"How do we feel about the protests? We are out here to protect those people so they can go out and protest," said Lt Hickey.

"We provide them with that right and we protect that right for those guys to go out and do that."

His thoughts were echoed by Lt Jackson, who also revealed the pressure of trying to avoid civilian casualies.

Lt Tim Jackson
Pilot Lt Jackson worried about dropping bombs on civilians
"There are a lot of people who didn't come back on the morning of 11 September when they went to work that day," he said.

"There's probably a lot of Iraqi citizens who haven't come back because they chose to speak out against the Iraqi Government. Hopefully we can prevent that from happening in the future.

"When I pull the trigger I hope that there aren't civilian casualties, because how can anybody with a conscience not feel that way.

"To the people who sit there and say just bomb the hell out of them I would say never forget that you're talking about a human life."



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 ON THIS STORY
Naveed Muhammed
"I'm not 100% comfortable with the war"
See also:

02 May 03 | Middle East
29 Nov 02 | Correspondent
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