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Excited Crowd Greets Crew, Overhauled Ranger

Times Staff Writer

The problem-plagued aircraft carrier Ranger was greeted Saturday afternoon at the North Island Naval Air Station by a happy but anxious group of well-wishers upon the ship’s return from a 13-month overhaul in Bremerton, Wash.

The 80,000-ton Ranger underwent a $240-million restoration that included repairing eight 1,200-pound boilers and four main engines that were badly damaged in a November, 1983, fire that swept through the engine room, killing six sailors.

About 10,000 civilian workers from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Ranger’s 2,500 crew members performed the monumental task of overhauling or replacing everything from radar and communications equipment to fire sprinklers and electrical generators on the 27-year-old carrier.

It took 6.5 million man hours to complete the project, the Navy said.

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On board the ship, which began its trip south Tuesday, were more than 700 cars, motorcycles and trucks belonging to Navy personnel, about 125 wives and 224 children, 15 dogs, 18 cats, 14 birds, two rabbits and two hamsters that gave birth during the four-day trip, a spokesman said.

To the wives, friends and family who were left behind in San Diego, the ship’s return to its home port was a welcome sight. For Lorna Guintiuano, this was the third time in the 14-year Navy career of her husband, Alberto, that she has waited for his ship to come in.

“After his (Indian Ocean) tour, I waited three hours for him and then we missed each other and I didn’t find him for two more hours,” said Guintiuano, a San Diego resident. “I’m especially happy now because this will be his last time away from home.”

Her son, Albert, 12, was also happy but said he wished the Ranger docked on a weekday rather than Saturday.

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“This is fun, but I wish I could miss school,” Albert said.

Some were anxiously waiting for their first peek at babies born in Washington during the yearlong stint.

John and Pat Horton drove from Tucson to meet the ship so they could see their 4-month-old grandson, Aaron.

“We slept in the car last night because we couldn’t get a hotel room,” said the grandmother as she held up signs with her daughter’s and granddaughter’s names.

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“We got a room right here in Coronado for tonight so we can all be together,” she said as she was finally able to hold her grandson.

For some on board, the trip south was more than they could bear.

Tracie Forsythe and her 6-month-old daughter, Jennifer, were two of the first off the carrier.

“I got sick . . . I need a break,” said Forsythe as she handed the baby to her mother once she was safely on land.

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